Last week after class, my instructor said something that stuck with me. As I was walking out the door of the academy, he mentioned that he “hasn’t seen me laugh that much during class for a long time” and that “it looked like I was having fun.” It kind of surprised me, because I definitely love training jiu jitsu – at least I think I do! I try to attend every class I can, and in between classes I spend a significant amount of time studying instructional videos, watching matches, and rehearsing techniques in my head.
I think the reason his remark stuck with me was because it is true. I am constantly focused on improving as much as possible as quickly as possible. Of course, before and after class I joke around with other students. But during class time (and while rolling) I usually make a concerted effort to focus on a few specific techniques that I am trying to improve upon. I sometimes find myself counting the number of times I hit a sweep I’ve been working on, or correctly execute an escape I’ve been adding to my game.
It has been a long time since I rolled without purpose and enjoyed the simple act of doing jiu jitsu, without obsessing over correcting my grip placement during a butterfly sweep, or maintaining perfect posture during a guard break, or keeping constant pressure during a half-guard pass. My instructor’s simple, momentary observation forced me to realize something important about my training. Why am I being so serious about something I love doing? I train this sport because it’s fun. I have the rest of my life to improve my technique. If someday I find myself unable to continue training jiu jitsu, I want to at least look back on the time I spent training fondly. I want to remember it as something I enjoyed.
I’ll probably still come to each class with predetermined goals in mind and techniques I intend to drill during live rolling. I still believe there is a great deal of value in setting specific goals for personal improvement and seeing them to completion. I also still believe that the self-defense skills that jiu jitsu provides are invaluable. However, from now on my daily list of training goals will begin with something relatively simple – “enjoy the moment”. If I can accomplish that, I’ll consider that class a success.