Everyone goes through periods of time in their jiu jitsu journey when they wonder “why am I even doing this?” It costs you $1,200 – $1,500 a year (or more) for gym fees and gear, you’re always sore, you don’t have a lot of time for other hobbies, etc. etc. It can leave you wondering if it’s worth all the effort and sacrifice. It doesn’t really matter what you’re pursuing, if it’s a difficult and long journey, and you can’t answer the question “why am I doing this?” you probably won’t see it through to the end. I personally found myself at this crossroad two years ago when I was 48, and I didn’t immediately have an answer.
For many practitioners success on the competition stage is an answer to this question. I thought about that, (I have competed and find some satisfaction in it) but having the * “senior division” next to my results makes it somehow less satisfying to me. I considered that perhaps one day I could own and run my own school, but it seemed unlikely that getting my black belt in my mid 50’s and starting a school would be the best recipe for success. For some guys just being the toughest guy at their rank in their own school is reason enough to stick with it, and it might be for me too, but heading into my 50’s I don’t see that as likely to happen either.
I spent many months thinking about this question and my future on the mats. I started approaching the question from different angles and reflecting on the circumstances surrounding the times when I felt like the journey was worthwhile and I was “succeeding”. It occurred to me that I got as much satisfaction from the success of and progress of my teammates as my own. In fact, I one time spent an entire year purposefully giving up position and letting my training partners dictate the direction of our rolls, so that they could choose what they wanted to work on. If I could see they were working to set up spider guard, I’d let them get grips and their feet in place before I started trying to pass – If they were top side control and I could see they were looking for mount, I’d make them work for it, but not fight to deny them the position at all costs – etc. The year I spent focusing on my training partners development wasn’t completely sacrificial – I did it in part so I would have a higher level of training partners to work with, but it helped me answer the question “why”.
I love to watch people grow as martial artists and as individuals and know that I played a part. My “why” is to be a mentor. That’s not the same as coaching and it’s certainly not instructing. Those might be good reasons for other people, but for me, contributing to the growth of my teammates in a more general way is what makes the journey worthwhile.
Do you want to see this journey through to the end? Do you want to get through the tough times when you wonder if it’s all worthwhile? Find your “why”. I would speculate that the less your “why” is about specific results and the more it is about big picture personal growth type things the more effective it will be. If your answer to this question is “I want to win worlds at every belt” then a few losses and tough tournaments might just be enough to convince you to call it quits.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.
Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here