Since the day I first started training jiu-jitsu, I have been in love with rolling. I love drilling too (I have learned to appreciate it more the longer I’ve been training), but to this day I often find myself anxiously looking at the clock during class waiting for the time when we start to roll. This is one of the reasons that my continuing knee saga has been so aggravating. I have to limit my rolling and I really, really miss it.
So it’s been somewhat of a surprise to me that I’ve come across several people recently that have confessed that they are very self-conscious when they roll and thus they are not feeling the love for rolling that I do. When I’ve asked them why, a lot of it centers around feeling like they are doing everything wrong and everyone watching knows it. This also occurs when rolling with upper belts who they are sure are mentally cataloging everything they do wrong during the roll. Another point of particular anxiety seems to be when a higher belt will try to give them something while rolling and they don’t know what it is.
I am by nature a very insecure person so I began to wonder why it was I never felt this way. Could it be because I have always just been so good at jiu-jitsu that there was nothing to feel self-conscious about? Um no, that is clearly not it. I think part of it was just because I found rolling so fun that it didn’t occur to me to be self-conscious about it. Also I had a somewhat unique experience when I first started training in that the jits program was new at my gym so pretty much everyone was a beginner. Thus I had some training under my belt before I regularly got the chance to roll with higher belts. I was actually so eager to get the chance to work with higher belts when I was new (something that has never gone away) that I can’t imagine being anxious about it. Well that’s not entirely true, the first two times I got to roll with my instructor, I was so nervous that I kicked him in the face.
I have felt the embarrassment of being certain that a higher belt was trying to feed me something and not knowing what it was. I have always found that the best thing to do in this situation is just to ask. When I started training at a second gym, I used to roll with one of the instructors a lot and we would inevitably come to a point (usually 2 or 3 times) when he would stop moving and I just knew he was trying to give me something but I had no idea what. At first I felt really embarrassed that I didn’t know and I’d try to just keep going. I realized that was a pretty silly thing to do as he was trying to teach me. So instead of feeling embarrassed or trying to pretend that I didn’t know he was setting me up, I’d stop and say something like “I’m sorry, I know you are trying to give me something but I don’t see it”. Unsurprisingly he did not laugh and tell me I had no future in jiu-jitsu but would instead point out our positions and what was available to me that I had not seen. Not only did I find this was not an embarrassing thing to do but I also discovered this was a great way to learn.
In fact this happened as recent as last night. I got to roll with my instructor and he asked me why I gave up on something when I had him in side control with a gift wrap. I told him I didn’t really know what was available there and we spent the majority of the roll with him showing me options from there. I don’t look at it as I did something wrong or feel embarrassed about it. He is a second degree black belt and I am a blue belt, he obviously has knowledge I don’t and can see things I can’t and I was glad he showed me some more finishes from there (and also can’t wait to try them).
So that would be my advice on how to handle feeling embarrassed when you don’t know what a higher belt is trying to give you. But I find I don’t know what to say to people who are feeling self-conscious about people watching them when they roll. I wish I could think of some sage advice to give my friends because I believe that if you are not enjoying rolling, you are likely not going to keep training and I would hate to see people quit because they are afraid of being judged on the mat.
So I am curious whether or not anyone else out there has felt this kind of anxiety and what they did to overcome it. Does it just take more time training? Does anxiety go away the first time you tap a blue belt in which case I’ve unknowingly helped many people overcome it 🙂 Any and all advice would be appreciated.
Jiu-jitsu guilt. Chances are that if you are one of those people who are guilty of overtraining, you are familiar with this emotion. It can be felt on the rare occasions when you are forced to miss a class and frequently results in a case of the cold sweats and shakes around class time induced by the certainty that they are probably teaching the one thing that would bring your entire jiu-jitsu game together that night.
I have discussed this before as it is a syndrome that I am all too familiar with. I have tried to cope with it and allow myself to have some sort of a social life but just when I thought I might get my jiu-jitsu guilt under control, I discovered two new types of jiu-jitsu guilt.
