Jiu-Jitsu Letter


Do you need to take a break? Maybe. or maybe you want to quit. If you want to quit, plan on a break instead.

People get burned out, injured, or life simply gets in the way. It’s normal. Hardly anyone trains non-stop without any break.

One reason for breaks is frustration. Be honest with yourself. My guess is that if it’s frustration, it’s disappointment in yourself. (Of course, if it’s a bad instructor or you get a bad vibe from the school, then you should find a new school, not take a break.)

When we set expectations, realistic or not, we’re imposing pressure on ourselves that’s unnecessary. The key is to have no expectations. Maybe it’s just a mental lie to say you have no expectations, but it’s an acceptable one if it keeps you on the mat. If you expect nothing, everything good that happens is a bonus. If you something bad happens, or simply that something good doesn’t happen, you’re fine with it since you didn’t expect it anyway.

Happiness is a Serious Problem, by Denis Prager. Besides not having expectations, he stresses that gratitude is the key to happiness. Everything begins with adopting an attitude of gratefulness.)

Sometimes, you just have the feeling, “I need a break.” Whatever your reason is, it’s valid. I wouldn’t try to convince someone his reason is wrong. But I would tell him or her to set a return date. To actually write it down in the calendar or planner. It’s OK to take a break (though I think it’s better to come an watch/sit, rather than stay home or do something else), but it’s important to have a return date.

If you want to take a week, two weeks, or longer, it’s fine, but try to avoid an indefinite break. The longer you’re away, the easier it’ll be to stay away. It all comes donw to habits. We are humans, and we naturally try to automate our decision making, and we do that with habits. I’ve heard it takes 30 to 90 days to build a habit, or break a habit, so my suggestion is to keep your break as short as possible.

Consistency is important. But it’s not consistent progress we should look for. We don’t have control over that. Remember the plateau? We want consistency in showing up.

People sometimes say the secret is getting 1% better each time. It sounds great, but I’m skeptical. That may apply to practices like strength training, because we can actually measure it. In strength training, we can use progressive overload and track our progress with hard data. But this is jiu-jitsu. What if your last round of the day was with a lower rank partner that’s bigger and faster, and you struggle? How do you rate your progress that day? It’s impossible because of variables change every class. The only thing you can track is whether you attended class or not. Just show up and trust the process.

Now, if you want to quit, think hard about why. If it’s a school problem, then visit another school. If you feel like it’s not fun anymore, visit another school. If you’re getting hurt, visit another school. You must understand that every school is different. I’ve seen a lot of students come and go, and most of the time they just go. Once in a while, they’ll talk to me before leaving, and I aways tell them to keep training, to find a new school. Some do, and they’ve thrived. It could be scheduling, or they simply gel better elsewhere. Great.

Not every school is for everyone. I like to think Gracie University and Gracie San Dimas are amazing places, but it’s unrealistic to think everyone would feel the same. After all, I mostly train with hobbyists and teach hobbyists. If you’re a competitor, there are other schools better suited for you. My only suggestion, which is super hard to follow, is to keep goal of training forever. That means, when you’re done competiting, find a way to stay on the mats.

Many white belts quit within a few months. They don’t even make it to blue. Of the one that make it to blue, a large percentage of them drop out in a couple years. Blue is hard. The fresh blue belt is among the most overconfident, and it usually doesn’t take long for them to realize they’re not as good as they thought. It’s when they finally understand that the black belt they thought they did well against was just messing around.

Be prepared for the realization that you’re not as good as you thought. And be OK with it. There are no shortcuts. You need to put in the time on the mats. Don’t measure how much you trained in months or years. Measure it in hours. That’s much more accurate. Some people train five times a week, and some two. Both can say they’ve been training for a year, but it’s not even close. The first one has more than twice as much mat time. So, count the hours.

Be honest about why you want to quit. And find a way to solve that problem. Quitting is not the answer. It’s better to have never trained. Jiu-Jitsu is for everyone. If you tried it, and stopped, you tried it at the wrong place. Try again.

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