Jiu-Jitsu Letter


In class yesterday, my feeling was that I got crushed. It was non-stop attacks from everyone, and I couldn’t do much except defend and survive. In some sense, it’s fine, even good, but it can be a bummer when every single round was like that. Of course, it wasn’t that bad, but we tend to focus on what didn’t go so well. I got tapped by a blue belt and a purple belt. (I was promoted to brown in January.)

Getting to brown felt different than getting to purple. Imposter syndrome is a problem. When I got to purple, it took about six months before I felt comfortable wearing the belt. I had been a blue belt for six years, and though I know I was improving, it wasn’t like jiu-jitsu ever felt “easy.” Maybe it never does. But some black belts sure make it look easy.

It took about two weeks before I felt OK putting on the brown belt. There are a few guys that are lower rank that give me a very hard time, so I always thought I’d want them to get promoted before I did. But what I can I do? I can’t give it back. As another recent brown belt told me, “Since we’re never quitting, we’ll eventually catch up to the belt anyway.”

A part of the imposter syndrome is probably caring about other people’s opinions. I was always afraid of being “high rank/low skill.” It’s better to be promoted late, and be “low rank/high skill.” So part of me was afraid of thinking others saw me as the former. But that’s a waste of time and energy. I’m already harder on myself than anyone else. Plus, people don’t care. They’re worried about their own problems.

For me, what’s helped is leaning into the stuggle. I don’t turn down anyone’s invitations to roll anymore, especially the tough rolls. Avoiding them isn’t going to help. I used to think, “OK, I’ll watch how he is with others first, so I know if he’s safe to roll with.” But I think I only thought that when I already knew the guy or girl was good, so it was an excuse to sit out. The best way to find out if someone is reckless is to jump right in.

Since adopting this mentality, I’m leaving every class feeling it was a productive time, no matter what happens during sparring.

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