Jiu-Jitsu: Define Your Journey

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When I started jiu jitsu, I had no idea what it was. My friend suggested it to me as a form of self-defense. Truth is, I tried it to prove to him that I would hate it. I owned a gun. Why did I need this? Turned out, I got hooked during that first class. This past April marked my second year of not just a hobby, but an obsession. But to be honest, the last 6 months have been a struggle. With a lot of reflection and a lot of conversations with my very patient boyfriend, I discovered that I had forgotten the very reason why I train.

A little background about myself. I am a woman that started jiu jitsu when I was 35 years old, pretty much considered elderly in the jiu jitsu world. 😉 By the time I get my black belt, I am going to be in one of those memes that scream “Holy crap! This old lady got her black belt. What’s your excuse?” Hahaha!

I am also about 90% deaf in one ear. It makes it difficult to hear 100% of what my professor teaches but with my boyfriend’s help, I manage. Oh and that ear issue. It causes me to have issues with equilibrium. I blew out that eardrum and now couldn’t walk a straight line to save my life. Berimbolo?? How about berim-hell-no. I also have short term memory difficulty due to neurological damage that I sustained as a child. No biggie. Oh and knees that are shot from many years of long distance running on the never forgiving concrete roads and sidewalks. I haven’t shared any of this with my teammates or professor because I never want it to feel like an excuse. I’m just slower than everyone else and that is okay to me. I just show up. Every chance I get, I show up because I love jiu jitsu.

I also could care less about the color of my belt or the amount of medals that I may or may not have. I don’t like to compete but at the same time realize why it is important, so I do. But I don’t do it for the gold. I don’t do it in the hopes that my professor will promote me. I do all this for me.

I like to stay active. I like to be fit. I like that I am stronger than my small stature suggests. I love the friends that I have made along the way that understand the jiu jitsu lifestyle. I get to travel the country, and soon the world, to compete some and largely support my boyfriend and my team. I have an avenue that allows me to set free the frustrations of daily life and also expands my mind. Jiu jitsu is a game of intelligence. Every class, every roll, every tournament teaches you something. I have a boyfriend that knows my weaknesses and helps me tremendously. His patience and teaching spirit allows me to grow much faster than I could on my own. Jiu jitsu is much more to me than “winning”.

But I forgot all that. I got hurt 6 weeks prior to a tournament. I had already registered and it was out of state. Plans had already been made and I was going to see it through. I continued to train and competed with that injury and only saw a doctor after I returned. I took time off, which was horrible. I was bored and just wanted to be back on the mats. I got the diagnosis and started getting better but damn if my shoulder was not cooperating. I decided to start back slow and just do class. Then introduced a roll or two but didn’t push myself.

And I dreaded every minute of it. I fought feelings of staying home and got in the car and headed to class. I thought at first it was fear of making my injury worse but soon discovered that wasn’t it.

At class, I noticed I watched the clock. I noticed I no longer felt jealous as I watched others participate. I actually felt relieved. I began to have to fight the feelings of loving something and hating it so much that I wanted to quit. But I didn’t want to quit so I begin to dissect my feelings.

Whenever my shoulder got too tired to keep going, I stopped. And then was overcome with feelings of disappointment. Not my own, but the fear of other people judging me. Did they think I was faking it? Did they think I wasn’t taking it serious? Did they wish that I would just give up and move on? Did my professor wonder why I even bothered to show up? And so many more. It got the best of me. I may have had a meltdown or 5 but we won’t speak of that. 😀

And that brings me to today. I forgot all the reasons I love jiu jitsu. I let other people’s reasons for showing up define mine. I decided that it was all or nothing, even though it had never been about that for me before. I had forgotten that for me, and me alone, showing up, whether it is to class or to a tournament, was a win. And that is all that matters. I wonder how many people quit jiu jitsu because the journey is not their own but one defined by the expectations of others. If you train to be a world champ, like my boyfriend and several of my teammates do, own it. If you train because you simply love it, remember that. Define your goals and train happy 🙂

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