Inverted Gear Blog / Valerie Worthington

Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 2.0 Part II: Supporting Women in Leadership Roles in BJJ

In a previous article, I observed that the jiu-jitsu community is moving into what I refer to as Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 2.0, where women not only train but also take on leadership roles in increasing numbers. This is happening as a matter of course in the development of the sport, but those of us who want to show our support may wonder how we can do so. This article provides some suggestions.

If we want to promote the growth of women as leaders in jiu-jitsu, we must make the following assumptions:

First, women are capable of being leaders in jiu-jitsu. Some women are not great leaders, just as some men are not. Some women are fantastic leaders, just as some men are. The point is, a person’s capacity to be a good leader has nothing to do with where his/her private parts are situated or with the gender with which s/he identifies. Therefore, if we want to support women as leaders in jiu-jitsu, the first step is to withhold judgment about any person’s leadership abilities until we have seen them in action.

Second, women’s jiu-jitsu is jiu-jitsu. There may be some truth to the idea that women and men learn and apply jiu-jitsu differently. However, at its heart, the jiu-jitsu women learn is no different from the jiu-jitsu men learn, even in gender-segregated classes. It is jiu-jitsu. A competent female leader in jiu-jitsu, then, will teach, referee, coach, and train jiu-jitsu, not some watered-down version.

Third, and here is the heart of the matter, even if we have no women or few women in our own academies, each of us can promote the growth of women as leaders in jiu-jitsu. Here is how:

If we are jiu-jitsu instructors, academy owners, and/or coaches:

  • We can groom interested women in our classes to be leaders. This does not mean throwing a female blue belt into teaching a women’s class by herself while we take a break. Instead, it means apprenticing and mentoring interested lower-belt women just as we do interested lower-belt men.
  • We can model desired behavior. If we believe everyone can learn from women in jiu-jitsu, then we can seek out opportunities ourselves to do so. As above, note this does not mean suggesting to a female student that she attend a co-ed seminar hosted by a woman while we do something else. It means encouraging male and female students to attend—and going with them.
  • If we do not have higher belt women at our academy, we can expand our search. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen female brown and black belt women who are great instructors, accomplished competitors, and otherwise eminently qualified to assume leadership roles in our community, and who are available to be brought in for seminars or guest instructing. Chances are there are a few in our geographic area, and if there are not, we can consider investing in a visit from someone who is farther away.
  • If we leave the academy in charge of upper belt students for some reason, we can choose the best people for various roles, regardless of gender. Maybe the right person to staff the front desk and/or teach the women’s and kids’ classes happens to be female, and maybe the right person to teach the “regular” classes happens to be male. The question is whether we thought about this before we assigned tasks, or whether we automatically reverted to stereotypical gender roles.

If we are students (which all of us are, even if we are also instructors, academy owners, and/or coaches):

  • We can search ourselves for bias. Do we ask higher-ranked women for technical advice, or even lower-ranked women who are particularly good at a finish or escape we want to improve at? Do we look to them for clues about proper behavior in the academy? Or do we assume a man will know better, even one who has not been around as long?
  • We can practice our poker faces. Even if we are used to mostly male instructors and academy owners, when we encounter their female counterparts do we support that by training as if everything is normal? Because it is.
  • We can police ourselves and each other. Ideally, the message at any academy is that good leadership is good leadership regardless of the package it comes in, but as evidenced by my own experience, that may not entirely convince some people. If we know the powers that be in our academy are dedicated to good leadership and we see or hear someone saying or doing something that runs counter to that, we can call it out.

If we are men:

  • We can consider our language. Phrases like “Don’t be a p*ssy,” “Use the rape choke,” and “What’s the matter, Mike? Got your period?” all have implications. I am not the PC police, but I do try to make sure that my actions and my words are consistent with one another. To my mind, acting in support of women in positions of leadership while simultaneously feeling comfortable saying things like, “Dude, Jeff has sand in his vagina” is a bit dissonant. Ultimately, our immediate training community decides what is appropriate for our immediate training context. I encourage all of us to make sure our decisions are conscious ones.
  • We can consider the odds. Women are making strides in BJJ, but the proportion of women to men in the sport is still small. Many of us are used to being the only woman on the mat, or one of very few, but not as many of us are as used to overseeing situations featuring that kind of gender breakdown. It can be intimidating, so positive energy and enthusiasm go a long way.
  • We can be evangelical. It would be odd if I did not believe that women can be leaders in the jiu-jitsu community. I obviously have a vested interest in the idea. While this does not lessen the validity of the argument, the weight of other voices can support it.

