Why I Don't Train a Billion Times a Week
a.k.a.: "BJJ, Balance & Social Anthropology."
I'm new to BJJ, so I realize I have tons to learn not just with regards to technique and all that jazz, but also with respect to "BJJ culture" and "BJJ lifestyle".
I'm not going to lie - I'm not particularly interested in joining another cult. I use the word 'cult' lovingly; I'm part of the yoga cult, I used to be part of the vegan cult, and I'm part of a small Christian denomination which has a name that sounds very much like a cult. It's been argued that one of the reasons why Crossfit has been so successful is because they're pretty much unashamed of being a cult and marketing themselves accordingly. I don't see anything wrong with that; it's about feeling convicted that you have discovered something profound, life-changing, that will add value to people's lives. Why would you not want to share that? I'm very much okay with identifying strongly with a distinct group of people with distinct values and practices (I think my inner anthropologist is coming out now). This is what humans do and it's part of how we form our identity, which gives us meaning. It's really interesting because we used to see the groups with which we identified being more strongly informed by our local geography, but with the advent of the internet we are now more free to really seek out those with whom we relate, whether separated by thousands of kilometres or not. This is the concept of "Tribes" that Seth Godin talks about (to which we can attribute much of the success of Apple), and even in teachers college we learned about this concept in modern educational theory.
I think where I'm at now with regards to picking and choosing my tribes/cults is that I want to be more intentional about it and really examine how the groups with which I identify fit into and add value to my life. Basically, I need balance.
I'm that classic all-or-nothing, 0 to 100 person (cue Drake). So when I discover something cool, everything in me says YES GO GO GO DO ALL THE THINGS! I absolutely love big ideas, big ambition, big projects. Sometimes this has served me well, sometimes it has not. Like that time in 2013 when I was taking 11 courses and volunteering and sitting on a board of directors and eventually couldn't get out of bed and couldn't talk or eat because I had run myself down. Yeah... that's not particularly healthy. It was at that point in 2013, when a couple of my friends drove an hour out of their way just to bring me food and give me a hug that I decided that I needed to be intentional about balance.
Being intentional about balance in my life may mean that I only train BJJ once or twice a week. I could train more frequently, but that would mean sacrificing time with my yoga practice, where I focus on grounding myself, and holding my body in a place of non-judgement. Or it would mean sacrificing gym time, where I get to surprise myself with how much I can lift, and learn to look in the mirror with love and appreciation for what my body can do. Training BJJ more frequently might mean having to cut down on hours that I study for class, which is where I get to learn about how to help people heal themselves and remove obstacles to cure (I study naturopathic medicine). Do I want my BJJ to improve? Absolutely. Do I want to give up the other amazing things that I get to do with my days? No. Are some people going to have a problem with that? Probably.
I'm told that I won't progress "fast enough", and that it's "useless" to go to BJJ once or twice a week. Personally, I'm proud of myself for doing what I can, and I'm going to celebrate the small wins that no one else sees. I'm going to celebrate the fact that I keep showing up, even though I'm the only woman. I'm going to celebrate the fact that I am being responsible and respecting my body, giving it the rest it needs to recover (I strained my groin 6 weeks ago; these injuries take about 20 weeks to heal properly, and carry a very high risk of re-injury). I am going to celebrate the fact that I am able to look at the big picture of my life, and realize that I don't need to be a black belt in ten years. How about twenty years? What's wrong with that? I progress every single time I train, and I refuse to feel bad about not measuring up to someone else's standards of what they deem to be fast enough progress. Maybe my progress one week is that I showed up at all, even though I was terrified. Maybe my progress one week might not actually be something that you see on the mats.
The BJJ tribe, from what I have seen and experienced, is beautiful, passionate, driven, and has tapped into something very real. A problem with tribes, however, is that you can be shamed if you are not "one of us". Every health/fitness/nutrition tribe that I have come into contact with has had certain brands of clothing they wear, precise diets they ascribe to, characteristic slogans, all pointing to and deriving from specific attitudes and values which undergird that particular community. Is there beauty in that? Sure. Are there challenges in that? I think so.
I want to practice BJJ in a mindful way, so I don't want to enter into the "BJJ lifestyle" without critically considering what is being handed to me. I wouldn't say that I'm suspicious, per se, of what I am getting into. But I have had enough experience with other tribes to know that it's very exciting at the beginning, simply to find that the exhortation of a particular "lifestyle" often leads down a road where assumptions are not to be questioned, and if you can't be the yoga robot, or the vegan robot, or the Christian robot, that we want you to be, well... you're shunned.
I respect BJJ enough to give it the serious consideration that it deserves. Right now, for me, that means easing into training. Maybe one day I'll train BJJ three or four times a week. For now, I'm celebrating my little wins, and learning to be okay with progressing at my own pace.