It was a difficult drive back home that night.
I had just finished my first CAP class at Training Grounds BJJ & MMA, and was left in a daze.I was unsure what exactly had just happened. The drilling had been a bit more intense than the Foundations classes, but it was the live rolling that had really left an impression on me.
I’d never felt more helpless in my entire life. I wasn’t able to establish any kind of control in my positions and I consistently failed to defend myself against the gamut of moves thrown my way.
Over and over, I found myself thinking, “Wait, you can do that…?” And without fail, I was repeatedly put into a submission or some other extremely uncomfortable position.
If memory serves me correctly, I was tapped out by every single person I rolled with, regardless of whether they were bigger or smaller than me, younger or older. On the drive back home, I felt the thought of quitting slowly creep into my mind.
This honestly came as a bit of a surprise because I generally consider myself to be a committed person.
Playing on my high school football team had taught me the importance of hard work and perseverance. I had been dedicated in my studies all throughout school. And I have volunteer commitments that I attend on a regular basis.
So why, then, did I have the sudden urge to quit jiu jitsu?
Well, for starters, being crushed over and over, with no respite in sight had really taken a chunk out of my ego. It had left me feeling like the worst person on the mats – and that did not feel good. I, like the most of us, enjoy the confidence that comes with success, and it’s this confidence that usually fuels my drive to learn and do more. But at the BJJ gym that night, instead of wins, I was met by a seemingly never-ending chain of losses.
At some point between having my back taken and being rear-naked choked, it became clear that jiu jitsu was difficult, really difficult – and that was when I started to think that jiu jitsu was just maybe “not for me”.
However, upon some self-reflection and a heartfelt conversation with Professor Wil, I came to realize that the dejection I felt was nothing but my own pride. You see, despite having been warned to check my ego at the door, I had failed to strip myself of the often hidden desire to prove that I was better than everyone else. I had foolishly built myself up on false pretenses and was now suffering from having fallen from the perch of my ego.
It was then that I remembered a video I had stumbled upon before. It was of a speech given by Joe Rogan after he received his black belt. For those who may not be familiar with Joe Rogan, he’s currently best known as a podcaster, stand-up comedian, and commentator for the UFC. He’s also a longtime practitioner of jiu jitsu and was one of the biggest reasons why I sought out a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school in Bergen County.
In the speech, Rogan says,
Becoming really good at jiu jitsu is probably one of the most difficult things a person can do… Because they’re facing reality on a regular basis… People who are in jiu jitsu and train on a regular basis, they’re healthier people. Their egos are healthier… In life, we can all distort our perception of things in order to make ourselves more comfortable, in order to make ourselves accept where we are… In jiu jitsu, reality comes at you in the purest form possible. A life or death struggle using your determination, your focus, your technique, your mind, and your training.”
Watching the video again, I realized that I, too, had just been struck by reality – the fact that, as far as I could tell, I was the worst person on the mats. I had to understand that this was an inevitable part of my Brazilian jiu jitsu journey and that my only currency on the mats, so to speak, was, in fact, my currency on the mats.
Interestingly enough, I also realized the fact that nobody on the mats cared about my standing in the gym as much as I did. In fact, everyone I’d rolled with that night had been nothing but encouraging and helpful.
Again, I was reminded that the only thing discouraging me from jiu jitsu was my own bruised ego.
So, if you ever feel like I did that night, I’d like to sincerely encourage you to pick yourself up and show up at the gym the next day. Remember that you’re not the first person to feel this way and that you most certainly won’t be the last. As Professor Wil says, one must first be the nail before becoming the hammer.
Lastly, remember that there are no shortcuts – so train well, train often, and trust that your time will eventually come.
— Mike Chung