If we are women:

  • We can educate ourselves about what being a leader in jiu-jitsu entails. Coaching, teaching, refereeing, running an academy, simply being in this world in the most productive and positive ways possible, are all options we have for demonstrating leadership. There are resources available for us to ask questions and educate ourselves. We can embrace the need to develop our own leadership skills as part and parcel of our commitment to developing as grapplers.
  • We can value our own skill and experience. Sometimes more experienced female grapplers believe we know less than we do, devaluing our skills and experience in the process. We can teach others how to treat us by respecting ourselves and our knowhow.
  • We can celebrate the skill and experience of other women. Men are not the only ones who can be sexist. Sometimes, when we are the highest-ranked woman in an academy, even if we are a blue or purple belt, we can forget that just as there are always men better than we are, there are also always women who are better than we are. Women are also frequently stereotyped as catty, in jiu-jitsu and in general. If we are tired of this stereotype, we can prove it wrong by supporting women who are leaders in the jiu-jitsu community.

To paraphrase Kent Brockman, I, for one, welcome our new female overlords, because I believe increased female leadership can benefit the jiu-jitsu community. If you agree, give some thought to how you personally can support its growth, in your academy and in general.

If you do not agree, I would love to hear from you. Not to harangue or yell or belittle, but to learn more about your perspective.

Photo credit to Stafford Sports Media.

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Ask a Panda: Purple Belt Purgatory

Part I: Knowing Is Half the Battle and Most of the Problem

Question: I recently heard someone call purple belt “purple purgatory,” and it seems to fit. When you were a purple belt, did you start to question everything you do? Now that I'm teaching more, I'm really starting to question everything and sometimes I feel that I was a more confident teacher at blue belt. Is that something you experienced? Do you feel that purple belt is a trying period in jiu-jitsu?

Answer: I see two questions here. The first relates to whether purple belt seems to be a challenge—a purgatory—in general. The second relates specifically to how, at purple belt, the writer has started to question everything that used to feel like a given, particularly regarding teaching jiu-jitsu. In this response, I address the second question and will address the first in a future response.

We grapplers must be a special kind of crazy to stay in jiu-jitsu, given all the Sturm und Drang it causes in our lives. Or maybe we are a special kind of intrepid for being willing to go to that place time and again. Probably equal parts of each.

You mention you are questioning everything, particularly your teaching. Now that you are a purple belt, you are becoming an older-timer, someone who has shown staying power and gained some wisdom and experience. As such, you can be more of a resource for others, and more is expected of you in terms of mat maturity. For instance, it is never acceptable to refuse to tap because of ego or demonstrate unsportsmanlike behavior, but by the time we reach purple belt, we should be far more likely to be policing these crimes than committing them.

More is expected of purple belts than lower belts in terms of responsibility to others in the academy, but at the same time you may also notice the world of jiu-jitsu is opening to you in unprecedented ways. Your hard-won wisdom and experience have enabled you to make technical progress. You have more cognitive capacity for mastering more of the nuances in your game and for adding onto or even transforming it. You can help less experienced students with technical details. You know the ins and outs of your academy’s environment, the structure of classes, the kinds of training you will get with each teammate. You see more possibilities leading from a single sequence than you could earlier: you recognize that along with Plan A, there usually must be a Plan B, C, D, and on and on, depending on your partner’s reactions.

All of this, the increased responsibility and the increased capacity for learning and leading, is natural and good, though it usually feels anything but. This is because this process represents a sea change in your orientation to jiu-jitsu: Like Skynet, you are becoming aware.

Unlike Skynet, you do not plan to initiate a nuclear holocaust (I hope), though you may feel like something of that magnitude is happening. This is because awareness can be painful. We say “ignorance is bliss” with good reason. As a purple belt, you may become more aware of the options and paths available to you in your jiu-jitsu. However, increased awareness of those options and paths also increases your awareness of how much—or little—you know about them. You become more aware of how little you really know relative to how much it is possible to know.

This is daunting enough as it relates to your own training, but as you mention, now you are also more aware of how you come across when you try to impart jiu-jitsu knowledge to others. As a purple belt, you say you feel less comfortable teaching than you did when you were a blue belt, and the fact that your understanding of jiu-jitsu is broader than it was when you were a blue belt is no coincidence. These feelings are reflective of the stage of skill acquisition known as conscious incompetence. People in this stage are not as adept at a given skill as they will be someday. Worse, they know it.

