Bags all packed, Gi? Check. Belt? Check. Change of clothes? Check. You get in your car and start driving, maybe you’re leaving work or your home, but you’re heading the same direction you do most days around 6 pm.. when 90% of the people you know are already on their couches, in bed, or starting the evening early. You have that determined look and you’re not even thinking about which way you’re going. Almost seems like your car is driving itself (or if you’re walking, like your legs are moving on their own). You park, walk up the stairs to find the mats exactly where you left them last time; waiting in silence for the energy to flood in, it’s that time of day, mat time..
Familiar faces start to walk in, you greet them all, some more excitedly than others. The teacher walks in, the leader, the coach, the professor; focused and driven to share his knowledge. Then you see a creature that looks out of sort.. he spins around himself a few times to make sure he’s at the right place as he ever so smoothly glances over the people already in the room to see what they’re doing, or maybe get a hint of a greeting helping him out of his confusion. Yup, it’s the “new kid on the block”. You can tell by how odd he/she seems in comparison to the rest, whether it’s the way he carries the backpack (yes, he doesn’t know the duffle bag exists yet), the choice of clothes, or how he seems like he’s walking on eggshells careful not to offend what can only seem to him like a room full of tamed lions in chains. He walks up to the most friendly looking guy or girl, and asks stutteringly: “Is this Jiu Jitsu class?” J
Yup, most of us have been coming to Jiu-Jitsu training long enough not to think too much about preparing your clothes, the drive, or how to get there. It’s ingrained into your routine just like showing up to work is from 9-5. So are lots of other habits that we pick up along the way, but this is one that escapes us, the feeling(s) you get while showing up for your first class. The way that new guy/girl feels is something that only comes about once, and that is worth keeping in mind. Every time after that is a build-up for them to integrate them into the art and “the family” that is their training partners.
Soon enough you get so into it that you start to lose track of things from all the excitement, the rush, the adrenaline that you get just thinking about training… what’s class tonight gonna be about? How much rolling time do we get? I wonder what points are? Let me start looking on Youtube! I CAN’T WAIT TO TRAIN!!!
Among the many aspects of our life that fade away in comparison to the awesomeness that is Jiu Jitsu and how important it has become, is actually enjoying it, and documenting this journey that you’ve embarked on. Now some of you might think.. “oh I dunno how long I’ll do it” or “ahhh I think I have a pretty good memory, I don’t need a journal” or “I don’t think it’s THAT important”. Let me tell you that one of my few regrets in life is not properly documenting my Jiu Jitsu journey. I have bits and pieces in my head here and there, and with the help of facebook now pictures and videos pop up from years back and give you a nice trip down memory lane. But that doesn’t even begin to compare to writing down how you feel the moment you experience it, and then reliving that moment as if you’re watching a movie starring you after finding that piece of writing stashed away in the attic along with your old clothes.
The journey is long and tedious.. There will be plenty of ups and downs, moments of darkness, and then of clarity. There will be times when you feel like you’re running in circles, like you’re on a treadmill. But that’s not the case. The truth is…you need to push through these moments and rise above your circumstances in order to bask in the sea of accomplishment afterwards.
In the early years, the white belt.. they are the most difficult of all. Especially if you’re coming into a team where most of the people are advanced or have been training for some time, and it will seem like you’re a 5 year old trying to play basketball with the big kids. Like you’re learning as fast as you can but somehow you’re always a step or 2 behind some people.. like there is no light at the end of this tunnel. Especially if you go and roll with a higher belt and they decide to humble you. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok, it’s all a part of the process, and there will come a time very soon when you’re able to catch up to them, and possibly submit them! IF that is, you stay the course and be patient with yourself. Some things take time, and the learning curve differs from one person to the next.
There will be times when you get momentum and you’re just on FIRE! You’re moving fast, your body is in sync with your mind, and strong in every position! When you have momentum, don’t you dare let it die out… it’s a very powerful thing, and when the wind is blowing in your direction, use it!
I’ll have a separate post about each individual belt. But the white belt is quite special, it’s the beginning; a blank page – if you will – on which to write your history, your path, your experiences. Later on you might have periods when you stop training for a little while, and it could be for many reasons. Returning to the mats will give you a rush for sure.. but I guarantee you it won’t be the same as the First. The main point here is to trust the process. It’s not easy, if it were, everybody would do it.. You need to believe that your instructor knows what he/she is doing, that they will get you there. You need to believe in it the same way you know the sun is coming up tomorrow morning!! What’s left for you to do is to want it, to show up, be hungry, and be the hardest worker in the room!
Let’s talk about documenting... get a journal, and write. Write down everything that comes to mind. Write often, and as detailed as you can. I’ve heard this time and time again from 2 very important people in my life; the first is my grandfather, who since I was old enough to remember would tell me to write. Write because you will find that writing one day and you’ll be glad you did! You want to remember and relive those moments, trust me. The other is my dear friend and coach/mentor Professor Tim Sledd (ATOS Black Belt). He used to say write down anything anywhere, even if its on a tissue paper or a small card. Even if it’s not a full sentence or just some bullet points, especially when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, you’ll remember things you thought were lost in history just because you took that time to jot it down.
Writing does something else, and I’m not sure how effective this is for others, but for me it engrains the thought in my head... so even if I don’t look at what I wrote again, I remember it better in the short term. Food for thought.
Enjoy this glorious journey, and don’t rush it, let things take their time. Learning Jiu Jitsu is based on muscle memory; that is teaching your body how to act when your brain is in primal instinct mode. This is done via excessive drilling, and tons and tons of rolling (aka mat time). Whenever you feel stuck or you get demotivated, remember the magic number… 10,000. It takes that many repetitions for your muscles to memorize a movement. Think about it for a second; do you have to think much when you write your name down? How about when you say hello in your native language? How many times do you think you did those 2 things? Probably over 10,000 J
So when things are not going well (or so you think), try and think where you are between 0 and 10,000. I can guarantee you, you’re somewhere in the middle, and once you get there, you’ll know. Because your mind and body will be in sync, and it will feel like your playing a console game rather than fighting. It will feel effortless and incredible! Absolute ecstasy and an unleash of your inner strength!
Years from now when you’ve made it to black belt, maybe teaching, or just competing... you can look back and relive those moments.. remember why you started, and what kept you going when most people would give up. Then you can tell your story without any blanks ;)
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!