That’s all I got

A good friend and training partner of mine is constantly giving me a hard time about holding back when I roll. He notices it not only when I roll with him but when he sees me rolling with other people. Being a good training partner, he will frequently do things to annoy me while we roll until I get angry enough to forego the restraint and submit him at any cost.

Now I will freely admit that it is true that I hold back a lot when I roll, I even discussed it in this post. As much as I am trying to be aware of this behavior now and change it, I know that I still hold back. I still worry about all the things I mentioned before, getting my partners upset, hurting them, etc. but I got to thinking about this last week after a rough night on the mats.

I had rolled with a training partner of mine that I really enjoy rolling with. He is very good and very challenging and this night was no different. He submitted me either 3 or 4 times, I forget which (or maybe my pride refuses to remember) and I got really frustrated after the last time he submitted me. There was cursing, there was anger, there might have even be pouting.

After I had cooled down a bit and had time to be ashamed of my behavior (I only hope that my training partners understand that most of the time I get angry on the mat it is anger directed inwardly at me and not outwardly at them), I was thinking about why it was that this particular roll was so upsetting to me. It’s not like I am unaccustomed to getting submitted…hell I’ve probably tapped out 20 times since that roll! So why? Why do some submissions sting more than others?

For some reason what my friend said about me holding back popped into my head while thinking about this. Was I upset because I had allowed myself to get submitted by holding back? Maybe. Maybe not. That still didn’t feel quite right. It then occurred to me that I got upset for exactly the opposite reason. I felt like I was giving almost all I had to the roll and it was still not good enough.

This was a moment of epiphany for me. Of all the reasons I was aware of for holding back some of my aggression, this was one I had never consciously thought about before. The more I thought about it though the more it made sense. Sure it’s scary to think that if you unleash the beast (as the kids are fond of saying) that you might hurt one of your training partners or yourself. But in another way it’s even scarier to have to face a situation where you gave all you had to give and it was not enough.

I realized that by holding back I am maybe giving myself a cushion to soften the blow of being defeated. I can think “well I didn’t win but if I had given a little bit more…” and console myself with what could have been. I am giving myself an out instead of having to face the scary truth that on this date, at this time, my opponent was better me.

Most of the time I know that it is not bad when I “lose” while rolling. That I am still at the beginning of my BJJ journey and of course I am going to get caught. I also know that anyone can get caught by anyone, that is the nature of the sport. But I also think that it is hard for me or for anyone to have to admit to themselves that their best is not good enough.

While this is probably not the biggest reason I hold back when I roll, I think it probably factors in. It definitely was a major factor in my anger that night.When I think about it now with the benefit of hindsight and a cool head, I realize that to improve my jiu-jitsu, it is much better for me to give my all and come up short than it is for me to hold back because I am afraid to fail.

Next time I get angry on the mat I hope that I can have the clarity to remember this moment of epiphany and console myself with the knowledge that while today my best was not enough, sometime soon it will be.

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