Tuesday, August 28, 2012

There is No "I" in Team, But There Are Two in Jiu-Jitsu

We often talk about our team and the unity of your gym.  Being a positive presence in the gym, being a good training partner, and representing your gym in a positive light off the mats are all an important part of the jiu-jitsu lifestyle.  In our emphasis on teamwork, we understate a part of training that is sometimes more important than supporting the group.

Jiu-jitsu is a personal journey, and your primary focus should be on you.

This likely sounds strange in a culture that promotes humbleness and has mottoes like "leave your ego at the door," but it's important.  Selfishness is negative when you put yourself above others.  Selfishness is positive when you can use it to increase your enjoyment of a hobby without hindering anyone else's enjoyment.  You chose to train jiu-jitsu.  You pay your mat fees.  You bought your equipment.  You provide your health insurance.  And you make the decision to risk injury by participating in a combat sport.  You stepped on the mat for you.  Do not forget that.

If an aspect of jiu-jitsu culture does not increase your enjoyment of the sport, you are not obligated to take part.  For example, if you do not take pleasure in it, you do not have to:
  • Watch jiu-jitsu matches.
  • Buy DVD sets and instructional books.
  • Follow mixed martial arts.
  • Compete locally or nationally.
  • Workout outside of the gym.
  • Train every day all day.
If training just twice a week makes you happy, awesome.  If you have no interest in competing but love to roll in the gym, no worries.  If you are fascinated by technique but don't much care for keeping up with the latest fights and bouts, that is perfectly fine.  You are dedicating valuable personal time to jiu-jitsu as a hobby.  You should spend it in a way that you enjoy.  Could doing the above make you a better grappler?  Possibly, but if jiu-jitsu does not make you happy, you will likely not train for very long.  Adopt an approach that you can maintain for a long period of time, even if it means progressing somewhat slower.  On the long timeline, your slow and steady progress will overtake your quick but brief increase in skill.

Disclaimer: in your pursuit of jiu-jitsu happiness, do not put your own enjoyment above the enjoyment of others.  Hate warm ups?  Suck it up.  Skipping warm ups creates a distraction for your training partners and suggests that you are somehow above everyone else in the gym.  Loathe laundry?  Bring a Gameboy to the laundromat and wash those gis after every training session.  Enjoy trash talking?  That's fine, but do not assume that all of your training partners feel the same way.

We respect our training partners because we want them to respect us.  If we allow respect to fade, we lose everything that we have worked so hard to build, as a gym and as a community.

I encourage my students to think of themselves every time they hit the mat.  I want them to have fun, and I want them to stay safe.  I encourage them to look after their health and to choose training partners wisely.  If they are not comfortable rolling with someone, it is perfectly acceptable for them to say "no thanks."  Does this defy the uber-macho fight everyone any time any day mentality that UFC Unleashed reruns have beat into our heads?  Of course, and I am fine with it.  Challenges are acceptable.  Unnecessary injuries are not.

Training should be fun.  If an aspect of your training makes you despise the sport that you love, evaluate your training and consider what you can do to fix the problem.

Completely unrelated: how I feel when a really good training partner steps into the gym for the first time after a long layoff.

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