I was chatting with a new teammate recently. During the conversation he mentioned just how frustrating jiu-jitsu is, and paradoxically just how much he loves training in spite of that frustration.
There’s no getting around it, jiu-jitsu, like any other higher order activity, can be extremely frustrating. I think of it as a constantly changing and evolving puzzle. Imagine if one day the pieces of your favorite puzzle fit together, but the next they changed around and now you have to do some things over again. That’s the puzzle jiu-jitsu is for us.
Frustration is a response to challenge. There are of course many kinds of frustrating challenges, some positive and some negative. But at its core, frustration is the natural reaction that we have any time we are genuinely challenged. This can manifest itself in some people as a desire to quit, and in others as a desire to try harder.
You will be frustrated when you first start training. It’s a natural reaction to what is going to happen to you. If you are physically big and strong, people who are smaller and weaker will run circles around you. If you are physically small and weak, it’s going to be even worse.
Then there comes a moment when you realize just how much you don’t know. You realize how far you have to go to get to the top of the mountain, which ironically is just the foot of another steeper mountain. Watch the finals of any black belt competition; look at the face of the guy who takes second place right after the match ends. 9/10 have that distinct look that we all know too well: frustration.
But here’s the thing, the frustration along the way is what makes the minor victories sweet. You can’t know what victory truly feels like unless you’ve experienced loss. And jiu-jitsu gives us lots of opportunity for victory. You will always remember the first time you hit your favorite submission while rolling, even if it is on a first-day white belt. You’ll always appreciate the first time you won a match, or the first time you were able to roll with an upper belt and not feel completely lost.
Being frustrated is what keeps us coming back day after day, so embrace the feeling. Remember every moment of frustration, and use it as fuel for days when you’re not quite sure why precisely you are doing this to yourself. Training sucks, but the feeling of relief once you overcome a hurdle makes it all worth-it, and the feeling of euphoria when actually experiencing success makes it something that I know I want to do for the rest of my life.