Slumping: It’s Gonna Get Worse Before It Gets Better
Everyone deals with setbacks in jiu jitsu. When you fail to grasp a concept you might get tapped or let your training partner escape. The world moves on. It’s a cycle of highs and lows, acute and protracted. But if you’ve ever been in a long-term rut, it can be painful. Yes, the slump.
There is a wonderful honeymoon phase of training. The earliest stages where you show up, try your best, slap hands, and get submitted. After, you simply get up and smile and try again. There is no pressure. It can be hard to see the forest through the trees, but these times are a gift.
Eventually you will learn and improve. You will be rolling with someone you think you have a handle on, and then you’ll get smashed. That is when you will feel the first pangs of disappointment in yourself. You wanted that feeling of affirmation and accomplishment but didn’t get it.. You will wonder if you’re learning anything at all. Suddenly, you tell yourself you’re slumping.
The thing is, everyone feels this. Every single person has these lows. Upper belts and lower belts. It sucks, but jiu jitsu is undefeated. How do you get past the cycle’s worst part?
In my experience, part of the slump is where your expectations and your partners’ growth meet. That alone should give you reprieve. It’s so hard to remember that your friends are on the bus too. They’ve certainly hit those rough spots, but they are improving always. We’re not going to progress at the same rate. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. That might not be the most comforting thought though.
“Everyone is getting better but me.”
Obviously, you are improving. Deep down you know that. But some parts of your game might be weaker than you imagined. And right there is the best part of the slump. The clarity and motivation that will always lead to a breakthrough. It’s so cliche, but you will be better for it. After every low point comes an eruption, they say.
You must have the ability to look at yourself. To find parts of your game that are letting you down. It hurts to admit that you might not be as good as you thought. But this will set a fire inside. Every few months you need to reignite it, no one has infinite motivation. And if you don’t, the universe will.
So analyze your game and find the parts holding you back. Maybe it’s a very specific thing. A weak link. For me it was my guard retention (still is). I looked at my rolls and saw how poor my starting positions could be. My positional defense was poor from the starting gripfight. It didn’t come immediately, it didn’t come without some honesty either. But I put a pin in it.
From then, I worked. I got thrown by judokas, ankle-picked by wrestlers, and dominated by more experienced players. But I was super keen to pay attention to the gripfighting and battle for starting positions. Eventually I learned, eventually I improved. I wondered when the amazing, rapid improvement would come. I never saw it.
But then, you’ll be rolling with your bud and they’ll compliment the exact thing you’ve been working on. Because you were working on it. It’s a great feeling. One of affirmation and accomplishment. It is the feeling we all chase. You are out of the slump. Though next time you will be even more prepared for its terrible lows.