I’m in a weird stage right now and the only way to go beyond it is to assess my skills in an honest way. First off, I’ll start by saying that I’ve been slacking for a large percentage of my Jiu Jitsu experience. Oh, how dedicated I was in the beginning back when I had a chip on my shoulder and an urge to submit everyone. You should see my first ID photo, it could easily double as a mugshot. The idea of competition pushed me to show up three times a week and put in enough work to move up the belts and even assist the instructor on a regular basis. After reaching red belt, what I thought was the equivalent to most schools’ black belt (our school’s pretty demanding), a few things happened and I began my slack phase. (These are going to sound like excuses because they were my excuses back then, but I only mention them so I can honestly evaluate my path and show you how easy it is to fall into the trap.)
–My fiancee and I broke up. But honestly, that shouldn’t have pulled me away from Jiu Jitsu since she never really wanted me doing it in the first place. It seems that some people don’t like it when you ask them to let you try new chokes and joint breaking submissions on them. 😉
–Because of the breakup I ended up moving further away from the school. This is total bullshit since there are some members who drive over an hour to get to class. Once again, part of my slacker mentality back then. Sure I used to live about a mile away but now it’s really only a 20 minute drive.
–I wasn’t improving as quickly and instead of riding out the plateau I sat it out. The overall timeline of improvement is the same in all areas. At first you’ll skyrocket because you started with nothing, as long as you follow the rules you’ll achieve massive amounts of growth in the first year. Soon however you’ll find yourself in a new room filled with guys and gals who have all passed phase 1 and are a little confused at why things have gotten so hard. I call this the Leveling Off Effect. So the percentage of improvement that once took 3 months may now take a year or more, and though this seems like a bummer at the time, it is only those who persist that realize the value of this phase. This is also where the crowd begins to thin drastically. That’s why the people you face now are so damn good, they are select company. You are now “doing the work” that everyone talks about in order to reach any goal worth having.
–My age was catching up and I was growing more and more sore with each passing month. I’ll never forget showering after class and struggling to bend down to reach the shampoo due to an aching spine. “How long can I do this? What will be the injury that pushes me over the edge?” No lie, this soreness stayed with me for over 4 years. It’s hard to look forward to hand-to-hand combat when you can hardly get out of bed, and that’s what I did…I just stayed in bed. All the while hoping that supplements, yoga, and grappling less would heal me. (Nothing did heal me but the yoga did help the most.) It wasn’t until about 2 months ago that I realized that the gum I religiously chewed contains an artificial sweetener that made me feel 90% more sore than I should have. Yep, after kicking the habit I once again was able to return to class much more often with almost no aches, except for those small annoying nagging injuries like sprained toes and the like.
Now that I’m coming to class on a regular basis, I’m getting to that place I used to know where my body is getting stronger*(see below), my mind is retaining concepts and techniques, and the other students aren’t asking me who I am anymore. I still tap all the time but I’m able to learn more from losing than before. Now I actually go home with a list of problems and usually am able to come back to class with a few solutions and even a revelation or two in the process. I’m better able to control the lower belts and even though I know I’m still working too much to do so I feel that my overall awareness is improving because I’m not fighting for my life the whole time. Against people my own level I find that I give up too easily. There’s something in my brain that concedes defeat too quickly and I have to work on believing in my skills and push myself closer to the limits. The good news is that I don’t give up submissions nearly as much and can usually hang with them without gassing out. The upper belts still kill me but it’s taking longer and longer for that to happen, unless it’s heel hooks. 😦 I’ll even get the occasional submission but it’s usually luck followed by me leaving soon after in fear of retaliation. 😉 I need to improve my control game on higher level opponents since they can always squirm out of my controls. I know once that improves, the rest will fall into place. Dang slippery eels.
Well I’m off to my show so I won’t be there my usual Friday class but I’ll hit it up Sunday and let you know if I have anymore breakthroughs. See ya!
*Just by doing Jiu Jitsu you’ll develop strength in places that you aren’t even realizing. For example, the other day I was rolling and my partner tapped out while I had him in side control. I assumed he was just exhausted because I wasn’t doing a submission but he said that my side was digging into his stomach so hard that it hurt. I didn’t even know my stomach was getting bad ass. 😉 Must be those Rickson stomach yoga attempts.