Conscious incompetence is the second stage in the 4 States of Competence learning model, which describes “the psychological states that are involved in transforming skill incompetence to competence or outright mastery.”1

When we are white and low blue belts, we are mostly in the first stage, known as unconscious incompetence, where we are not as good a teacher or practitioner as we will be someday, but we do not realize it. How many upper belts have been “corrected” during drilling by cheerfully confident lower belt partners who did not actually know what they were talking about? I know I cringe when I look back on those times in my white and blue belt days when I drilled a technique 5 times and thought, “Ok, got this. What’s next?” I was not embarrassed by this behavior at the time because I was not yet aware there was anything problematic about it.

Your teaching ability when you were a blue belt was probably fine—commensurate with the ability of a blue belt. Of course, there is room for improvement because you are still working your way up the ranks, and even when you get to black belt, if you choose to grow and transform for as long as you train and teach, that will require that you put yourself in this stage of skill acquisition time and time again.

The plus side to your questioning of everything and the fact that you are uncomfortable about it, then, is that it means you are maturing. The conscious incompetence stage of the model is considered the stage that causes the most discomfort, precisely because it is in this stage that we realize how little we know.

Eventually you will move to the third and fourth stages of the model. In fact, you may already experience them here and there in various training and teaching situations, and the proportion will continue to shift. The third stage is conscious competence, where you know things and you are aware you know them—you can perform well, but you must still concentrate to do so. In this stage, you may prepare for teaching by writing down a list of the technique details you want to go over to make sure you do not forget any. In your training, you may recognize the opportunity for a sweep a split second after it presents itself, and depending on the skill and timing of your partner, you may or may not pull it off.

At times, you probably even experience unconscious competence, the fourth stage, which is when you can perform a task so well that you can do it without thinking about it. For instance, at this point in your jiu-jitsu career, how much thought do you give to tying your belt? Not much, I bet. You are unconsciously competent at this task.

Do not let your discomfort derail you. The reason you are questioning everything you thought you knew is because you care about teaching well and training effectively. If you did not care, you would not feel uncomfortable. The fact that you do will help you progress through the skill acquisition stages in your own teaching and training, and it will also help you when you start the cycle again, whether because you must teach something you have never taught before or because you have decided to work on a part of your game that you think needs improvement.

This is how jiu-jitsu goes. If you want to continue to grow, you will continue to experience the stages of skill acquisition. What WILL change, though, is that you will become more skilled at handling the uncertainty and discomfort of the conscious incompetence stage, because now you know how it works. Good luck and thank you for writing!

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Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 2.0: From Participation to Leadership

When I was coming up through the ranks in jiu-jitsu, I was routinely the only woman or one of maybe two or three women in class. I trained with anyone who was willing to train with me: man-mountains, scrawny kids, and everyone in between. I was a curiosity in those days, and the male students who ended up having to pair with me were rarely happy about it, at least at first. I felt stupid and awkward when I stopped to notice, so I tried not to. And the high I got from training—the pure joy and flow, which lasted for hours after I finished a training session—was more than worth the challenges.

It was even worth the casually sexist and uncomfortable comments I heard over the years when I was coming up through the ranks. Here is an incomplete list:

  • “I can’t train with you. I’ll get an erection.”
  • “No f*cking way I’ll ever let a woman tap me.”
  • “Frankly, I don’t think girls should train. My academy split up because two guys were fighting over the same girl.”
  • “I don’t think we should train together because it wouldn’t do either of us any good.”
  • “My wife doesn’t want me rolling with you.”
  • “Wow, I wasn’t expecting you to be good.”
  • “I’m glad you don’t have big tits.”

 And this does not include the stares, eye rolls, and jockeying for position away from me and the few other women that were also de rigeur in those days. Of course, some of this could have had to do with the fact that I was a white belt and, as such, in need of a bit more patience from my training partners. But then I became a blue belt and a purple belt, and the comments and body language from some people persisted.

It was a drag, of course, but I generally let it slide or attempted to deflect with humor. I was having fun, I had learned over a lifetime of experiencing casual and not-so-casual sexism to choose my battles, and I had not yet learned how to capitalize effectively on teachable moments—to hope for the best before I assumed the worst. I kept my head down and kept training, reminding myself that even though there were people who did not welcome my presence, there were others, instructors and students alike, who supported and encouraged me.

