When I was a blue belt, I ran a small University jiu-jitsu club. One fall, we pooled our club budget with our personal funds to fly Matt Kirtley, an Eduardo de Lima black belt and writer behind the long-running Aesopian.com blog, from Florida to Pennsylvania to host a seminar.
At the time, Matt had just recently been awarded his black belt. Students asked the usual questions:
• How long did it take?
• Was it difficult?
• What was your promotion ceremony like?
• How did it feel?
These are fairly typical questions for a black belt, but one question in particular caught Matt’s attention: What do I have to do to get to the black belt level?
Matt, sitting cross-legged with his hands on his knees, paused for a moment. After some consideration, he said:
“Go to class. That sounds simple, but it’s really the hardest thing for people to do. You have to go to class every week for years. Going to class when jiu-jitsu is new and fresh and exciting is easy. The not-so-secret secret is to go to class when you don’t want to. You are allowed to not want to train as long as you get in the car, walk in the door, tie your belt, and train anyway. I feel like that’s a cheap answer because everyone wants some insightful look behind the curtain, but that’s it. Go to class, and keep going to class.”
Matt has since become a good friend, and his advice has stayed with me, especially on the days when deep down inside of me I am frustrated with training and hate jiu-jitsu.
Yes, as much as you might love the sport, there will be times when you despise it.
Jiu-jitsu is not like the average hobby. If you take a few years off of painting model cars, you might feel a little stiffness in your brushstroke, but you will not feel terrible about spending time away from your miniatures. Miniatures don’t get better than you while you are away, and they don’t show you how much they have improved by dragging your silly not-been-training body up and down the mat, sprinkling in submissions for good measure.
Jiu-jitsu is not like most hobbies.
The Root of Excuses
The old saying goes, “No Excuses.” We’ve plastered it on posters and t-shirts, and coaches have yelled it to students as they struggle through a challenging round. Excuses are a problem, but they are a symptom of a deeper problem. When we understand the source of excuses, we can better equip ourselves to conquer them when they arise.
Fear. You might be afraid of trying something new. Of failure. Or hard work. Of getting hurt. Of being embarrassed. Of losing. Of not being good enough. When you are afraid, your mind will find any way possible to escape what it perceives as a threat. If your excuses are rooted in fear, you have to address what you are afraid of in order to overcome it.