Friends Don't Let Friends Quit Jiu-jitsu

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Friends Don't Let Friends Quit Jiu-jitsu

Chances are, if you're reading this, you're training Jiu-jitsu.  Some of you have been training for quite a long time, others are fairly new to the "gentle art".  Many of you, hopefully most of you, are very excited about training....you wake up excited to get on the mat, you fall asleep going over techniques you learned in class in your head, you spend your free time when you're not on the mat watching videos & trying to soak up every bit of Jiu-jitsu knowledge that you can....and statistically, most of you will eventually quit!  I know, you're saying to yourself "no, not me!"  And I sincerely hope you're right.  Having dedicated a good portion of my life to practicing this art, I know first hand all of the positive benefits that consistent training can have on every aspect of your life.  And I want all of you to experience those same life-changing benefits too! But, unfortunately, the numbers don't lie.  The vast majority of those who start their Jiu-jitsu journey, even with all of the best intentions, won't make it long enough to see their blue belt.  And the number who quit after achieving blue belt is so staggering that it is almost a syndrome.  Less than 1% of those who start training Jiu-jitsu will make it to black belt....and black belt is really just the beginning! These statistics hold very true for almost every Jiu-jitsu academy everywhere.  This is why you've probably all heard the saying that "a black belt is just a white belt who never quit training".  As Chris Haueter (one of the first American Jiu-jitsu black belts) said, "it's not who's best....it's who's left".  Almost all of you reading this have the potential to achieve the coveted black belt.  But, because getting very good at Jiu-jitsu takes a very long time, and it is one of the hardest martial arts to achieve rank and promotions are so few & far between, most people just don't have the dedication that it takes to get to this level.  There are so many obstacles to overcome & sometimes life gets in the way.  Those of you who have spent a significant amount of time on the mat can attest to the many, many people that you have seen come & go over the years.  So, how can you make sure that YOU don't become another statistic....just another blue belt with your face on the back of a milk carton?

A big part of Jiu-jitsu is recognizing patterns.  Recognizable behaviors that allow you to predict what your opponent is likely to do next.  There are very predictable patterns of behavior in quitting training.  As a Jiu-jitsu instructor, I have seen them many, many times. Most of the time, I know a student is quitting before they do.  The process of quitting Jiu-jitsu doesn't happen overnight.  It usually happens gradually, over a period of time.  And the fact that it follows predictable patterns means that it is also avoidable.  You can recognize these patterns in yourself and work to avoid falling into them.  There are very few things that can lead to you quitting training that aren't avoidable.  People have lots of "reasons" for stopping training....the reality is, most of these are "excuses".  Here are some of the most common and how to avoid them.

"I don't have time to train"
I get it....we all have responsibilities and a life outside of the mat.  And sometimes, life gets in the way.  Occasionally, things will come up that will cause us to miss training, and that is sometimes unavoidable.  Illness, working overtime, vacations, family obligations, etc.  But the reality is, nobody has "free time".  We are all busy, but we make time for the things that are important.  If training is a priority, you will find a way to get it in, even if that means trying to find time to train with some of your teammates during "off times" when there is no scheduled class.  It might mean coming in early, staying late, or making some sacrifices in other areas, but if it's important, it is well worth it.  

"I can't afford it"
Again, this is mostly a matter of priorities.  Jiu-jitsu training isn't cheap.  But then, most things in life that are worthwhile aren't.  And really, if you think about what you are getting out of it, you can't really put a price on that!  Many people will say that they can't afford training, but will spend more in a night out with their friends than they would spend for the entire month of Jiu-jitsu class tuition! If finances really are tight, there are usually ways to adjust your spending in other areas.  Maybe take a part-time job to help pay for your training.  If all else fails, talk to your instructor and explain your situation.  Most instructors that I know are willing to work with people who are truly dedicated, to the extent possible, and you may be able to work something out in the short term to keep you on the mat. Don't expect a free ride, but you might be able to help out around the academy, or help distribute promotional materials to help offset some of your expenses.  Some academies (such as mine) offer incentive programs to students who refer new people into their programs.  

