Managing expectations

A very common reaction I hear from relatively new jiujitsuteiros and jiujitsuteiras often fall along the lines of, “that technique won’t work for me,” and, “that technique doesn’t work when I try it,” and immediately resign it to the mental trash folder. This type of millenial-esque attitude is frustrating for both you and I. I am proud of my work and coaching skills and every time a client expresses such frustrations it gives me pause to consider whether I made any of the instruction confusing, presented an ineffective technique or used poor communication or coaching skills. It could also be whether the presented technique was suitable in terms of complexity relative to the client’s current ability and understanding. Then the obvious issues are whether there is a large discrepancy between the training partners in terms of weight, size, athleticism, strength, experience and ability (example: a 2 week beginner white belt complaining that he cannot pull of an omoplata against a partner who has 5 years on his belt, with both weight and height advantages and is in competitive shape).

Often I will try to troubleshoot their issue immediately and offer a variation or slight modification to the technique they are experiencing difficulty with while in other instances it’s really not possible to provide a quick fix solution. Much, or if not all of jiu jitsu practice, like many other disciplines involving athleticism and skill requires mindful practice. Yes, you will be disappointed, you will forget details and do things incorrectly, you will feel frustrated and even upset that you couldn’t get that technique to work smoothly and guess what? It’s perfectly normal and very common to experience these failures.

In the competitive arena, competitors are grouped according to (1) gender (2) age (3) weight and (4) stated or perceived skill level. Not only is this organized for a more level playing field but also for the participants’ safety. For the spectators and supporters, there isn’t much excitement to watch a highly skilled strong and experienced competitor spar against a complete smaller and lighter beginner and for good reason. The outcome will be a predictable result unless there was an unexpected bias or deliberate concession to allow the less experienced, smaller and lighter competitor win, then other subsequent questions will be raised.

Having said this, do all techniques that I know work perfectly and effortlessly for me? Haven’t you seen me sweat and writhe under the weight of bigger, stronger and younger sparring partners? They are putting me through the hoops and making me work hard to get the controls, sweeps and submissions that I want. Not everything works for me all the time and I accept this as part and parcel of the game. Not even the carpenter uses all the tools in his workshop to build good furniture but the knowledge and experience in knowing which tool to use at the right phase of work will enable him to create a beautiful piece of work that is functional and aesthetically beautiful. So you will also have to accept that there will be instances that some techniques doesn’t quite gel with you or find that it doesn’t suit your requirements. Ask for alternatives. Find out if there is a version better suited for you. People who practice this know that not all techniques will be suitable for everyone and that’s perfectly fine too. I suppose this is why jiu-jitsu is the individual expression of technique once you understand the fundamental concepts and you have to own the technique to make it yours!

Solution: The Grind

Diligent practice will help you gain those skills that you yearn for. Just because someone showed you how to do it will not instantly enable you to pull off that technique like flipping on a light switch. The reason a certain technique looked easy to do involves a series of many movements that work together that has been practiced many times, drilled with and without a partner many times, mentally visualized and rehearsed many times then it is taken back to the mats with different training partners and practiced again many times until you are able to execute it against many different body types and different resistance levels. I’m afraid there is no other way of acquiring the skill that I am aware of. No matter how many cool jiu jitsu tee shirts you wear, how sharp your newest gi, or which latest UTube/download/DVD instructional you just watched will infuse you with the skill that you desire. These tools only serve to maintain your motivation and bolster your efforts which should ultimately guide you back to developing the mindset of accepting the Grind!

The mindset that you are prepared and willing to accept failure as part of success, to accept disappointment in spite of effort, to pursue earnestly when  everything seems to present another obstacle in your pursuit for success is the Grind! When you’re not in the mood to practice because you’re tired, feeling unmotivated, had a long day, this is the Grind! Not surprisingly people who really love jiu jitsu say it’s a lifestyle. They sleep, eat and walk jiu jitsu all day and every day because they are invested in the process and are prepared to go for it.

In servitude and openness,
Vince Choo