Daily Archives: January 30, 2014

What Keeps You From Getting Better at Jiu Jitsu: Fear

Ok, it’s one of the things that keeps you from getting better at jiu jitsu, but it’s a pretty big thing that we all face, and should talk about.

I’m going to indulge the 13 year old in me for a moment and relate today’s post to the lyric of a song that I enjoy, “Dear Death Part 1” (the band is Emery, in case you’re wondering)

“It’s the wrong side of fear that kept me out”

We could nitpick this phrase all day until it doesn’t make sense anymore, however I feel it can be applied to parts of our jiu jitsu journey…career…adventure? Adventure, I like it- we’re sticking with that phrase for now.

As I mentioned, we all have to face it as some point: the fear of failure, the fear of making a mistake, creating a vulnerability and being swept, submitted, etc. We put so much time, effort, so much of an intellectual and emotional investment into jiu jitsu that it’s understandable that we want to do well, to confirm to ourselves and others that we are proficient, hell, even good at this jiu jitsu thing. So we train, or we compete and we freeze up, we become uncertain- we want so much to not make a mistake that we end up hesitating and not doing anything at all. While competition is important, and you can sort of squeak by sometimes by staying in one place and pray no one calls you on stalling, I’m taking a longer view approach and focus a little more on training  and the general advancement in jiu jitsu.

This fear keeps us from doing the jiu jitsu we can do, we want to do- it keeps us from the very thing we are trying to do, which is sort of ironic, and not in that Alanis Morrissette way. You can particularly see and feel it when training with some lower ranks: they know they don’t want to be swept, tapped, etc. but they aren’t sure how to counter or advance in a position, so they kind of just stay still wherever they are, like a little ball of uncertainty and anxiety. It’s endearing because we’ve all been there, and a little funny for the same reason. A personal aside, and also a cautionary tale about looking up your opponents before a tournament-when I competed at the Abu Dhabi pro trials, I looked up the name of one of the competitors, because it sounded familiar (it was Fabiana Borges) and became anxious because she was a black belt and had this long record, etc. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter- I went to the tournament: among the girls I didn’t know, the one I lost to called me a beast (it’s funny how you could call a girl that on the street and she’ll be offended: you call her a beast in sports and it’s a compliment). The girl I won against said it was a pleasure to compete against me and can’t wait to do it again. My match against Fabiana… that doubt, that fear made me hesitate, and I ended up making mistakes, which she quite understandably took advantage of- I can’t even be mad about that. Fabiana is an excellent jiu jitsu player and competitor, but it was also my own hesitation and doubt kept me from the jiu jitsu I wanted to do, knew I could do.

So, now that we’ve established this fear can be a hurdle, what do we do about it?

I’m not condoning going out and intentionally lose a training session or match, but rather keep in mind that in order to progress, sometimes we have to lose, we have to stumble and fall- because if nothing else it teaches us to get back up again. Ok, so you were swept, got tapped, put yourself in a bad position: it’s a weakness of vulnerability in your game that was exposed. But you tried something, you made an attempt to move forward, which opens you to the chance to sharpen your skills, to be on the lookout for opportunities to use those techniques and try again, hopefully next time with more success, and continue on your jiu jitsu adventure. 🙂


Update: While I attempted to take a more general approach to the whole fear and jiu jitsu issue, Chewy over at Chewjitsu talks more competition specific…and honestly his post reminded me that I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, so check it out!


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