Control your Jiu-Jitsu Fears Through Knowledge & Instruction

How to Handle Your Thoughts While on the Mats

While grinding on the mats and halfway towards my day-in-the-life of a blackbelt wannabe (I have started to take training seriously, I have taken into great consideration that I also want to be good in Jiu-Jitsu), I have come to realize much about life related to the physical toils of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Life, as we know it, will manifest itself in the mats. More often than what we are capable of realizing.

Today was a day that I was able to come into terms with one of the facets of Jiu-Jitsu. It’s a hard lesson that I needed to learn. It’s all about FEAR.

While not a lot may admit to it, a lot of people have fears about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and today, it held me with a tight grip. It can be anything. It can be as trivial as getting injured, or hitting the mats a tad too hard. Or a childish fear such as looking silly in front of your training partners or onlookers in the gym. It can be as complex as the fear of failing, or to live up to the expectations of your peers or worse, yourself.

It all happened while we were doing drills about takedowns. The fear of getting injured initially came, I fell flat on my face. The pain was just too much. It reverberated towards my spine and towards my extremities. As I tried picking myself up to go through the motions (again), I realized that I WAS then afraid. Panic came in as the training session went on. Then I felt my breath becoming shallower and shorter. I started to panic.

“Don’t fear failure. — Not failure, but low aim, is the crime.

In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” – Bruce Lee

It froze me. Completely blew away everything that I have read, practiced about. It felt as if Otavio Sousa had gotten a good hold of my neck and was slowly choking me. What occurred afterwards was every instructor’s nightmare: a student taking the bleachers and refusing to continue. I excused myself and moved to the edge of the mats. Mulling, and sitting quietly as others go on with their own Jiu-Jitsu journeys. While they, with so much heart, I just quit. What are my fears, if you may ask? These are quite rudimentary. At least for a newbie.

I went online and vented my frustration to one of the many Gracie Barra brothers. He’s a blackbelt.

I told him about what happened in the mats, and he gave me a few pointers about fear and handling fear.

Here is what he had to say about it:

"Fear is natural. It is perfectly fine to be afraid of it. In the mats, there is a lot to be afraid of; getting injured, humiliation, self-doubt, and the fear of being left-behind with your skills. This is common, I tell you. I have seen students who seem to be devastated because they weren’t able to catch up. But I tell you this, the journey to jiu-jitsu is a long one. A belt is just something to hold your gi, the real lesson is the lifestyle. We all got into jiu-jitsu because we want to live better lives, right? Health and friendship, and a sound mind and body is what is important."

Control your fears through knowledge. Understand pain and injuries. Immerse yourself, brother. Learn the techniques. I tell you, it will be painful, but trust your instructors with the techniques. Learn to live through it. I tell you, it will be very rewarding.

These words have never failed to inspire me. It may have inspired others who were able to cross paths with him. My fear seems to have subsided, if not, I may have been successful in dealing with them. I have yet to figure it out. But one thing’s for sure, I have learned a great deal about fear. The knowledge of how to use fear by channeling it to your jiu-jitsu is great.

Afraid or not, injured or well, I shall continue my journey to that elusive Black Belt. And in the process, pass on the knowledge to my future students.