In the past few months I’ve been going through many changes. Not only in life, but also on the mat. But what I’m going to share in this post may change some of your thoughts about your own training and maybe even your own life.
Take from it what you will.
Looking back, it all started with the passing of my aunt. At the immediate moment, it didn’t resonate with me that she was gone. Forever. But over the following few months, it hit me, and dragged me down. The fact that she was gone and that the memories I had of her were the only things I’ll carry with me from now on. The realization that I would never see her again chained itself to me, and made me feel emotionally heavy. This feeling lead to other thoughts, and for the first time that I can remember in my adult life, I sat down and looked within myself.
To my surprise, I didn’t like what I really saw. I wasn’t being the best person I knew I could be and I wanted to change for the better. Below, I explain three changes I am working on in my personal life and also how I am applying these changes to my advancement of technical skills on the mat.
And to be honest, I’ve never felt sharper or more in tune with myself than ever.
Realization #1: I wasn’t telling those around me that I appreciate them.
Think about this sentence for just a moment and re-read it. When was the last time you told a sibling that you loved them? When was the last time you told your parents that you appreciate them in your life? Do you ever look your training partners in the eye and tell them that you truly appreciate their time? If possible, you should.
I wasn’t doing this. I was going through life and not acknowledging others’ efforts around me. I was so concerned with my own strife, my own troubles, and my own goals that I never acknowledged the efforts of those around me. Now that I am aware of this weakness, I tell people I care for them more. I try to let them know what they mean to me. I genuinely want to make them smile about themselves. I appreciate THEIR time spent with ME. Not the other way around.
When I applied this mindset to when I spend time on the mat, I found that my entire focus shifts to those around me. Entirely. I no longer worry about my own personal gains at practice. My own time spent on myself no longer matters. To me, if I can give the people around me my everything, they will improve. It’s only a matter of time until this reflects back to me.
Look around you. You will see people who have lifted you up. You will see people in your life that had such an impact on you that you wouldn’t even be the same person without them. Let these people know you appreciate them.
Realization #2: Acknowledge your faults, but also acknowledge your strengths.
For the longest time I had, and at times still have, a brutal self critic. You know that feeling you get when you feel you could have done a task or assignment better? That thing? I have that pretty bad. The worst part is, I would dwell on the shortcomings of whatever it was that I had done. I would always look at the negative and never even acknowledge the positives that came from my attempts.
This is a weakness you may never be aware of. For me, becoming aware of this type of criticism allows me to keep it in check. Acknowledge what you have done, in any aspect of your life, school, work, training, relationships, literally anything. Acknowledge what you could have done better, but most importantly, acknowledge what you did well. Maybe you pushed yourself and studied like never before. Perhaps you just got a new promotion at work. Maybe you just fell in love. Whatever it is, embrace it. Savor the moment and allow yourself to experience the good.
I apply this when I am on the mat by acknowledging my weakness in positions or techniques. I look at where I could have moved more efficiently or finished more cleanly. I look to how I handled my patience and emotion while training. I look at the level of gameness I approached the round. Think of how you could have improved not only your own experience, but that of your partner. Then grab a new partner and do it all over again.
I also acknowledge when a new technique works. Or when I pull off a slick transition or technique. Bask in it. Acknowledge that your hard work and new found mindset has pushed your technique to new levels. Allow yourself to be in the moment of success.
Realization #3: Medals and podium places do not define my judo and jiu jitsu skills.
This one was incredibly hard for me to come to terms with. First, let me explain how I looked at my judo and jiu jitsu before going through this new thought process.
I started training with my brother when I was 13 and I literally remember telling him, the day before my first day of training, “I don’t want to compete. All I want to do is practice.” A few months later I was fighting in practices and competing in tournaments. I was hooked. From that moment on, I took it as my personal role, among my brother and I, that I was going to be the competitor. I was the one that had to go to tournaments and win. I placed the pressure on myself. This isn’t to say that my brother did not compete as good as me, or any sort of thing like that. It’s to say that I wanted that label to be placed on me and me alone. So I competed everywhere.
I never took loses very well. I hated it. “Hate to lose, more than you love to win.” I believed. My mindset was so tournament driven that when I didn’t place first at a tournament, placing elsewhere didn’t matter to me. “If you’re not first, you’re last.” In hind site, it’s a terrible way to train and think. I’m glad to say that this way of thinking is slowly eroding away from me. But it’s difficult.
Tournaments and competition, according to my personal philosophy, is an experience that absolutely must be experienced at one point in a judo or jiu jitsu career. But the quality of the experience should be based on the experience alone, NEVER based the results of the tournament alone. Just because you do not win a medal or place on the podium does not mean that your judo or jiu jitsu is not podium worthy. It just means that you must work on competition judo and competition jiu jitsu. But your skill set as a whole should not be based solely on medals and trophies.
I still struggle with this thought, that only gold can justify what my technical skill set is. But there can be no happiness, in the long run, with this mindset. No happiness can be found here, it only leads to negative self criticism.
Allow yourself to lose, but never lose the lesson.
I feel myself shedding a shell, I liken it to shaking dust off. I’m not out completely, but I feel like I’m seeing the world in a different light. You only get one shot in this life, in a life you’ve never lived before. You will make mistakes. You will feel loss. You will be dragged down. But you will also rise. You will experience happiness.
You will find peace if you know where to look.