I Almost Quit Jiu Jitsu
You'll never get an answer that is smarter than the question you ask.
One month ago I sat down to write a post about how I was taking a break from jiu jitsu. I didn't know how long the break would be, I just felt like somehow my departure from BJJ was imminent. My membership was due for renewal, and I didn't renew.
I had been asking myself 'Why' a lot. At first it started out like a joke, as in, 'Why do I drive so far and so frequently just to get beat up all the time?'. But then it stopped being something I laughed at, and I realized I wasn't getting better at jiu jitsu, and it was costing me lots of money for membership, gas, my time spent. I realized I had a billion other commitments I could be investing that same time, money, and effort in. Why in the world would I continue with jiu jitsu?
Jesse's post about being honest with yourself about how bad you suck ended up really sticking with me. Once I posted it, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I felt like if I had to be stuck in side control with no way out one more time I was absolutely going to lose my mind. I was really tired of being squashed like an ant on the sidewalk, wondering why in the hell anyone chooses to do this for fun.
I also felt like a fraud. I have a blog about jiu jitsu, but I'm pretty freaking bad at jiu jitsu. I asked myself what my experience with BJJ would be like if I had never started the blog. Having thousands of virtual eyes on you is a pretty weird feeling. It felt like an extra bit of pressure that I wasn't a huge fan of.
I had also just been told that I could no longer train one on one with my favourite jiu jitsu partner, one of the blue belts who took me under his wing. Nothing shady happened, don't worry. Essentially, we were informed by our professor, lovingly, that neither of us would be progressing if we were to continue together. I bawled my eyes out several times after I got that news. I took a week off because I was so upset.
I was angry, and I was devastated. I was ready to remember what life was like before all this jiu jitsu craziness. I could call this a nice little experiment and then go do yoga or something.
I was asking all kinds of questions. Why do I drive so far just to get beat up? Why am I spending so much time and money on this thing? Why have a BJJ blog if I'm not good at BJJ? What other opportunities could I be investing my efforts in where I might experience more swift results?
In a last ditch effort at responsible decision-making, I messaged a coach that I trust. I asked him if jiu jitsu was worth it. I'm not totally sure that I even really knew what I was asking, but I didn't know what else to ask. He redirected my question, and asked me to consider what I gain from jiu jitsu, and how valuable that impact is now in my life. He said that if I am getting something from it now, and if it is changing and benefitting me now, then I should take that into consideration.
He was asking better questions than I was.
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I always give myself permission to feel how I'm feeling. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a system that has really influenced my life, it is said that the only "bad" emotion is the one that you don't express. Once I cried and got it all out, I decided that I could stay angry and bitter and resentful, or I could move on and keep working. Ironically, I think I have learned to do this thanks to jiu jitsu. Sometimes you have to tell your emotions to shut up. Sometimes you just have to do what you know is best even if you don't want to. The hardest thing to do is usually the right thing to do.
So I showed up again, and I kept showing up. I actually ended up training way more this past month than I ever have. I showed up and I shut up. You may have noticed I didn't write much this past month. I stopped writing and I started training. I figured if I was going to go out, I might as well finish BJJ with one last good shot.
I still got crushed, but this past month I've been more open to getting crushed. At first it really sucked, and I almost broke my rule of not crying on the mats. One morning after class I ran to the change room and bawled my eyes out. Sitting on the cold change room floor, I texted my friend, "I hate jiu jitsu". I texted him because he is a BJJ black belt, and I knew he would text back saying that I don't hate jiu jitsu and to never say that again. If I had really wanted someone to agree that BJJ is stupid, I would have texted someone else.
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This morning, as I was yet again getting crushed in side control, our professor was sitting there watching and said that I have a question I need to find an answer to. I said that I didn't like questions. He asked if that was true, and I answered no. I responded that I just like having answers.
I'll never get an answer that's better than the question I'm asking. Maybe when I'm getting crushed in side control I'm asking the wrong questions.
Instead of asking, Why do I always end up here? Why do I suck at jiu jitsu? Why am I letting this dude throw me around and almost snap my neck? I could be asking different questions. What can I do from here? What is he probably going to do next and how can I prevent that from happening? What can I do to ensure our safety first?
And then, this morning, I was asked the best question. I was sitting with my Professor on the mats and he asked why I train. I said because it's fun, even though I cry every time. He smiled. Sometimes the simplest question is all you need.
Maybe part of being a higher belt isn't just having better answers. Maybe it's also about posing better questions. Maybe if I want to learn how to get out of horrible positions, and am looking for the best answers, I need to first start by asking the best questions.
October was going to be the month I quit jiu jitsu. I'm so glad I didn't.