Thursday, March 7, 2013

Your Humble Muscles Need More Reps

On Sunday morning, I dropped into my school's open mat to rehab a back injury and to teach an informal private lesson. After 20 minutes of solo movements, slowly and carefully increasing my mobility in an effort to baby and accelerate the healing of my strained lower back, one of my black belt instructors asked if I'd like to roll.

I was having trouble bridging without pain and any sort of twisting triggered an intense tightening of my core muscles. I had been dealing with the injury for a little more than a week and was doing my best to keep my training light enough so that the minor pain did not morph into a serious problem.

So I said yes and rolled intensely for an hour.

Thought my decision was not a wise one, I learned a lot from that roll, as I always do when training with grapplers that outrank me. I've been learning from this particular instructor for seven years now, and every roll is an opportunity to gauge my progress, to experiment, and to identify areas for improvement. I never win, but I am able to survive a little bit longer here or react a little bit more quickly there, and since I know I am losing to pure technique, I can map out what technical aspects of my game I should dedicate the next month to.

But the biggest lesson I learned from this black belt that morning did not come from the roll.

After we finished training, he asked me about my experience with the berimbolo. I admitted that I had played with it a little but found that I wasn't really cut out for it, in large part because of my physical limitations and partially because of my overall style of rolling.

"Why do you ask?"

"Well," he began, "I don't see it fitting much into my game either, but I'd like to learn more about it so that I can defend it and so that I can teach it. I've been playing with a few ideas, but I haven't used it enough to really say that I know all of the ins and outs."

Later, when I was partway through my private, I saw him talking to a blue belt about the berimbolo, discussing approaches, strategy, and tactics and even getting feedback on his technique. The black belt, a seasoned competitor and legitimately ranked instructor, recognized a hole in his knowledge and was humble enough to learn from a blue belt. Even though the black belt far surpassed the blue belt on overall technical ability, the blue belt had something new to share, and it takes a certain perspective to realize that that's okay.

It's very easy to forget that we are all white belts at something. There is no shame in not being an expert in everything, and we can sometimes forget that our gym as a community. Community means that everyone has the potential to contribute productively.

No comments:

Post a Comment