I often worry about whether I do enough at the gym to earn respect for my BJJ skills. I am very dedicated to training, I go almost every time there is a class. I also try to be as friendly as I can. I feel relatively confident that most of my teammates respect the work I put in and (hopefully) don’t find too much on a personal level that they dislike. But what about my actual jiu-jitsu skills? I am submitted far more than I submit. A lot of times I feel like I am moved from good positions at will. I often wonder when rolling with someone who has less experience than me if they are thinking “How did she ever make it to blue belt…I am totally beating her”.

I realize that this is largely in my own head. I am projecting my own feelings of shortcomings onto rolling partners who probably are not thinking that. I know that when people get promoted they often feel that they do not deserve it. But every now and then something happens that makes me think this is not all in my head.

At my school, as in many others, we line up according to rank at the end of the night. I am often amused by watching everyone try to scurry and shove their way into where they think they should be in the line. This week the advanced classes were no-gi (we have beginner and advanced classes simultaneously on the mat, the advanced class alternates between gi and no-gi weekly and the beginners are always in a gi). I have noticed on no-gi weeks that there is one particular white belt who will regularly make it a point to get in front of me when we line up. The first time it happened I thought he had done it inadvertently and I made a joke about him being in front of me. He just looked at me and then stayed where he was. I was not really interested in getting in a pissing contest about lining up so I just let it be and have done the same every time it’s happened since.

As you astute readers may have guessed, this happened again last night when we were lining up (it actually happened twice this week out of four classes, one of which I didn’t line up for…not that I am counting…) and this time another white belt got in line right behind him. I again didn’t say anything but every time it happens it galls me. I feel it is a clear indication that he does not think that I have earned the right to stand in front of him in line.

Last night was different though. When we started the line to bump fists, a fellow blue belt at the beginning of the line saw me a few people down from him and asked quite loudly what I was doing down there. I made a joke about how I guess I didn’t outrank the two guys in front of me in no-gi. The second white belt most likely had just followed the first in line and he immediately apologized and said he had not been paying enough attention when he lined up.  The first white belt, the one who does this regularly, again said nothing. The blue belt then said “it’s not right”.

So while the white belt may not feel I have earned my place in front of him, it made me feel better to think that the blue belt thought I had. I thought about it again after I got home and decided that the blue belt was right. It is not right! If my coach thinks I’ve earned that spot then I’ve earned it. From now on I’ll be taking my spot in line, loudly and rudely if I have to.

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2 responses to “R-E-S-P-E-C-T”

  1. slideyfoot says :

    I can see how that would be hurtful, especially if it happens at the same time your belt is feeling heavy. I frequently feel like I don’t deserve my belt and that I should be performing much better against lower belts, which is made worse by the fact that I also teach a class. The thought pops into your head “why the hell is this person learning from me? They’re better than I am!”

    My personal solution has been to try and follow the old advice about just concerning yourself with your own progress, specifically on a technical basis. I always have a handful of techniques I’m working on, normally over a long period, which I then base my training around.

    So, I’ll try and refine a technique in private lessons, go to that position in sparring, teach that technique in my classes, drill it during open mat. That gets rid of some of the self-esteem issues I have, because I’m not basing my progress on “how am I doing against [x]?”

    Of course that ego is always there and I’ll never be able to get rid of it completely. Still, I am quite happy for people to stand ahead of me in the line whatever their belt rank: I prefer a heterarchical environment rather than a hierarchy (cool term my girlfriend explained to me, after she’d been on some management training).

    • Your Doom says :

      Yeah when I feel like I am not improving as quickly as my teammates or that I am not as good as the other blue belts I think of myself from a year ago or 6 months ago and realize me now would kick past me’s ass 🙂

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