Updated: Apr 12
If you’re a brand new or beginning student of jiu jitsu, chances are you’ve experienced some difficult emotions during and after your training sessions. The white belt phase is often the most challenging and humbling period of the journey. Certainly, having someone bigger, stronger, and/or more skilled than you endeavoring to make you tap can elicit fear and panic. Not only does jiu jitsu teach us how to use and protect our bodies, it also helps us learn to effectively deal with our emotions. Here I present what I believe to be the 5 most commonly occurring emotions for the student of jiu jitsu.
If they can overcome the fear of attending their first class, the student will go on to experience fear in many other situations. Facing a new opponent, getting stuck in a new and uncomfortable position, competing, visiting a new gym all can elicit fear. However, with time the student learns to accept that fear is a normal part of life; a healthy reaction to a novel situation. Instead of running away from the fears, the student will learn to face them, adapt, and learn strategies to deal with them as effectively as possible.
With so much to learn, frustration will be one of your most frequent visitors. Some students experience frustration more than others, but everyone inevitably experiences this feeling. You will recognize that learning takes time, patience, and reassurance from your sensei, training partners, and yourself. Frustration is very common for those who have not done any type of sport or physical training in the past and also for those who may be trying to override many previous years of training in a different art or sport. Remember to breath, be patient with yourself, and take it one step at a time.
Self-Doubt and Excuse Making
I would say that this is the number one reason for quitting. “I’m no good.” “This isn’t for me.” “I’m too old.” Sometimes feelings of self-doubt are psychologically unacceptable to the individual and manifest instead in the form of finding excuses. (e.g., “I’m too busy.” “I’d probably be better at boxing.”) A black belt is not someone who doesn’t experience self doubt. A black belt is someone who is not stopped by self doubt.
Anger can occur in a number of situations. Most commonly it happens when someone unintentionally hurts us, is being extra rough and muscling through positions, or as a consequence of frustration (e.g., when we are unable to execute a particular technique). It’s important to recognize that anger undermines optimal performance and sound decision making. Rather than expressing this anger, what you should be more interested in is slowing down your reactions and identifying the source of the anger, learning ways to deal with the trigger or prevent the trigger altogether.
Of course experiencing pride in and of itself is not a negative occurrence, but pride can often interfere with learning. Sometimes we unconsciously refuse to take in instruction because we are stuck in our previously learned ways. Pride can also lead to physical injury as in when someone refuses tapping to a dangerou submission. A student of jiu jitsu should always strive to be humble and open to receiving new knowledge.
With trial after trial, the student very gradually learns to master these emotions and in doing so develops confidence, the ability to stay calm under pressure, mental focus, physical and emotional toughness, resilience, and wisdom. As a sensei, this is the most rewarding part of teaching. Any student who sticks with it, eventually begins to exude these positive attributes.