It is almost always true that relationships are easier when they start. You are in an initial phase of discovery and romance and everything is exciting and new. I think that the relationship with jiu-jitsu is no different.
When I first started jiu-jitsu, it was love at first sight. I fell fast and hard. I was enamored with everything I was doing…pushing my body in ways I never thought possible, competing, seeing results on and off the mat. I couldn’t get enough. So much so that I joined a second gym and regularly trained 6-7 times a week. I often felt tired, weak, beat up and sore. I got a few injuries. I didn’t care, all I could think about was jiu-jitsu and it’s all I wanted to do.
As time went on the luster of new love started to wear off and I began to realize that jiu-jitsu was not the flawless end-all, be-all I thought it was. Sometimes it’s not fun to feel like you got hit by a truck, sometimes not being able to move a joint for a couple of weeks without significant pain sucks, and sometimes being crushed on the mat just isn’t fun.
As the rose-colored glasses started to come off, I began to panic. I didn’t know what to do on days when I was feeling exhausted and I didn’t feel like training. I had pushed myself so hard for so long that I didn’t know anything else but training. Whenever possible, I would arrange social outings with my friends around jiu-jitsu and my life was a constant pattern of work, jiu-jitsu, sleep, repeat.
This all came to a culmination this summer after training for two tournaments and pushing myself really hard. I decided to take a week off after so that I could recover, something I never voluntarily did before, and I found that afterwards I didn’t feel the same drive and compulsion to go back. I went into a pretty significant funk and couldn’t focus on anything training related. I had to make myself go to class after work, I wasn’t staying long after to roll, I couldn’t get back on track with my diet and cardio. A few weeks after that I sprained a ligament in my knee and I almost felt relieved to have an excuse to not go to jiu-jitsu.
The change in my attitude plus my time off forced me to take a good, hard look at my relationship with jiu-jitsu. While I still felt that I loved jiu-jitsu, I started to wonder if maybe I had jumped into a committed relationship too fast. Sure I still wanted to be with jiu-jitsu but maybe it was time to see other people too.
So after my injury, jiu-jitsu and I took a break and I got to see what life would be like without it. For a while it was pretty fun. I was going out with friends a few times a week, eating and drinking stuff I tend to stay away from while training, coming home before 9pm and watching a bunch of TV and movies that I don’t typically have time for.
However as time wore on, I started to miss jiu-jitsu. I missed the gym. I missed my coaches. I missed my teammates. I missed the challenges, both physical and mental, that I cannot find anywhere but on the mat. I missed the focus and discipline that came with training jiu-jitsu. I realized that I did not feel as complete without jiu-jitsu in my life.
So after going through a rocky patch, I finally feel that I am ready to come back to jiu-jitsu 100% committed. The bloom of new love has worn off and I realize that jiu-jitsu is not perfect. Sometimes it’s flawed. Sometimes I am flawed (very rarely of course). But I have discovered that I like the person I am with jiu-jitsu much better than the person I am without it.
Of course now and then I am going to want to hang out with my friends to blow off some steam when I am feeling angry with jiu-jitsu, but I am committed to always coming back. I feel really good about where I am in my relationship with jiu-jitsu right now. It’s easy to be committed when everything is new and wonderful but it’s a lot harder to make the same commitment when you realize the amount of work it takes to succeed. I know that jiu-jitsu and I are in it for the long haul and I think we will have a long, fulfilling life together.