We are all familiar with the guys and gals at our gym whose lives revolve around Jiu Jitsu. Training is their raison d’être and competing is the main thing on their calendar. These folks are usually younger, sometimes students whose schedules afford them the freedom to train like it’s their job. Sometimes, in fact, it IS their job. They teach classes at the academy or give privates and have sponsorships for tournaments.
Jiu Jitsu is a unique sport and a singular culture. Most people who are in this sport are in it for life. That being said there are many motivations behind the choice to get on the mats. For those serious competitors, the three-a-day type of people, however, there is only one reason: to make it to the top. The expectations they create for themselves can sometimes be displaced onto others. When this happens, other team members whose goals may not align are sometimes belittled and pressured.
I have experienced this before. I have been told that taking a round off is unacceptable or that I’m slacking. I have been told that I shouldn’t compete because I don’t work hard enough. I have been looked down on for my training goals and attitude, and the fact that Jiu Jitsu has not been my main priority for a while.
Don’t get me wrong, hard work and commitment are essential to Jiu Jitsu and I admire the fire I see in serious competitors. They are willing to make the sacrifices necessary and will stop at nothing for gold. That being said, no one should be disrespected or discounted for training for different reasons.
It takes all kinds to create a team and a family. Some train for fitness, some seek the social and community aspect of the sport. I started training for empowerment and fitness and quickly fell in love with competing. I loved traveling with teammates and I loved the nerves and the challenge of it. Nevertheless, I realized I would never be a world-class competitor. Perhaps it’s a lack of willpower; perhaps it’s a lack of talent. I just know “world champ” isn’t in my future.
Now I compete occasionally for that rush but I mostly put on a gi to challenge myself, to learn new things and to be part of something bigger than me.
No one’s belt is less valid because they don’t compete or because they don’t train twice a day everyday. No one’s goals or reasons for training deserve mockery Everyone has their own personal Jiu Jitsu journey and what matters is that we never give up, we are open to learning and we work hard during the time we are on the mats.
Everyone’s life is different and everyone has different priorities. Competitors should be commended for their hard work. Those who train twice a week for fitness and fun should be as well. Our sport is a demanding one and we all get further if we are there for each other
Valéry Brosseau is a purple belt under Fernando Zulick in Toronto, Canada. She is also a speaker and writer on the topic of mental health. Her writing and information on her speaking can be found at www.valerybrosseau.com or @valerybrosseau on Instagram.
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