I am absolutely loving my  jiu-jitsu training, but to be honest, sometimes I approach the mats with a bit of fear, hesitation, doubt. I don’t know why I feel this. I know that success in anything (on/off the mats) takes time, dedication, practice, and commitment. I know that I am not impatient with my learning. I am willing to put in the time and I know I will enjoy the process. At the same time, it can be overwhelming. In any case, I push those thoughts, fears, and hesitations aside, step on the mats, take a deep breath — and train.

I used to think that showing up with all those anxieties in me negated any positivity in my training. However, I’ve learned that showing up despite those feelings of hesitations and trying anyway is an accomplishment in itself. It’s never been that I’ve stayed home because I was afraid of how my training would go that day. No. I always showed up.

When I reflect on that, I realize that I need to give myself more credit. Focusing on just doubt or any missteps in my training in a negative manner doesn’t help me. Besides, I know that every opportunity to step on the mats is a chance to learn. So, I decided to work on a few things:

  1. Push doubt out of my mind. Starting my training in a negative headspace meant that I would have to work so much harder to pull myself up. Stepping on to the mat with doubt meant that I wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough on the technique.
  2. Relax and enjoy the learning process. I don’t plan on quitting my jiu-jitsu training, which means I (hopefully) have many, many years of training ahead of me. It’s a good thing. Not being in a rush to reach some sort of end goal means that I can slow down and work on building my foundation and solidifying my techniques.
  3. Realize that slowing down does not mean giving less. I like to take my time when I’m learning something new. This does not mean that I’m not giving my all into whatever I’m doing. I think part of this hesitation can arise when comparing yourself to others. I need to remind myself that it doesn’t matter what other people are doing or how they are learning. I need to do whatever I need in order to advance my learning. The trick is to still challenge myself while still being dedicated and thorough with my practice.
  4. Turn missteps on the mats into learning experiences. It’s easy to leave a training session solely focused on what went wrong that day. Thoughts of ‘I could have …’ or ‘I should have …’ can weigh you down. I think reflecting and analyzing is important, but instead of dwelling on the errors, I like to turn them into strategy sessions. If I got caught in an armbar, then I aim to figure out how/why and then come up with a plan as to what I’m going to do to try to prevent it the next time. This type of approach works really well for me as it gives me something tangible to work on and also gives me something to look forward to trying the next time on the mats.
  5. End the night with a positive thought. No matter how my training session goes, I will find end my night focusing on something positive. Whether it was that I had good base that day, that I was able to keep tight grips, or even that I attempted a new move that night — it doesn’t matter. Any type of practice is good practice.

More than any other element, building confidence is something that I need to work on in all areas of my life. The steps I mentioned above can be implemented in everything I do – from sitting down to write a research article, to trying something new, to my general fitness practices.

I think the most exciting thing goes back to what I said above — I showed up.

If you asked me 5 years ago about jiu-jitsu, I would have probably said, ‘What’s jiu-jitsu?’ I never, ever would have thought that this would become such a passion of mine. I showed up. I tried. I am still trying … and each day I am getting better. I am less than 3 years into my training. I can’t wait to see what lies in the years ahead.

Carlos Gracie

Losing Learning