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.

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10 responses to “Guilty”

  1. Lori Latimer says :

    For people who have a good work ethic, any reason for taking time off feels wrong and bad and lazy. It’s so hard to step back and get some perspective. If you stick with jiu jitsu for the next 20 years (which I imagine you will), it’s totally reasonable to take time to heal, handle personal business, celebrate your mom’s birthday, whatever it may be. If you weren’t committed, you’d never question how you spend your time off the mat in the first place.

    • Your Doom says :

      Thanks. The statement “If you weren’t committed, you’d never question how you spend your time off the mat in the first place” made a lot of sense and is something I am going to remember the next time I feel guilty.

  2. mini says :

    Oh man, I went through the exact same thing this week. Well, phase 1 and I don’t get any physical symptoms like that but it still annoys the hell out of me. I’ll be trying to concentrate on the task and then out of nowhere BUT I COULD BE TRAINING RIGHT NOW FUCK.

    I know I’m susceptible to the phase 2 guilt but I’ve made it clear for myself that training is my hobby, and if I don’t feel like going, I don’t go. This is my hobby, not my job. I actually pay money to go there. That helps for me, mentally. But that’s probably also the reason I’ll never be a great competitor, or even a competitor. Training is fun times and if it’s not fun I’m doing something wrong.

  3. nkkny1 says :

    Feel better! Take the time off for you to heal as you need it. It’s one thing to make a living off of BJJ and have to do PT and rush to get back on the mats so that you can stay on top with your sponsors and in rankings, but another if you do it for fun. I know the feeling well and it’s much more multiplied when you throw in tournaments that you signed up for or ones that you spoke about doing with your teammates in the future. I’d feel so guilty if I missed ONE day! Then I got upset and didn’t want to train. I found a happy medium where I enjoy training but I don’t go crazy if I skip – though I took a much needed break from competition, because after 9 last year, I was extremely burned out. Hang in there and feel better 🙂

  4. Jiu Jiu says :

    I stopped with the guilt thing after I realized – hey, this is MY life and I don’t want my life to ONLY be about doing jiu jitsu. I also want to BLOG about jiu jitsu.

    Oh wait.

    ^_^ I get what you are saying, but my feeling is: it’s my hobby and my life, and I choose to go X days per week. Last week I made it in twice – Monday and Sunday. Not awesome. But I prioritized other things last week.

    One thing that helps me overall is trying to stop “helpless” words – and use enabling language. For example, instead of saying “I have to work” or “I need to see my family” or “I can’t do XYZ” I say “I choose to do ABC because I…”

    Instead of “I can’t go to jiu jitsu – I have to work” I say “I choose to go to work because I want to make a good impression on this client.”

    Honestly, by using that proactive language it really helped me get over the mental guilt. I go to jiu jitsu when I choose to, and sometimes life takes priority. And that’s okay – because I’m in it for the long haul.

    • Your Doom says :

      Thanks for the advice, it makes a lot of sense to think about missing training more positively if I don’t want to feel guilty about it. Typically when I decide to skip training to do something with my friends or family I end up having fun and wondering why I got so worked up about it. It’s been tricky with the injury because I want to train and it is affecting me mentally that I cannot so it’s harder for me to find a balance of mental well-being and physical well-being. I will start trying to think about as taking time off to heal so I can keep training in the long term.

  5. J.B. says :

    I’m dealing with some very similar stuff. I can empathize.

  6. Jiu Jiu says :

    Now I’m dealing with my own emotional crap. Got illegally fired at work, then my boyfriend left for distant shores. It’s really not surprising that all I want to do is hunker down and eat all the candy and never leave my apartment. I don’t really feel depressed – more just down, and lower energy.


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