Don't Sabotage Yourself

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a tough sport, both physically and mentally, and it’s hard enough without working against yourself. Here are four ways I see jiu-jiteiros self-sabotage:

Psyching yourself out

As a beginner, you are humbled on a daily basis. As a defense mechanic, it is common to develop a self-deprecating attitude and assume you were going to fail anyway. This may take the sting out of it, but it also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. This negative attitude comes out in ways like telling higher belts things like “oh man, time for a beating” when you’re squaring up to spar. Speaking as a higher belt, I hate hearing these defeatist comments. Don’t let your opponent beat you before you’ve even fought. After talking to students about this and telling them to knock it off and just go into every roll against everyone with a “this is going to be good, I’m going to do my best” attitude, I have seen big improvements.

Avoiding the challenging lower belts

As a higher belt, you can deny yourself valuable experiences by becoming too selective about who you roll with. You have to be honest with yourself about why you are not taking a roll. Are you dodging just to protect your ego? That’s not to say you have to roll with everyone at any time. You won’t be faulted for turning down that super heavyweight powerlifter white belt who is dropping in from out of town for an open mat. But if the risk has less to do with injury and more to do with fearing that a lower belt will give you problems, you are denying yourself a chance to work on your weaknesses.

Assuming a technique is “not for you” too quickly

The longer you train and the more developed your game becomes, the harder it can be to add new elements to it. You should try to keep an open mind and not to get bitter and dismissive about new techniques. I have seen people mentally throw away a technique as early as white belt, long before they can have any real sense of what their game will or won’t look like. You need to give moves a chance to show where they are useful. Sometimes it will click immediately, but it may take years. It’s hard to know what you will ultimately need, so be willing to learn whatever you can. No one is expected to be good at every move, and we only have so much time to work on them, but if you stay open to a new technique making its way into your repertoire.

Overloading on information

These days it is easy to go deep down a rabbit hole on YouTube or streaming instructionals. No one is more guilty of that than me, but you need to strike a balance though. Pick a small number of techniques to work on if you studying instructionals and come to class with those fresh in your mind. You don’t need to do it all at once. Trying to will overload your brain especially when you’ve also got to practice the lesson of the day.

Solving each of these issues is a matter of changing your attitude. If you are struggling with self-sabotage, try collecting your thoughts about your issues in a journal and asking your coach for guidance in overcoming it. Odds are, you are not alone, and many others can show you the way past it.