From Oddity to Acceptance

In recent years, there has been more focus on how to attract and retain women in jiu-jitsu, which I obviously think is fantastic. More events for women have sprung up: camps, open mats, tournaments, dedicated classes, and on and on. More women have lit up the competition scene with undeniable skill and competitiveness. More instructors (historically mostly male) have taken pains to learn about how to welcome women into their academies and how to equip their male students to do the same. I have even watched some of the men who said things like those on the list above change their tunes and make a point of training with women and trying to attract them to their academies. There is hope, then, for the niche gender in this niche sport.

I look back on the time when I was coming up and before then, when there were even fewer women, as Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 1.0. Back then, the immediate goal was to get women to step on and stay on the mat, amid confusion and uncertainty about how to do so. Thanks to the work of instructors and thought leaders in the jiu-jitsu community, the tinkering and research during the period of Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 1.0 has resulted in a general blueprint for welcoming women into the fold, in the form of articles, resources, and subject matter experts. Of course, there is more work to be done vis-à-vis compiling and applying that blueprint consistently, but many building blocks are now available.

A sign of the ongoing effectiveness of Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 1.0 is the fact that, in increasing numbers, women are stepping on and staying on the mat. And at this point in the history of our sport, a “critical mass” of those women, as well as the men who have supported them, have now been around long enough to help our community transition into Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 2.0. This is the version where women are not just present but are also widely accepted as leaders.

Leadership on the Mat: A New Hurdle

Like many of my male counterparts, I began teaching jiu-jitsu when I was a purple belt, sporadically at first, and then more regularly once I reached brown. There were no women’s-only classes where I was training, so I taught both men and women; if students wanted to train on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6pm, they got me as their teacher. My own (male) teacher had tapped me to teach, so nobody questioned it.

At least, nobody questioned it directly. There were some students, both male and female, who what-iffed, got furious if I tapped them, went to the other instructors (all male) to ensure what I was teaching was sound, and decided they needed to train at times when I was not teaching. Some new students, both male and female, sized me up and communicated to me through their body language that they were skeptical about my capacity in a leadership role. As with the comments and body language I got when I was just training, I ignored it or defused it with humor and continued to teach.

My first taste of overt sexism toward me as a leader in jiu-jitsu occurred when I gave my first seminar as a brown belt. Though I was used to teaching by then, I was equal parts excited and terrified to see in attendance a full house of men and women of all belt levels. It went as well as a first-time seminar could.

Sometime after, I heard the following story from a friend: On the evening of the seminar, a male student had come to the school that hosted me, not realizing the regularly scheduled-class had been canceled. The student said, “No woman is going to be able to teach me anything about jiu-jitsu,” changed back into his street clothes, and left. At the time, I just rolled my eyes.

What started to dawn on me, though, is that even though by then women had generally become accepted on the mat, this guy’s reaction was perhaps indicative of a lack of acceptance of women in other roles in jiu-jitsu, particularly leadership roles. Not everyone was as direct as this guy about their reluctance to be led by women, as evidenced by my own experiences at my academy, but my own experience indicated an undercurrent of skepticism.

The Future of BJJ Leadership

Happily, in my opinion, this has slowly and steadily been changing. There have been capable, talented, high-level women in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu for a long time, demonstrating unrivaled leadership ability and commitment to the sport. What’s different now compared to when I was coming up is that there are more of them. Enough, in fact, that from my perspective, the jiu-jitsu community is in the process of upgrading to Women’s Jiu-Jitsu 2.0, where women step on and stay on the mat as leaders and are received as such as a matter of course rather than as a novelty.

As with 1.0, however, while some people may have been early adopters of leadership from women, there may be others of us who are confused or uncertain about what we can do to support this upgrade. So in the follow-up to this article I will outline some specific steps and habits of mind each of us can consider to help us continue to embrace women as leaders in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Photo by CAM Photos & Design

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Ask a Panda: How Do you Cope with the Ups and Downs of BJJ?

Val Worthington is taking questions about jiu-jitsu and life. Submit yours here and it could be featured in the next installment!

Question: Can you please discuss how you deal with the peaks and valleys of passion with BJJ? I don't think I have lost my passion but for a few months I have noticed that the mats are not my happy place. Changes in the school, life challenges, new students...all may be reasons. I am not giving up but I am fearful at times, unhappy sometimes, and not sure how much I am learning. Thanks!!!

