I first tried BJJ for a reason lots of other women try BJJ – to impress a guy. To my surprise, I discovered almost immediately there was more than just sweaty people wrestling on mats but a great way of getting fit, making friends and discovering yourself.
I’ve been doing BJJ for almost two years now and it’s hard to imagine my life without it – I train 2 to 4 times a week, for 1 to 2.5 hours each time, depending on my work schedule. That’s a decent amount of hours for someone doing full time work, part time study, and wants to see her family and friends on a regular basis. I learnt there’s nothing quite like BJJ to make sure I stay organised and efficient in order to attend training.
Yet wanting to go training and actually going is two very different things. The hardest part about training is actually not talking yourself out of attending. I speak to a lot of other women at my gym and we all experience the same anxiety. When I watch AFL on TV and the player is the lining up for a goal kick, the commentators say “whether he makes this kick is 10% physical, 90% mental”, I’ve often thought that’s a load of bull. But I found that goes around in my head has such a big an impact on my actions. Often before going to a training session (especially a mixed gender class), I would have a self-debate as to whether I should go. I think about whether I’m going to make a fool of myself, whether I will hold back other people in their development because they have to stop to re-coach me through the technique again and again, whether guys will want to train with me when there are an abundance of other more robust looking guys to choose from? It’s so easy to find other excuses to not go because you’re tired, or too busy, or you’re running late and everyone will be paired off already or just having a bad day period. The fact is, once you actually show up to train, the hardest part is done – it all gets easier from there. I’m better at not listening to my anxiety these days – it just takes time to break your own mental hurdles.
BJJ turns discomfort into confidence and empowerment. When you start BJJ you are so far out of your comfort zone, you don’t know which way is up. Being such a close contact sport, getting squished and being stuck on the bottom is common (it still happens to me all the time) and being sub-49 kilos training against bigger people, it’s easy to feel claustrophobic. Yet over time, your threshold in accepting discomfort increases significantly and its allows you to think more clearly or be more patient assessing your options. Realistically, should I ever be in a real life situation where someone is in my personal space and my safety is threatened, I truly believe I will not just freeze but will react with the self-defence and groundwork skills I’ve acquired in BJJ. That is to not the say I am more keen to walk through a deserted park at night, but I am a more confident person for BJJ.
Yet BJJ is truly humbling. You doubt whether you’ve really earned your belt/stripes. Fact is, you’re probably the last person to notice your own progress. While your coach might see how you’re improving, you just see yourself just tapping over and over again. There will always be someone more skilled, quicker, younger and stronger than you, someone who has more time to train. And you will have bad days where nothing you learn sticks. And that’s ok. I don’t do BJJ for the glory. In between getting tapped out, now and then in rolling, I find myself executing a technique for the first time that I learned months ago in class. And I realise I AM improving, I AM getting better than I was yesterday, again I just needed more time to believe it for myself.