Every white belt knows that learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is difficult. It is amazing. It is fun. It is totally addictive (in a good way). But it is difficult. It is particularly difficult when the journey starts as an adult (as is the case for me). When we are kids we learn things quickly, and more importantly our bodies are flexible, and are still growing. As a result there are many advantages to the individual who starts their BJJ training when they are young.
As an adult, we get sore. We aren’t as flexible. Things sometimes don’t seem to come easily. It can also be difficult because the only path that exists for a white belt is the path of resistance, the path of repeatedly tapping out, until one learns the skills. I’ve heard black belts say that Jiu-Jitsu cannot be learned in a book, or on YouTube, it has to be “earned” on the mat. There is a necessary cost of time to develop skills.
With that time comes the difficult, repeated reality of being submitted, over and over again. I joke to my wife that I feel often that I am fighting trained killers, who are kind enough to spare my life each day by releasing their chokes when I tap. It is kind of surreal in a way being in this position. I will go to class and try to roll as much as I can with higher belts, because I learn so much from them. My learning however isn’t in the form of words, as much as them actually performing techniques on me in the context of a roll.
At this stage of my development my goals, when rolling with a higher belt, are simple and clear: try to survive as long as I can. In a five minute roll I’ll just see how long I can go playing defence. Despite my best efforts I am often repeatedly submitted during these five minutes.
A strange thing occurs however, after every roll, and after every class. Even though I “lose” over and over again, I learn. As a result I am becoming more complex as a human being. Also I am becoming more and more comfortable with the following emotions: pain, discomfort, and fear. The more familiar I am with these emotions the more calm I am outside of the gym and the better equipped I am to take on hard goals.
I joke again with my wife when I get home from class that “after today’s class there is absolutely nothing that I am intimidated by that could happen to me today”. It sets a tone. When we become comfortable, in discomfort, we build character. Seeking out difficult endeavours, regardless of the outcome is good for us as human beings. The more I attempt difficult things in BJJ, the more I am willing to roll with higher belts, regardless of the outcome, the more I am better equipped to tackle difficult things outside of the mat.
It reminds me of a quote from Artisotle’s Ethics that I love:
Virtues are induced and fostered as a result, and by the agency, of the same sort of actions as cause their destruction, the activities that flow from them will also consist in the same sort of actions. This is so in all the other more observable instances, eg. in that of strength. This results from taking plenty of nourishment and undergoing severe training, and it is the strong man that will be best able to carry out this programme. So with the virtues. It is by refraining from pleasures that we become temperate, and it is when we have become temperate that we are most able to abstain from pleasures. Similarly with courage; it is by habituating ourselves to make light of alarming situations and to face them that we become brave, and it is when we have become brave that we shall be most able to face an alarming situation.
Lesson (which applies to all aspects of my life and business): The more I attempt difficult things, the better I am at attempting other difficult things.