Thank you for this question, though I am sorry to hear you need to ask it. I can guarantee that you are not alone in feeling this way, because I know many grapplers who have had these experiences, myself included. I hope it helps a little to know there are others who can relate, but I also know that this on its own does not solve the problem. So let’s discuss a few things I do to help me ride out the stormy times.

The longer I train, the more similarities I notice between my relationship with jiu-jitsu and my relationships with people, almost like jiu-jitsu is a sentient being with needs and preferences that I must balance against my own. One of the biggest similarities is the cyclical nature of my feelings about these relationships. My friendships, love relationships, and family connections go through phases where I feel very in sync with the people I care about, followed by phases where I feel neutral or even disconnected or dissatisfied. These latter times may bring the relationship to an end or prompt me to do what I can to reconnect, including being patient and trusting that no bad time or situation is permanent.

I am not recommending that you “break up” with jiu-jitsu. Rather, I am pointing out a reality that you noticed yourself: Your feelings about jiu-jitsu, just like your feelings about a significant person in your life, are likely to be cyclical. So many factors influence our jiu-jitsu experiences that it stands to reason some of these might be out of alignment at times. Here is what I do when I am feeling out of sorts and like jiu-jitsu just doesn’t understand.

First, I reaffirm my basic relationship with jiu-jitsu. Some relationships are intimate and enduring. Others are more fleeting and casual. Still others are everywhere in between. No type is better or worse, but awareness of this can help us determine how many resources—emotional and otherwise—we want to invest. After 18 years of training, I know I am with jiu-jitsu for the long haul. I am not going anywhere, and neither is it. During those times when I wish it could be a teeny bit less demanding, like Scrabble, and a teeny bit more supportive, like my family, I make a point of reminding myself that jiu-jitsu and I are just going through a phase.

Keep in mind, though, that it is perfectly okay, when you go to reaffirm your relationship with jiu-jitsu, to discover that you and it are not committed to each other for the long haul, or to discover that you need a break.

This leads to the second thing I do when I am feeling out of sorts with my jiu-jitsu relationship, which is confirm that my training-to-life ratio is optimal. When I first started training, I wanted to do it all the time, and I allowed other relationships and responsibilities to suffer, kind of like you do when you are in the early, crush phase of a romantic relationship. I still want to train, just like I still want to spend time with the people I care about, but I have found that the ardor of those early days of a relationship—any relationship—is unsustainable for the long haul. Either it burns itself out or it must deepen into something mellower and built to last.

For me, this has meant less training (e.g., no more two-a-days) and modifications in how I expend the energy I do have available for training (my own training, teaching others, writing about jiu-jitsu). It turns out that sometimes when I feel anxious about my training it is because something is getting short shrift, either it or another priority in my life, or maybe I just need some time to myself to do something else. Then I find I can go back feeling revitalized and eager again. For this to happen, I must inventory my priorities and my time, to make sure I am doing all I can to keep myself on the track I have identified as being important to me.

This brings us to the third and most difficult thing I do when I am feeling stressed out or anxious about my training: Own what I can and let go of the rest. You mentioned that the mat is not always your happy place these days and that you are feeling anxious about some of the changes your academy is experiencing. Changes can be particularly nerve-wracking when we feel we have little or no control over them, but one thing we can always control is our own actions and reactions. If you are nervous about training with people who are unknown quantities, consider holding off until you get to know them a little and making a point to approach them to facilitate the getting-to-know-you process. If you are sensing negative energy in the academy, smile even though you might not feel like it. If you feel like you are not learning, go back to basics. Ask for help from the instructors and teammates you trust.

There is no easy answer to the question of how to navigate the ups and downs of a jiu-jitsu life, but there is a simple one: Know thyself, be willing to do what you can to meet your own needs, and trust that this too, shall pass.

Best of luck, and thank you for the question!

About Valerie Worthington

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that define me: parents who are psychologists, a childhood spent in the New Jersey suburbs except for a year my family spent in Germany, studying English literature and learning theory, always trying for the funny--not matter how self-deprecating, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art I have been training for almost 20 years. I travel a lot and enjoy snacks just as much. I am reasonably intelligent, but this is undercut by my love of irreverence and childish humor. I am also the author of Training Wheels: How a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Road Trip Jump-Started My Search for a Fulfilling Life.

