Why I Feel Like A Whitebelt Again, And That’s A Good Thing
As many of us hopefully get ready to return to training with some of the restrictions of COVID-19 loosening, I am getting anxious. These mixed emotions remind me of how I felt when I began my jiu-jitsu journey. Whether you will return now or later, the feelings of both excitement and nervousness must be swirling inside you. One one hand, there is nothing as satisfying as mat time with your friends. Yet, on the other, there is a gnawing feeling that you’re not ready, because none of us have experienced a lapse such as this.
The butterflies of returning and those from your first months can serve as a barometer of your own progress. It’s a great comparison about how you have hopefully grown as a player. Because even though we all definitely have those feelings of nervousness, hopefully we’re much more excited to return to training than anxious. Most of us wouldn’t even remember the incredible nervousness of signing up for our first jiu-jitsu tournament, were it not for the slight pang we feel right now before training returns.
In that way, we must all feel a bit like a white belt again; adrift in the sea until we regain the movements and memory of performance. I find myself asking questions in the mirror-like “Am I totally out of shape now?” or “How are my grips?” or “Will everyone have been training harder in the downtime?” Deep down we know that we will be rusty and it will be knocked loose in short time, but for the first time in a long while I feel a sense of apprehension.
It’s nothing that will keep me from practicing. In fact, I am looking forward to it; a fresh start in a lot of ways. The first thing I want to work on are the fundamentals. Before the break, I was thinking of new ways to expand my game and gain an even deeper set of skills. But now, I feel the desire, and maybe even the need, to return to some of the core positions and submissions. The same positions that a brand new student would be working on. I laugh when I question if I’ll even remember how to tie a belt.
Another way everything reminds me of the beginning few months or years is the simple resetting of passion. Inevitably there are stretches of time where you go through the motions a bit. Those times are normal, human nature in all facets of life. But absence makes the heart grow fonder and I feel the sheer excitement of class again in whatever capacity it’s offered. (around here, we can begin small, semi-private lessons again). Those feelings of dragging yourself through the door some nights are gone. They’ve been replaced by a rejuvenated interest in the sport.
No matter who you are, we have all been set back a step or two. That feeling is a good thing, a powerful thing. Jiu-jitsu asks so much of your time, schedule, and passion that sometimes we can’t see the forest through the trees. When we collectively return to training, there will hopefully be a new normal; the renewed enjoyment of the sport. A return to the kind of inquisitiveness and enjoyment that forced us through the door whenever we started.