A reader question from a blue belt named Jonathan Dunaway:
So I get extremely nervous when being an example for my head instructor. I’m a new blue belt with more experience than most.
I don’t understand what I’m going through idk if its an intimidation thing or what. I was wondering if you guys could do a article about this and ways to get through this stage of BJJ.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Although various types of anxiety are very common in BJJ class, this is the first time I have heard of a student feeling anxiety about being an example for the instructor.
Do you mean when he is using you as the demonstration “dummy” for the techniques in front of the class? When your instructor is pointing out how you roll or perform a certain position?
You may feel uncomfortable being the focus of attention in front of the class, but your anxiety may be misplaced. The instructor is very likely using you as an example for all positive reasons! You likely are moving with fluidity, precision, and without utilizing too much strength and providing an example for the less experienced students to observe.
There is a famous quote by jiu-jitsu icon Renzo Gracie: “Everyone you meet is battling something.” In many cases, your fellow students are confronting their own fears on the mat every class. It may be they are self conscious about their bodies, their level of skill, their emotional control, fear of losing, or looking bad in front of the other members of the class.
I recall one student revealing to me that he was very nervous before each class. He experienced nervous “butterflies” in his stomach at the thought of rolling with the other students. He was surprised to hear that with over ten years of experience, I STILL felt that tightening of the stomach before each and every class,. This is in fact very common! And yet everyone thinks they are unique in this way.
I have had some of the most technically skilled new purple and brown belts privately confide to me that they felt entirely unworthy of their new belt!
Jiu-jitsu forces us to confront and overcome these private, personal fears each time we step on the mat. In that way, I feel that jiu-jitsu develops character. When we face our fears and overcome them through self discipline, we will build a “mental muscle” inside of us that is strengthened through frequent demands. This muscle can help us overcome fear in the other areas of our lives outside of the jiu-jitsu academy.
The truth is that you may have to manage this anxiety for a long time. The important thing is that you recognize that it is just your mind playing tricks on you and that you can overcome it.