It isn’t uncommon to go through periods of disliking jiu-jitsu if you train for any length of time. There will be times where the pressure of competing, of living up to your belt, or meeting your own personal standards makes jiu-jitsu feel like life or death every single night. There may be periods where you’re getting smashed over and over, and your sense of self worth begins to erode. Sometimes jiu-jitsu isn’t very fun.
I’m an obsessive person, and a perfectionist, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. Throughout my jiu-jitsu career, I’ve been a victim of my own moving goal posts. When I finally started being able to perform techniques well when rolling, I was dissatisfied that I couldn’t hit more techniques. When I finally won a competition, I was dissatisfied that I hadn’t completely dominated my opponents. Lately, I’ve been focused on my takedowns. I’ve always put effort into them, but I’ve never been particularly good at them, so I’ve been spending more time on them than ever. I’ve gotten better since I started this, but my sense of investment in my takedown ability has grown even more. Now, anything other than the continuous, effortless taking down of my training partners at will feels like abject failure. I leave the gym every night frustrated, racking my brain to find small errors that could be corrected to make my technique more effective. Sometimes it makes it harder to sleep.
Jiu-Jitsu, which I ostensibly use as a way to reduce stress after work, is actually an additional stressor in my life right now. This isn’t the first time this has happened though. In fact, I’ve gone through several phases exactly like this, for different reasons. Back when I was a white belt, and a little younger, I was in cognitive therapy, trying to get ahold of some coping mechanisms for my neurosis. During one session, I lamented to my therapist how hard I was working at jiu-jitsu, but despite that, I didn’t feel like I was getting better. He gave me a tentative suggestion of just quitting jiu-jitsu if it was making me that miserable. I wasn’t trying to accomplish anything with it, I just wanted a way to exercise and have fun, surely there were better ways to do that if jiu-jitsu was making me feel this miserable. I entertained the thought for a moment, but I couldn’t swallow it. If I quit jiu-jitsu now, I’d always be bad at it. I’d always know that in the back of my mind that I gave up when it got difficult, and I didn’t want that to be me.
So, I stuck with it. I don’t think that I’ve ever been completely satisfied with where my Jiu-Jitsu was at, but that’s ok. There were times where I was genuinely enjoying training despite that, and there will be times when I enjoy it again. My constant sense of dissatisfaction pushes me to always look to improve, and that endless pursuit of perfection is rewarding in a way that I can’t replicate elsewhere in life. I say all of this in order to encourage people who may be frustrated with their jiu-jitsu right now, or that are thinking about quitting. You won’t always feel this badly about it, and even if you do, it isn’t such a bad thing to have something in your life that makes you miserable. If you push through the misery, and force yourself to show up anyway, you’ll grow as person in ways you couldn’t predict, and you’ll gain a new perspective on the rest of your life that might make it more enjoyable. Everyone has to make their own choices in life, but for me, I’m glad I chose to keep going with something I hate.
Written by John Brashear.
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