Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Be Like Marcelo Garcia (Or Don't)

Marcelo Garcia is a phenomenal grappler.  And so is BJ Penn.  And Dave Camarillo.  And Demian Maia.  And John Danaher.  And Renzo Gracie (and pretty much every Gracie for the matter).  We look up these grapplers, and we seek to emulate their often god-like abilities, but there is one thing that all of these individuals have in common that the vast majority of us normal guys and girls don't: they have a lot of time to train.

Marcelo began training as a young teen and was able to dedicate upwards of eight hours a day, five to six days a week to training.  BJ started somewhat later in life, but in the three years between his white belt and his black belt, BJ had the resources to do nothing but train every day.  All day.  Every day.  If Marcelo and BJ trained 40 hours a week, five eight hour days, it would take an average grappler (one that has a full time job and probably a family) that trains three times a week (2 hour sessions for a conservative estimate) roughly six and a half weeks to accumulate the amount of mat time that Marcelo and BJ get in a week.  Let me repeat that: six and half weeks to do what elite level grapplers accomplish in one week.  Play that same distribution out over a year, and the result is a monumental disparity in training time.

Marcelo talks about the significance of mat time in his latest book.  He encourages his readers to not be so hard on themselves if their technical proficiency does not match his because he was and is fortunate enough to be able to dedicate most of his waking life to grappling.  He takes this advice even further to discuss how many hours he has likely spent practicing fighting to maintain and finish from back mount alone.  The numbers are daunting, and to someone that cannot train 40 hours a week (like me), the numbers are discouraging.

This is an important point to consider when evaluating our own training time and our own progress.  To aspire to be as talented as elite level grapplers (like Marcelo and BJ) is admiral, but it is at the same time wholly unrealistic.  Part of goal setting and 20 Mile Marching is to set goals that you can reasonably obtain.  These goals should be challenging, but they should be within reach.  To expect a part-time grappler (thank you for that term, Liam) to perform at the level of a full-time grappler is absurd and unfair.

Am I saying that you should stop trying to be like the greats?  Of course not.  We should always continue to chase perfection (and in truth, the elites are still on the same chase), but we should also be honest and realistic with ourselves.  When my body began to break down, I realized that I could never be BJ Penn, and that was a hard realization to accept.  Now, some three years later, that realization has actually increased my enjoyment of jiu-jitsu.  I am no longer trying to be BJ Penn or Marcelo Garcia.  I am trying to be the best Marshal Carper possible.  I still learn as much as I can from the elites, but I am not beating myself up over not winning Pan Ams or not earning my black belt in three years.

I can focus on making the most of my resources that I have, my time and my body, no matter how limited or flawed they might be.  And it's more fun that way.  My goal is not to be the best competitor in the world.  My goals are to be as technical as I can, and to be as good of an instructor as I can.  And those goals suit me.

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