"I'm injured"
Injuries can take us off the mat, so it is very important that we all do our best to train in a way that we avoid injuring ourselves & our training partners.  But, we are training in a fighting art, and sometimes, injuries are going to happen.  The good new is, most injuries can be worked around.  Having an injury is not a reason to stop training.  Of course, you don't want to aggravate an injury by trying to come back to hard training too soon.  But most of the time, there are productive things that you can do to still improve your Jiu-jitsu even while you are nursing an injury and can't train at 100%.  An injury can be a setback, or it can be an opportunity for growth, depending upon how you deal with it. A very famous example is that of Roberto "Gordo" Correa, who is well known for his development of the half-guard position.  His reliance on and innovation of the half guard was due to a knee injury.  Without the injury, it is unlikely he would have developed his half guard to the level that he did.  If you do have an injury, it is very important to make your instructor and your training partners aware of it.  Talk to your instructor and see what you can still safely do while recovering from your injury.  Even if you have an injury that prevents you from doing any type of physical training (this doesn't happen often), show up for class, put on your gi, and watch, take notes, etc.  You can still get a lot out of training even if you can't physically participate.  Also, it keeps your mind & body in the habit of training.  If you take significant time away from the academy due to an injury, it is very easy to fall out of the habit of training altogether & never return.  

"I'm just gonna take a break for a while"
This is one of the easiest traps to fall into, and one of the ways that good students "accidentally" quit training Jiu-jitsu.  Sometimes, our bodies & minds need to take a break.  Sometimes, a week off the mat can be a good thing, as it can allow you to recuperate, rest, and reset.  However, you have to be very careful, because a week can easily turn into two weeks, to a month, to 3 months.  If you take an extended time  (more than a week or two) off of the mat, it is very difficult to return.  Even with the best of intentions, if you allow yourself (for whatever reason) to take an extended break from training, the chances are very slim that you will return.  It's not because you meant to quit.  But, when you aren't training, other things start to take up the time that you were spending on the mat.  Priorities change.  You keep meaning to go back, but something always keeps coming up.  After a month or two, part of you wants to go back, but you feel that you will be rusty, out of shape, and you've lost too much ground.  It's easier just to quit altogether.  Guess what, you will be rusty, your timing will be off, and those who have continued training while you were out may have gained a step on you.  So what?! It doesn't matter.  Get back on the mat & train!  You will get your timing back, you'll get back in shape, and get back to where you were before you left & continue to grow & improve from there.  The hardest part is just making yourself get through the door & step on the mat.  The rest will take care of itself.  The easiest solution to this problem is, simply don't allow yourself to take extended breaks from training!

"I'm not progressing fast enough"
Jiu-jitsu is hard.  You're not gonna get it overnight.  In fact, it takes a couple of years on average to just start to feel comfortable with the basics.  It can seem overwhelming at times because there is so much information to take in.  Be patient, have realistic expectations, and be willing to fail.  Don't put too much pressure on yourself.  Whether you realize it or not, you are getting better.  Everyone progresses at their own pace, so don't feel the need to try to keep up with anyone else.  Measure your progress against yourself.  Think about how much better you are now than when you first started, and imagine how much better you will be a month, a year, 5 years from now if you stick with it!  Don't get hung up in belt promotions.  Just show up & try to learn & get a little better everyday.  The promotions will take care of themselves.  Those who train for the belt will typically never get it.  Training is its own reward.  The belts are just markers of your progress along the way.  You will be promoted when your instructor feels the time is right.  Don't worry if you feel like you are tapping all the time.  That is the process of learning.  The tap is not a failure, it can be a valuable learning experience and an opportunity to expose a weakness in your Jiu-jitsu.  

These are just some of the most common "excuses" that people give that can cause them to stop training Jiu-jitsu.  It is a long road, filled with ups & downs.  There will be plenty of hurdles along the way.  But for those who can stick it out, the rewards are amazing!  Training is a habit, and it will become part of who you are.  Not training is also a habit.  Don't let yourself fall into one of these traps.  Make a commitment to yourself and make your training a priority.  Be the 1% who sticks around while you see the others come & go.  If you find your motivation dwindling, or you are having trouble getting it to train regularly, talk to your teammates, talk to your instructor.  Chances are they have dealt with the same frustrations, insecurities, and problems that you find yourself facing.  Remember why you started training & try to find a way to reinvigorate your training.  Logically do you really think you would benefit more from NOT training Jiu-jitsu?  You know the answer.  Just show up, put your feet on the mat, and chances are, you will be glad you did!  And, remember, nobody gets through this together.  You need good training partners & teammates.  Lean on them when you need to, and help to motivate each other & hold each other accountable.  If you see one of your training partners falling into one of these patterns, if you haven't seen them on the mat in a while, give them a call, shoot them a message, & see what's up.  Encourage them to stay the course too, because you both need each other!  Remember, friends don't let friends quit Jiu-jitsu!



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