Jiu Jitsu Roadmap: Fast and Furious to Enjoying the Ride

I’ve been an athlete of some variety for all of my post-pubescent life. It’s followed this path: Football –> Crossfit –> Boxing –> Military –> Fire/Rescue –> Jiu-Jitsu + Mountain Biking.

Motivations have varied and matured, generally following a trend of extrinsic to intrinsic. At 36, I’m no longer trying to impress anyone.

This has been a wonderful realization and has made my hobbies so much more enjoyable. Much of this I owe to training in jiu-jitsu, and the various stages of growth I’ve experienced through the hours of mat time accumulated over the years. I fully expect to have many more of these stages, where the proverbial light bulb flickers on. My list so far:

  • Stage 1 – Fast and Furious: Everyone starts here. Going too hard in training, overly exerting strength and speed in place of good technique, not being patient, and a general unwillingness to try new things. Ego was certainly a factor in this stage. I’m a big tough guy (supposedly)… I can’t let this 160 lbs. guy tap me, right? I think if you come from a non-grappling athletic background, this stage will last longer than most. I can say with confidence the guy who likes Dungeons and Dragons will quickly surpass the ego-driven meathead in retaining and applying good technique. I think I was stuck in this stage for about 2 years, but I’m a slow learner.
  • Stage 2 – Explore and Tap: A moment of realization occurs that while your ‘game’ might work on other relatively untrained folks, it stalls out against training partners and opponents who have a wider variety of technique options in their wheelhouse. Now, a decision of maturity comes. Allow yourself to learn in positions you’re uncomfortable in. Allow yourself to get submitted there, and go right back to that same position. Slowly, the lessons learned turn into actionable options. I played my guard almost exclusively for a year and recently decided to return to that. I hate being on bottom, but sometimes it’s the best place to start to get on top. Push ego to the side, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and progress.
  • Stage 3 – Enjoying the ride: I’m coming up on 8 years of regular jiu-jitsu training. It’s by far the sport I’ve done the longest, and also the one I’ve enjoyed the most. A training partner at my gym is a pro-MMA fighter, and our training rounds are as light as humanly possible. We allow each other to exchange positions, counter, and flow through to the next dozens of times in a 5 minute round. It’s as fun as anything you can do. My ego within the sport is absolutely zero. I’m just happy to be on the mats with my friends. I love learning and experimenting with new techniques, as well as sharing what’s worked for me with others. Accept the fact that you will not earn a paycheck from jiu-jitsu as a hobbyist and no one cares whether you get tapped or not, so have as much fun as possible with it.
  • What’s next?: Who knows. Who cares… although I’m not sure if my ears can look any more jacked up. As long as I can learn and have fun, all is well. I’m looking down the barrel of a knee replacement before I hit 40, and am acutely aware that my hobbies and passions can be taken away from me. I want to get the most out of the time I have.

Jiu Jitsu just happens to be the channel of these lessons learned. I’m sure it happens for most in a wide variety of ways across the spectrum of family, profession, and recreation.

To be clear, this isn’t a diatribe against competitiveness… generally, an ultra-high competitive drive is what makes people go from good to great. However, I want to enjoy these hobbies of mine. I’ve found it more enjoyable to tap, learn, and improve versus wallowing in frustration in a bitter journey to improve. I only have one life to live and even less time to enjoy these kinds of physical hobbies. Might as well enjoy them.

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