Monday, March 3, 2008


"How did he do that?"

For the first couple of months of training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, that's pretty much what I thought it was: insane. Not in a bad way, mind you. It was so completely incomprehensible, just thinking about it makes me laugh.

During drilling it was ok. I could more or less grasp general concepts, because everything would get broken down nicely. During rolling it was a bit different. I was just trying to survive, because everything I just learned went nicely – out the window.

One second I'm trying to pass guard, a moment later I'm defending an armbar. One second I'm on top in side control, a moment later I'm on the bottom and my face is being smeared across the mat. One second I'm in safety position, a moment later I'm getting triangled.

And so on. And the whole time, there I was, with no idea as to what was going on. I can see how this could get old. It didn't for me, but I can see how it's a possibility.

I suppose that really, the best advice I may be able to give to people in this position is to just not give up. Stay focused and stay engaged. Want to be there. Trust that your coach knows what he's talking about, and that he’s actually interested in seeing you get better, because unless you are tremendously unlucky – or unpleasant – he probably is.

Most importantly: it really doesn’t matter if you get your butt whupped, it really doesn’t (in fact, it’s arguably the single best way for you to learn). What really matters is if you keep putting in the time (just make sure you train in a safe environment, where you can feel comfortable).

Sooner or later you’ll start seeing returns. The fog will start to clear up and while you may not become brilliant overnight, at the very least you’ll experience a taste of what it could be like. Put in enough time and this is as good a guarantee as you'll get.

It’s a bit like a 1,000,000-piece jigsaw puzzle in this respect: at first it’s a freakishly indecipherable jumble (especially if you don’t have a good example of what it’s supposed to look like). Nothing makes any kind of human sense and it’s the easiest thing in the world to say “nuts to this” and walk away.

But if you stay, keep at it and never stop wanting to see what you can make of it – soon enough you’ll find two pieces that go together. Keep looking and you’ll find a third piece, then a fourth. You may even find two unrelated pieces that go together. Cool, just hang on to those.

Maybe you find it easier to start at the corners, maybe you like to lump them up by colour. Well, nobody said you have to start in a particular place, right?

Eventually you come to a point when you can try to put 2 and 2 together, and make an educated guess as to what a small part of the picture is. You still don’t have the whole thing together but now you’ve figured out enough that you aren’t clueless.

Imagine that all across the world there are people working on this same puzzle. Many are farther along than you are. Learn from these people; if they don’t give you straight answers as to what they’ve figured out, at least try to see how they go about it.

Many are still mired in tangible confusion. Learn from these people; see what they’re doing wrong and either help them or not, but don’t repeat their mistakes.

You may come to a point, or several points, when you wonder if it’s all worth it. There are so many other ways to spend your life, why would you devote so much of your time to this? You may decide that you want to go on, or that you’d rather call it a day. Hey, do what feels right.

The bottom line is: it may take you all your life, and still you may not even come close to finishing it. But, as long as you're having fun along the way, it's really not so bad after all.

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