Training Hard When Life Tries to Get in the Way

I’ve been busy with work, sleeping very little. It’s a state of life I’m learning more and more about. The mental wear and tear of jiu jitsu gets amplified significantly when the stress of deadlines at work gets added to the mix.

For many people, jiu jitsu is a break from the outside world. There is something about grappling at near 100% that takes you away from the concerns and stresses of work, family, and life in general. On most days, jiu jitsu is that for me as well. But it’s not too rare when showing up to train hard requires a significant amount of willpower.

I think I read an interview with Carlson Gracie, Jr where he said that you should only compete when you are absolutely excited to be there. I think the same applies to training as well, except that if you are training for competition you shouldn’t just be excited to “be there”. You should be excited to try and work so hard that you hit your limit and are forced to overcome it or deal with the disappointment of having failed to do so.

It’s the Dan Gable ideal that he often talked about. Gable’s goal in practice was to work so hard that he would not be able to get off the mat on his own strength, but would need to be carried off. He never succeeded at that, but he always worked harder and harder to try to reach that point. The reality is your body can take nearly infinite punishment. It’s your mind that’s almost always the limiting factor.

I know this, but still it’s hard to remember it when after an hour of training, I feel my jiu jitsu game breaking down, frustration rising, physical and mental exhaustion seemingly setting in. And then the fact that I’m several days behind a deadline for work starts creeping in, and then life’s nagging questions start crowding my already weary brain.

I think about this a lot when I’m planning out my day, and I think anyone who is juggling priorities has to think about this and be brutal in saying “no” to things that take up time and do little to help you progress towards your goals (“enjoying life” being one of those goals).

Anyway, the two practical goals I would like to work on in training this week and beyond are:

  • Be quiet, train hard, and don’t be afraid to be friendly in conversation and drilling, and  yet intense on the mat (with good clean technique, and making sure to do everything possible to avoid injuring my training partner). I find myself at times unwilling to turn up the intensity especially against people who are much better than me. I owe it to them and to myself to try my hardest (again, with clean technique) to sweep them, to pass their guard, and to challenge them in whatever way I can.
  • If someone accidentally knees, elbows, or hits me in hard training, I will not complain, will not show it on my face, and will not take a break. But most importantly I won’t get frustrated. Frustration leads to bad technique, use off too much energy, and opens the door for ego to enter the session.

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