From the day you walk into the academy, you see smiles. You will likely be greeted warmly by staff and training partners and you’ll come away from your first lesson thinking, “Man, this was such a great experience”. You try a class, you get your ass kicked, and everyone is still all smiles, dripping in sweat, inviting you to come back. There must be something amazing about this place and you leave with a great taste in your mouth, compelled to come back. Maybe you come back. Maybe you don’t. When you do, however, it is a different ball game. Your second session is nothing like your first and it’s downhill from there.
Now you are no longer an introductory student. You are a member. Everything about your initial experience is the same except now, you’re a member and you are actually tasked with the challenge of learning JiuJitsu. No more trial. This is it.
Learning JiuJitsu is not easy and it is not a weekend retreat. It is a long, arduous journey that will beat you senseless and drag you through the mud. You are no longer an introductory student. You are a JiuJitsu practitioner and you are about to take a beating that will either make you into a better and stronger individual, or send you running back home to the comfort of your couch and television.
Nobody tells you about how difficult the journey is. They may talk to you about the challenges you will face, but mostly, nobody markets how tough things will get. The challenges, on the surface, sound like “Oh, you’re gonna get your ass kicked until you start learning how to defend yourself” but the severity of said ass-kickings are imaginary until you start to experience them day, by day, by day. And just when you think you are getting better, someone will inevitably snatch the rug from right underneath you, knocking you right back down to earth.
I tell my students, especially the ones that look like they got pummeled, “This will not get any easier. Some days are going to be better than others, but overall, the challenges you will face will be much greater. You will be better equipped to handle them. The good news is, your job is to show up and let me [the instructor] handle the rest”. A good instructor’s job, in most cases isn’t so much the actual instruction, but rather, motivating the students to show up again despite the rising level of difficulty.
And this is true. I get asked if being a brown belt makes things easier. Being a brown belt certainly does not make anything easier. I have gotten better, but my time on and off the mats has not reduced in difficulty. I simply got better and became more equipped to handle the challenges I face. Presented with the obstacles I am facing now, as a white belt, I would have quit. Being a brown belt, for me, makes handling these obstacles non-negotiable. I have no choice but to clench my jaw, grit my teeth, fight hard and bare it every single day. Sometimes, if I am lucky, I remember to take a deep breath and relax a little bit.
If I am lucky, I breathe and appreciate that the journey is why I am here. I remember the joy that I partake in everyday I step in the mats. I acknowledge that the challenges I face are a blessing and everyday I get the opportunity to train is an invaluable one. Most people do not make it to this point and many more never even come back after their first class. The majority of people out there will never get to experience the remarkable life lessons that JiuJitsu has taught me. I am blessed.
Many people in JiuJitsu are disillusioned and they think things will come easy. Nobody tells them that this will likely be one of the most difficult adventures they will ever embark upon. The JiuJitsu journey is a long and tumultuous one that will take you on many roads. The darkness will never lead to light; you become the darkness and take solace that though there are few, you are not alone.
Embrace the chaos and enjoy the ride.