Over the period of more than 20 years that I have been around the jiu-jitsu mats I have identified certain thought patterns that repeatedly occurred that were both positive and negative.
Many other BJJ students also privately share these thoughts and they think they are the only ones.
No, my little rash guard wearing friends, you are not the only one!
Here they are:
1) Impostor syndrome
We see this soon after a BJJ student has graduated to a new belt. The new blue or purple or brown belt suddenly feels the immense weight of a new rank.
Self-imposed expectations of how good a purple belt “is supposed to be” weigh heavily on their shoulders. They find themselves comparing themselves with the other purple belts in the gym.
Many a new belt has confided to me in hushed tones that they felt entirely unworthy of their new belt, that the instructor had made a mistake and awarded them a belt that they didn’t deserve.
This is very common and in psychology parlance is referred to as “impostor syndrome”.
The more accurate way to look at it is that your instructor sees things that you can’t and has a more objective view of your current level of skill. I ask the self-doubting purple belt “Do you think that all of the other purple belts in the academy deserve their belts?”
“Yes, of course! Those guys are all really good!”
“Well, you belong in the same group! Trust your instructor. Try to enjoy the new belt!”
2) I have to train!
This is the thought you have some days when you are sore, tired, and overwhelmed by all of your other life tasks.
You glance at the clock and say “Uughhh…I have to train today.” All you really want to do is get an industrial sized bag of Doritos and binge watch Game of Thrones.
But I stop myself right there and correct my attitude. I don’t have to train BJJ. I get to train BJJ. It’s all a choice. It is not an obligation like paying taxes or doing laundry.
I can drop jiu-jitsu and join the happy hour crowd down at Tipsy McStaggers any time I choose.
Or I can remind myself that I am healthy enough and have the luxury of time and income to train jiu-jitsu. You don’t always have this freedom in life. Look at training as a luxury.
3) I learn more slowly than other students.
I meet very intelligent, educated people who are highly accomplished in their professions. Medical professionals, engineers, and IT consultants, all of whom are bright people and secretly feel that they are learning BJJ more slowly than everyone else.
Why do we feel this way? Is it a personal shortcoming? People feel that they alone are having difficulty understanding the overwhelming amount of information in jiu-jitsu.
I whisper to those with beleaguered expressions on their faces, “It isn’t just you. Most people feel somehow deficient in this same way.”
The truth is that BJJ is a very complex art and everyone feels overwhelmed at first. Even as a black belt I have seen new techniques and felt as confused as a farmer in the middle of Times Square.
You are likely doing just fine.
It is important to identify these attitudes and recognize them when they occur. Set your attitude right and you will enjoy jiu-jitsu more.