One of the hardest lessons to learn in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is that you really don’t have anything to prove. When you first start training, you try to prove that you belong there. After a few months, you want to prove that you’re not totally uncoordinated. Before long, you graduate to proving that you’re better than whoever you’re rolling with. Some people skip those first steps and move straight to the third. BJJ is a competition sport, after all — isn’t the whole point to be better than others?
If it seems like you’re competing in a professional high stakes grappling tournament every time you roll in class, you’re doing it wrong… especially if you’re very new to the sport and not actually training for a competition.
While it can be healthy to have a competitive edge in jiu-jitsu, it’s important to accept that you jiu-jitsu journey is completely independent of anyone else’s. It really doesn’t matter at all if the person who started at the same time you did is advancing quicker. It doesn’t matter if they’re a natural and you feel like a stick being flung around by a dog. It doesn’t even matter if they’re getting more praise than you or winning more medals than you are.
The beauty of jiu-jitsu is that you really can’t compare yourself to anyone else. Sure, you may be in a similar weight class, but you can rarely match your training time, effort, and overall skill level to be exactly the same as someone else’s. The longer you train, you’ll probably also realize how pointless it was comparing yourself to someone who likely doesn’t even train anymore.
Finally, there’s the very likely reality that the person you’re comparing yourself to is feeling the same exact way you are. Instead of focusing on that submission they got on you in the last round, try focusing on the counter you could have used in that situation. Instead of worrying about why they were promoted and you weren’t, try making a list of goals you plan to accomplish before you receive your next promotion.
This is especially important if you’re a white belt training with upper belts. I often see white belts going at 115 percent in the first few rounds of rolling, but then get gassed halfway through. Sure, you smashed a blue belt into a pancake for most of the round, but that same blue belt has learned control, pacing, and timing techniques. They’re still rolling three rounds after you’ve had to sit out.
Jiu-jitsu is a humbling experience for anyone their first time on the mat, and it will continue to humble you every day. At some point in your journey, you’ll either burn out or grow to appreciate the skills of others with respect.