Fighting in the Age of Loneliness
blue belt blues
I recently watched a video that talked about the best ways to be confident, and its central message was that most confident people act in a way that’s in accordance to their inner values. It definitely made me think about the way in which I do my jiu jitsu, which feels more chaotic than not sometimes. I wish to myself that I could feel more confident, but I think what’s more telling is that probably some of my values around jiu jitsu could use some change.
I spoke to my jiu jitsu mentor at length about how I was unhappy sometimes during training, even though the results seemed to show that I was having moderate success. We spoke about the differences between play and research, and she said that while the two ideas are connected, play exists for itself, while research is more for a purpose.
Looking at my jiu jitsu, I can see how I intellectualize it in many ways — writing out notes step by step, listening to the occasional conceptual podcast, and engaging in a lot of analysis about my technique. I do enjoy noodling in my head where and why and what I need to change to improve the next time, and I can rationalize how jiu jitsu teaches me important lessons about life. But as I sense my entrance into a new part of my journey, a lot of it has returned to what it means to do art for art’s sake. About what it means to do art before there was social media; tests; medals; ranks; and competitions. On one hand, I’ve felt like I’ve lost my way. On the other hand, I’ve felt like I’ve never found it.
Blue belt is a tough, weird, and harsh phase of a person’s growth in jiu jitsu. It is the first time we are confronted with real expectations and adversity — if not from our coaches and training partners, then definitely from ourselves. The way I perceive my practice now has much more harsh overtones than it used to, and while my focus is more deliberate, I wish for there to be more of a free approach in how I conducted myself and practiced in this art. In short, I wish for there to be a greater playful energy that can carry me past the days where nothing seems to work and everything is tired.
These are my feelings in real time. I think it’s important to capture them, to serve as a marker of where I was once the time from that moment passes. Still the project minded part of me wants to look forward to the next class, the next competition, the next big test that might show me a little glimmer into the martial artist that I believe to be at my core. I understand, and accept, that what I need to do is stay present for just a little longer.
In the past few months, I’ve felt like I’ve lived up to the epitome of the saying, “Happiness makes up in height what it lacks in length” for jiu jitsu. The highs are pretty high, and the lows are ugly low. And week after week I’ve come close to throwing in the towel, maybe not at jiu jitsu entirely, but at upholding my expectations and standards around training. Perhaps I can train less. Perhaps I don’t need to take class notes. Perhaps I won’t enter this tournament. Every time I have these thoughts it’s tempting to give in. Yet it isn’t stubborness that keeps me going. Somehow, there is something deeper inside of me that drives me to keep going. It’s the belief, and faith in myself, that I can always strive for a little bit more.