I am, like many of my friends and teammates, an ambitious hobbyist. That is, I have no aspirations to be an ADCC champion, but I still want to be the best jiu-jitsu practitioner I can be without making my career dependent upon how good I am at choking people.
And, like many of my friends and teammates, I am tired. Holy moly, I am so tired all the time.
Jiu-jitsu takes a lot out of us. It’s not just the physical workout, though of course, we all know what it feels like to wake up with muscle soreness and pray that it’s not an actual injury. When you train jiu-jitsu with the intensity and enthusiasm required to move steadily along a path of improvement, we make a lot of sacrifices. We give up time that could otherwise be spent — I don’t know — doing something other than getting beaten up multiple nights a week? Hanging out with our families? Relaxing? We risk pain and injuries beyond what you’d likely experience in a typical barbells-and-treadmills gym — injuries that could take us out of work for weeks or even months at a time or, at the very least, earn us a scolding from our boss when we show up with a black eye.
And then there’s the supplementary work, if you’re willing to put it in. Do you do yoga to stay flexible and reduce the likelihood of injuries? Strength and conditioning to make your body ready for battle on the mats? Maybe you take private lessons or have invested significant cash into instructional DVDs as well to give your jiu-jitsu knowledge a boost.
It’s a lot. Even when you love jiu-jitsu, even when you’ve happily structured your daily routine around training, even when your time on the mats has given you the best friends you’ve ever had, it’s still a lot. And you aren’t a bad student if you’ve ever asked yourself, “Is it worth it?” In fact, I think at some point, it’s a question that many, many BJJ practitioners ask themselves. I don’t blame the ones who say “no.”
Personally, the things that jiu-jitsu adds to my life are worth what I give up to be at the gym as often as I am, but I can only say this because I give myself some grace when I do need a night (or a week) away from training. I don’t care what the people who bemoan the “pussification of jiu-jitsu” say — BJJ is supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re giving up this much energy, time, and safety for a sport, the least you can ask for is to have fun while doing it. There’s no point in working yourself to the point of burnout if you’re not getting paid to train.
If you are frequently miserable due to your training regimen, make adjustments. Invest in a dietician who can help you develop a meal plan to ensure that your diet can support your training habits. If you believe that your time training is causing your relationship or career to fall apart, address the big stuff first. The mats will always be there for you, after all. Follow the training schedule that works for you, regardless of how often and how hard your teammates train. This is your journey, and if you want to travel it for as long as possible, you need to make sure that it is worth it for you.
Jiu-jitsu is rough. It’s exhausting. It’s time-consuming and painful and mentally draining. It can be all of these things while simultaneously being rewarding, fulfilling, and, yes, fun. Only you can decide if the good outweighs the bad, but before you give up completely, do your best to make sure that you’re giving the good a fighting chance.
Just wanted you to know how much I love your articles. When they shut down the basketball courts in Austin 11 months ago, I went looking for a gym that was open. I stumbled on to a BJJ gym that had a fitness class. Your articles have really helped me with my journey. I am a 64 year old with Ankylosing Spondylitis and 6 year old hips. I bruise easily and just generally hurt. I always look like somebody has beaten me with a stick but I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. I now can dominate on Basketball court but my knees aren’t having it. The yoga for BJJ has made me more flexible also. I am so out of my comfort level doing BJJ but feel it is my future for making me more confident about defending myself and healthy. It is articles like this that let me know I am not alone and that maybe it is okay to just go at my own pace. Thank you
Hi Joe! Thank you so much for such kind words and for sharing your story! It’s so impressive that you’re training even with so many hurdles in your path. Everyone definitely has their own journey, and I am very sure that yours has provided incredible inspiration to the people around you.