About 6 months ago, I found myself in a jiu-jitsu funk that I could not shake. I had overtrained and overcompeted and I reached a point where I could not drag myself to class. Instead of feeling guilty because I was upset to miss class, I found that I was feeling a lot of guilt about the fact that I didn’t want to go at all. This only made the whole situation worse. Either I would feel guilty enough that I would go to class even though I didn’t want to and then be miserable or my desire to not go would win and I would spend the next day mired in my own guilt.
I found that these types of jiu-jitsu guilt were feeding nicely off of each other. I did my best to come to terms with the fact that it was ok for me to not go to jiu-jitsu every time the opportunity presented itself and I worked at having a healthy training/social life balance. Sometimes if I felt like training all week, I did. If I felt like having dinner with a friend one night, I did that too. The guilt didn’t go away entirely but I at least stopped hyperventilating every time I was not at the gym during class time. Then came jiu-jitsu guilt type 3.
A few months ago, I hurt my knee and I ended up taking about 6 weeks off of training while waiting for diagnosis (sprained ligament) and treatment (4 weeks of PT). Because this happened when I was barely coming out of my funk, I was able to take the time off and not bristle too much as I really thought I needed it anyway. By the time I was cleared to start training again, I was more than ready to come back and I thought I would get back to training just as I had before.
For a while this worked. I was training about half as much as I was when I was training all the time so that I had time for other activities and time for my knee to recover after training. Eventually I got to the point where I wanted to ramp up training and get ready to start competing again. I was quite excited that I was mentally back to where I wanted to be. However I quickly found that I was not physically back. As I began to up my training, I found that my knee was hurting more and more. It has gotten to the point that I had to go back to the doctor this week and get it re-evaluated.
So you might be wondering what is the 3rd type of jiu-jitsu guilt I mentioned? Since I’ve had to back off of training again I often feel guilty that I am not tough enough to train through this injury. Logically I know that it is ridiculous to feel bad that I am resting my knee so that it doesn’t get worse. However, we live in a culture where people overcoming sports injuries are sensationalized and rewarded. If you follow football, you are probably familiar with the story of Adrian Peterson coming back from an ACL/MCL tear to lead the league in rushing the next year.
If you don’t follow football there is probably a good chance (since you are reading this blog) that you do follow jiu-jitsu. Most of my social media feeds are filled with at least 75% jiu-jitsu related information (the other 25% is made up of the few friends I have and grumpy cat). But if you train then you do not have to follow every jiu-jitsu athlete and page to understand what the jiu-jitsu culture is like. We are warriors. We train through injuries that would stop normal people. Chances are that most people on the mat on any given day are dealing with at least one injury.
Last week I saw an image of woman training in which the description stated she had just finished cancer treatment and had children at home and ended with the line “What’s your excuse?”. I know of a black belt in my area who was back to training a week after having knee surgery. If people are training through cancer and knee surgeries than what kind of jiu-jitsuer am I to let a sprained ligament stop me?
Like I said, in my brain I know this is kind of ridiculous. But in my heart I am feeling like maybe I am not tough enough to be a jiu-jitsu badass. I know that so much of jiu-jitsu is mental and this is just another challenge I have to figure out to progress in training. Here’s hoping I figure out the solution quickly, or better yet, my knee gets miraculously better. I am tired of being a victim of jiu-jitsu guilt.
I had an interesting start to 2014. But before I get into that, let me explain a little why I have been absent from the blogosphere for so long. Yes it is true that I had a lot of work stress and all the holiday merriment took its toll but I also have to admit that part of the reason I have been so silent is that I have not been in a good place with training. I continue to deal with the pain from my injured knee and I also managed to injure the good knee as well. The second injury is doing much better but because it was hurt for a while, I ended up having to put more weight on my bad knee and it is in a lot of pain.
I have been really down about the fact that my body seems to be at war with my soul. I want nothing more than to get back to the mats full time and resume my pre-injury training regime but my body seems to be telling me that it is not ready. So that’s what I’ve been up to…now back to the start of 2014.
I had decided early in the week that I did not want to do anything for New Year’s Eve. I was talking to a friend who also mentioned that she was planning to stay home and we decided to do nothing together.
So we spent New Year’s Eve watching TV and movies and eating Chinese food and cookies. It was actually very relaxed and fun and just the low-key kind of night I was hoping for. When she left to go home, I walked her to the front door of my building because I live in a labyrinth of hallways that my friends often have trouble navigating.
