Beginning frustrations

When you first begin jiu-jitsu, you feel like you’re fully awake and alive. The stars are brighter when you leave the gym at night. Your body feels like it has a purpose. You hunger for answers to the questions that arise on the mat.

These feelings stay with you as long as you do jiu-jitsu, but after a couple of months a new feeling comes to overshadow and dominate. “How am I doing?”

You start to measure yourself against the other people training on the mat. You think you’re measuring technical ability, but you’re really measuring self worth. Instead of “Bob is getting a lot more armbars these days, I wonder what he is doing differently”, you think “Damn, Bob is getting better, I’m falling behind”. Bob’s ability on the mat is independent from yours, but you don’t see it that way.

What you’ve unintentionally done is made your self worth depend on someone else’s performance.

You have no control over someone else’s performance, which means you have no control over your own self worth. This is a very uncomfortable feeling to have. The way that you deal with this feeling tells you a lot about yourself.

Some people get depressed and give up. They stop training as often and rationalise it as being too busy.

Other people get angry. Anger is a good motivator. They roll harder, they delay tapping, they get hurt.

Some people take it as a challenge. They set themselves a goal of “One day, no matter what, I’ll beat Bob”.

There are different coping strategies we use, some better, some worse. But the best strategy is to let go of the idea that your self worth is affected by other people on the mat.

Remember the feeling when you first started jiu-jitsu. This is the reason you train. Those feelings are still there, they might just be hidden at the moment. Your friends on the mats are there to act as inspiration, to celebrate your successes and commiserate with you at your defeats. They’ve experienced the same feelings you might be feeling now. Talk to them about it, ask them how they dealt with it.

Jiu-jitsu is a tough journey, but let yourself be inspired by those ahead of you. One day you will be as strong as them and have the newcomers of the day looking to you for strength and wisdom.

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