“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family”
– Anthony Brandt
Watching UFC with Royce
I got a call from a student the other day about doing a private lesson. This particular student wanted to do it sometime Thursday night. I looked at the schedule, and there were group classes in the front all night and the private lesson room in the back was booked solid as well. So, I tried Friday night….same thing. Saturday – ok, but had to be late afternoon. My first thought was “Damn, we are having a bunch of lessons!” And then I thought again. “Damn! We are having a bunch of lessons!”
These are the types of growing pains an academy wants to have; too many students and lessons and not enough time or space. These types of “pains” are fixable. Easily. Happily. But, there are other types of growing pains as well. Not as easily fixable, and more painful in nature. They have to do with maintaining the environment and integrity of the academy while absorbing all these new people into the mix. “Check your ego at the door” has become such a ubiquitous maxim of martial arts training facilities that it is almost cliche now. But there is so much more than ego that needs checking.
People all carry around with them their life experiences, good and bad. We are the sum total of our experiences, and these determine or actions and reactions to what all goes on around us. If you truly keep this in mind, it makes it easier to allow certain trespasses to occur, and not be too offended by people’s lack of tact or ostensible rudeness. You see, Jiu Jitsu is not all about fighting and self-defense. Well, at first it is, then it isn’t, and then it is once more.
We come into new situations, especially those in which we feel uncomfortable and those which are performance-based (at least in our minds), with a certain air of competitive mentality. We must size up the competition – and that is everyone! We must portray ourselves as flawless and ideal as possible! We must, at all costs, be better than our peers in all aspects of our performance! And, holy shit! We must never be outdone! Tell yourself all you want that this isn’t you. “No, not me, I am just there to learn and go with the flow, and whatever happens happens….” Bullshit. You may vary in intensity of these emotions, especially on the surface and when compared to others, but we all have these feelings. We all are repelled by the feeling of being outdone. We are mathematical this way; if John has been training a the same pace as I have, and he is approximately the same age and physicality as I am, we should remain even in our abilities, right? Hmmm….Hell No!
John (or call him by whatever name you will) has a completely different makeup than you. Maybe his brain secretes hormones at different periods of elevated stress than yours when presented with a stressful situation. Maybe it is a different combination of hormones than yours causing him to perform better, while your reaction actually hinders your performance. Maybe you operate better in more confined spaces and the training space is very open and disorienting to you. Maybe you have an upset stomach, or lack of sleep. Any host of problems, physical, psychological, emotional, physiological, etc., can determine what you get out of training.
But wait, there’s more! What if I come in, guns blazing, and I am doing well. I have found my niche in Jiu Jitsu – it speaks to me and I excel at it as a result. My instructor picks up on this and appreciates it. Whenever I go to him/her with a question, it is happily received and answered. I am feeling more than just satisfaction of training after a few months; I am feeling like part of something bigger than myself. I feel like a part of an extended family. It is great….for me. However, Bob (or whatever name you want to give him) is not feeling this. You see, he joined after my progress had really begun, and he sees how accepted I am by my teachers and training partners. He wants that too, but he is not sure how to get it. But he will try in a couple of different ways:
Alpha-Bob will try to outdo me at every turn. He is progressing well, and trains extra hard, getting all those “good job”s from the instructors, and trying to be very expressive about how well he is catching on. He makes a big display when he performs in class. He puts all his effort into tapping all his opponents with the latest greatest technique he just learned. He gives it all he’s got, especially against me. Now I am his opponent in his mind; not his partner. And it extends beyond the mat. Alpha-Bob tells people how well he is doing, and compliments anyone but me. He tells others that he really doesn’t care much for the way I do a certain technique. He talks to others about how I am just an apple polisher and that is the real reason for my status in class. He would be much better than I am if he had started back when I did, he explains to other students.
Now, how I react to this once it becomes apparent to me is crucial. Either way, I am bound to go through a period of discomfort. And that is heartbreaking now that I have found such utter sanctuary in my academy. If I am unfamiliar with how to deal with this, I may make the supreme mistake of engaging in it. All of the sudden, I am talking trash about Bob, and putting extra effort into tapping him or maybe I correct his technique in front of others. Screw that guy, I was here first! So how do I handle it? How do I fix this situation?
Firstly, if I admit there is a situation at all, I have lost to an extent. Once I label it, I pit him versus me on some level. Now I have cemented the drama. Rather than this, the key lies in not engaging. Notice, I did not say “ignore it.” Alpha-Bob’s feelings are real, and if he directly approaches me to start a dialog, I will not shy from it. I will not however move from my home, just because there is a house guest visiting that does not like me particularly. And that is what he is – a visitor – unless and until he decides to acclimate. So I will continue my journey. I will thrive in my sanctuary, purifying my art and myself internally and externally.
Eventually, Alpha-Bob yields way to Beta-Bob (or whatever you will call him). Beta-Bob recognizes that I will not engage his efforts to fight me. I will not feed his Painbody, as Eckhart Tolle puts it. So, what is he left with? He is left with what brought him in the door in the first place. But even that have metamorphosed into something different. He now has to take inventory of what he has accomplished, and what he must change in order to accomplish more. He must cleanse his perception in order to see the infinite possibilities that truly lie before him in his training. Now he has really begun. After all this time, he has actually just now started his journey.
I make it a point to know something about every student that walks in the door at Three Rivers Academy. And most are more than willing to share – people like to talk about themselves. This is good. I want the students to achieve, among other things at the academy, catharsis. I enjoy the closeness created by knowing these things, good, bad, otherwise. I love my Jiu Jitsu family. And as my family grows (outgrowing the new academy already!), my heart grows, making room for new love for all those that would join my family. But when someone brings ego, jealousy, contempt, insecurity, deception, etc. into my Jiu Jitsu home, it hurts my heart, but I must only help to preserve the purity and sanctity of my environment and hope that everyone else follows suit. Either the person will acclimate or leave, ultimately. I dearly hope they all stay.