Friday, February 2, 2007

About "getting good" and enjoying the process

From new students, I often get the question "How long does it take to get good at Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?". It is always a question that requires some time to explain, as there is no answer really.

What is "good"? When are you "good"? Consider, that no matter how long you train, there will always be someone who are better and someone who are worse than you at this sport. Let's say you have a goal of reaching the black belt. You train and train for years always with the goal of "getting there". One day, you finally get the belt... and then what? There are still tons of guys out there, who are much better and tons of guys who are much worse.

No matter how long you train, no matter how much you - in your mind - measure your own level up against other students, no matter how much you think about how far the other gym in town has come now compared to you, you will never come to a point where you are "done". It is a natural thing for people to gather in groups (/tribes) and then start to gossip about other groups of same interest with whom they have little or no communication with. I think this is seen more in sports, where those groups eventually will meet in competition and measure themselves up against eachother. In real life, some or all of those people in the other group could have been your best friends if you have just met them in another way than as competitors within your own interest group. Does it really matter how "good" they are? Does it really matter how "good" you are? Does it make sense to not be best possible friends with people who share the same interest as you?

The point is, that you can never "get there" and then you are "done". So if you always focus on getting to a certain point in your training where you are "good" (measuring yourself against others), then you might forget the most important thing of it all - enjoying the process.

Ofcourse, setting a certain goal can be very beneficial for some people/personalities, but I always encourage my students to try to throw all these (natually occouring) thoughts of measurement away and just enjoy playing BJJ. Because the process of training is the real goal, not the belt or a certain level. The real value of this sport is in the training, the sweating, the pain, the small successes, the small failures, the friends you make, the self esteem, the hard work and the development of non-fantasy skill that actually works against resisting opponents. And you are already right there to enjoy it. Every day in the gym, on the mat. So forget about getting good and enjoy what you are doing NOW. The goal is right there in front of you and it has been there all the time :)

My own gym is completely designed with this in mind. Our number one priority has always been to create the best possible environment for enjoying the process of training. We always play nice music in class, hang up pirate flags, play playstation, arrange social activities, and most important of all - we never take training too seriously. Some people might find themselves comfortable in a strict, hierachial, no-music, serious and competition-minded environment, and that is perfectly fine. They just won't come to our place then. We never focus on "being the best", although a side benefit of our process-focus has been, that people are getting really, really good at what they do. Simply because they enjoy coming to the gym every day to hang out and train.

Just some thoughts on a pleasant winter friday in Copenhagen. Enjoy your weekend :)


Tony L said...

I really enjoy reading seeing your video's, great advice and awesome blog bro!

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty new at jiu-jitsu, and I'll be sure to heed this advice.

Anonymous said...

The best athlete wants his opponent at his best.
The best general enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman serves the communal good.
All of them embody the virtue of non-competition.
Not that the don't love to compete but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children and in harmony with the Tao.
Tao Te Ching Lao-Tzu

Ricky Gamboa said...

before, i was so obsessed in reaching my goals and when i reach them i felt empty. but when i learned to appreciate the journey it made sense to me that it is the more important experince and that acheiving the goal is just the cherry on top.

Anonymous said...

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andrew said...

This is really cool stuff. When Sam Shepard interviews Marcelo Garcia about why he is so much better than everyone else, Marcelo smiled and said, "I love it more."

I think that says a lot.

Georgette said...

Nicely put.

Anonymous said...

I have been taking the same classes and we are usually having lot of fun together by doing the same. The best thing is that you are able to learn about many new techniques in these classes.