Photo by CAM Photos & Design.

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Heal Up or Jump Back In? Getting Back on the Mats After Injury

Val Worthington is taking questions about jiu-jitsu and life. Submit yours here and it could be featured in the next installment!

Question: Hey! I'm a blue belt from New Jersey. Is it better to fully recover from injuries or to scale down my training?

Oh, the injury question. When things go our way during training, we may feel practically invincible. Then we land wrong. Tap too slowly. Get a limb tangled in a gi. We get injured. This, along with death and taxes, is a certainty in the life of a jiu-jiteiro: If we stick with training long enough, we will at some point be sidelined by an injury.

The very first thing I want to do in responding to this question is make it clear that I am not a physician. I am not authorized to give medical advice of any kind, and this response is based on my own experiences and those of my friends and teammates, not on any kind of medical training.

Thus, the very second thing I want to do in responding to this question is encourage anyone who is injured or sick, or who suspects they may be either, to consult a licensed medical professional for advice specific to that injury or illness. Jiu-jitsu practitioners as a group are notoriously reluctant to seek medical help, instead “training around it” or “just shoving it back in its socket and using the other one.” We do not want to miss training, which anyone who trains understands, but sometimes our passion for training clouds our better judgment.

Believe me when I say I know health insurance and medical care are expensive. I know many of us try to get along without them, and I cannot speak for anyone besides myself regarding whether they are a priority, let alone an affordable one. Given what jiu-jitsu requires of us, however, if I had my way, it would be on everyone’s short list of considerations.

This leads to the third thing: Make sure any doctor you consult has some sense of what you do and what your goals are. I have heard many a horror story about doctors who, upon completing their examination of a grappler, make the dastardly pronunciation, “You should probably just stop jiu-jitsu altogether.” I am fortunate to have a physical therapist who understands my passion for jiu-jitsu and an osteopath who himself is a blue belt. Add to this the fact that they are both highly skilled and dedicated, and I know the care I get for injuries is oriented around helping me get back to my regular routine as quickly, safely, and cost-effectively as possible. Do your best to find qualified physicians who have a similar mindset.

Now, the heart of the question—whether it is better to heal completely from an injury or scale back your training as you regain strength, stability, range of motion, or whatever else you lost when you got injured. This will depend on many variables, including the nature and severity of the injury, the types of positions and movements that do and do not aggravate it, whether you will be prescribed physical therapy, and the level and type of physical demands in the rest of your life, to name just a few. You will not be surprised to read that I strongly suggest you work closely with your doctor(s) when considering these variables.

There is another variable, however, over which you have more control, and that is your awareness of your own well-being and personality. In other words, how well do you know your body and mind? Regarding your body awareness, in recent years, a raft of experts has begun to turn athletes’ attention toward improving mobility and being aware of their own bodies’ baseline capabilities. This serves multiple purposes, including helping to maximize performance and prevent injury. It may also increase individuals’ recognition of when they are operating at 100% and when they are not, when they are simply expanding their comfort zones and when they are doing themselves real damage.

Regarding your personality, think about how much you can trust yourself. In other words, are you one of those people who sticks to it when you say, “I am only going to drill, no live training” and “I am going to class, but I will just sit on the edge of the mat and take notes,” or does the voice in your head slowly but surely change its tune to, “I’ll just roll this one round,” and “You know, I’m feeling pretty good, so I’m gonna see how it goes”? Can you trust yourself to listen to your body, common sense, and the best medical advice you can access? Or will you go full-bore against everyone’s better judgment?

I have just used a lot of words to convey a relatively simple message: Know thyself, body and mind, before you get injured. Prioritize finding trustworthy doctors who value your well-being and your training priorities in equal measure and who understand your financial situation. If you do get injured, listen to your doctor and your common sense to put yourself on the fast track to recovery.

Thank you for the question!

About Valerie Worthington

Here, in no particular order, are some of the things that define me: parents who are psychologists, a childhood spent in the New Jersey suburbs except for a year my family spent in Germany, studying English literature and learning theory, always trying for the funny--not matter how self-deprecating, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, a martial art I have been training for almost 20 years. I travel a lot and enjoy snacks just as much. I am reasonably intelligent, but this is undercut by my love of irreverence and childish humor. I am also the author of Training Wheels: How a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Road Trip Jump-Started My Search for a Fulfilling Life.

Photo by CAM Photos & Design.

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