When she opened the door to go outside, we noticed a dog had been sitting at the door and he came rushing into the building. I immediately recognized him as another resident’s dog. I often see him being walked and I know his owner tends to walk him without a leash so I figured that the owner was also on the way in. My friend looked outside and said she didn’t see anyone out there and I realized that the dog was not wearing the harness I usually see him in when walking (I realize I might sound sort of like a creepy stalker but I just really love animals so I tend to notice them).
Once I assured my friend that I knew the dog belonged in the building and I’d get him home, she left and I waited in the lobby for a while, figuring that the dog had escaped his owner and the owner would soon come to claim him. As I waited, other residents and their guests came down and I asked them all if they knew who the dog belonged to. No one did (and many seemed to have had a little too much fun ringing in the new year so were not much help).
I started to worry that the dog’s owner was not going to come in and I started to wonder what I could do at that time (around 1:15am) to find him. I didn’t think my neighbors would take too kindly to me knocking on everyone’s door and asking “do you know this dog?”. Every time the elevator opened the dog tried to get on it and it occurred to me that I had seen him on the elevator with his owner many times. I was pretty sure that the dog and his owner lived close to me as I have seen them in my hall lots of times so I called the elevator and prepared to head to my floor.
As soon as the elevator opened, the dog got in and looked at me as if he was waiting for me to follow. I got in and pushed the button for my floor. When we stopped on the floor the dog got out and once again waited for me to follow. As I started to wonder what direction I should take him to look for his owner, he calmly started walking down the hall. I realized he was now in charge and resigned myself to following him to see where we would end up.
He very slowly and calmly led me through the same labyrinth of halls I’d just helped my friend through. He would occasionally stop to sniff something or listen to a noise until eventually he took a seat on the welcome mat in front of a door. I thought he might have sat down to take a break from walking (he is an adorably lazy bulldog of some kind) but he looked up at me in a way that made me think that he was pretty sure this was his house. I had some reservations about knocking on the door in case the dog was wrong as it was now almost 1:30 but when I looked at him again, he was still calmly looking up at me with a lot of certainty in his eyes.
I knocked and waited to see if I was about to really piss off a neighbor or about to become someone’s best friend for returning his dog. No one answered. I tried again a little louder and still no one came to the door. I started to worry again. What if the owner was asleep and couldn’t hear me? What if he was out of town? What was I going to do with the dog? I decided that I should take him to my condo and come up with a plan to find the owner. It was too late to knock on everyone’s door so if nothing else, I figured he could spend the night in my house and we could find his owner in the morning.
I tried to call the dog and get him to follow me but he just sat there looking at me curiously. I tried to move him by grabbing the scruff of his neck but he would not budge. Right or wrong, he decided he was home. I stood in the hallway for a while wondering what to do. I thought I could probably leave him there and his owner would get home eventually but I couldn’t bring myself to leave him alone in the hall.
I looked down at him again ready to plead with him to move but he had such a strong, steady look in his eyes that I knew it would not work. He had been on a journey I knew nothing about and found his way home. He was not going to leave it for me or anything else.
As I began to wonder if people would think I was weird for sleeping in the hall, I heard the door to the stairs open and around the corner came the dog’s owner. He stopped in shock in the middle of the hallway and then smiled. I walked up to meet him and explained I had found his dog outside the building. He told me the dog had been missing for a while. I didn’t think at the time to ask how long but clearly longer than that night.
I couldn’t help but ask if the dog was indeed sitting in front of his house and his owner confirmed that yes he was. I told him that I was glad the dog had found his way home and then headed off to my condo and my bed. However once I got there I couldn’t stop thinking about the strange circumstances that led the dog home that night.
I do tend to believe that things happen in life for a reason and I kept wondering why the universe had sent me a lost dog that night. Most of us are probably familiar with the saying that someone is following someone around like a lost puppy. However in this case, instead of the lost puppy following me around, he very calmly and assuredly led me to where he needed to go. I started to think about my frustration with training and how it was all stemming from me not being able to do what I used to do. I think maybe the universe was trying to tell me that sometimes I have to let go of what I believe is the right path and follow the lost dog to see where I’m meant to go.