Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City, New York
Feeling Weak, Being Weak
I had a curious thought being back at the gym today. I have missed training at Rocha BJJ, and I was happy to work with Vernie my first day back. It was a good day, generally, though the first day on a new mat is always challenging, in my experience, regardless of whether I have been training (and I have been, fairly often).
The curious thought requires some context: I got through the conditioning and technique part of the class fairly easily. The techniques were something I was fairly familiar with, omoplata and scizzor sweep, with some basic guard passing. During sparring, though, I hit a mental block. I felt like I couldn't move people, and was getting worn out from the contact. Part of this had to do with my self-consciousness about what is becoming a recurring injury in my left leg (in the knee and, now, in the calf) but mostly it was the psychology of not being able to impose my will when I felt that I should be able to.
I felt like I was weak, and it was discouraging, so I stopped fighting as hard and gave up positions looking for tricky, resistance free ways out. Now, that's a perfectly reasonable approach to jiu-jitsu, I've been told, but it is not mine. I like to fight for positions. I'm a young guy, I'm fast and have reasonable cardio, but I didn't feel like I was winning any of the fights. I stepped off the mat after getting swept during a guard drill, and I thought through the last few rounds, and it was only in hindsight that I realized what the issue was.
It wasn't that I actually was losing those matchups, I was just frustrated because I wasn't winning them easily, in the way that I had intended. I suppose that's a stupid thing to think, in hindsight, because we realize that, in jiu-jitsu, we often have to improvise, we often have to give up on fights, and that doesn't mean that we're losing. But the psychology had put me on tilt.
As soon as that occurred to me, I went back out and did fairly well for myself. I was passing guard well on some of the other veterans, and while I wasn't at the top of my game, I felt far more confident in my ability to do the things that I need to be able to do, both in training and competition, namely: establish dominant top position by passing the guard, exercise patience and restraint in advancing positions from the top position, fight by adjusting weight with my hips, and remember that there is always a place open to go as my opponent looks to escape.
Once I was able to get myself off tilt (which happens everywhere, not just at the poker table) I was able to focus, and the jiu-jitsu was much better. I was still over-committing my weight from side-control against much bigger players, which is a bad habit that I've had for a while, and have been working on breaking. I also caught myself chasing ahead on some techniques, moving too quickly from a double leg to an attempt to pass the guard, and losing positions as a result. But that is really a matter of calming down and breathing, and I suppose that will improve as time goes on, and I start to regain some confidence.
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