“Every time you make a payment, there’s a receipt.” That’s what I was told to conclude a conversation with a seasoned martial arts instructor. It started the development of an idea in my mind: If you trust in the process and are prepared to do what is required, you will reap a positive outcome. I want to elaborate on this concept in this post with close reference to Jiu-jitsu, promotions, competition and work ethic.
The process of learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Anyone who has practiced BJJ for any length of time will tell you that it is not a quick process. It is a long, physical and emotional process that never stops. I put a gi on for the first time in 2012 as a young, naive university student… I never thought I would have experienced so much personal development purely because of BJJ. The process of learning, confronting & overcoming challenges, experiencing victory & loss before finally seeing progress, all of this is what it means to do Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. You must respect that everyone has to undergo this process. Even the seasoned veterans on the mats started out with a white belt, learning how to hip escape and getting tapped innumerable times before they got to where they are. Respect that you will have to do this to.
No one is too important or special, BJJ does not care how much money you make or how many followers you have on Instagram or likes you have on Facebook. The process will be the same for you as it has been for all of those that have come before you. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can start to reap positive outcomes from your efforts.
A promotion is an acknowledgement that you have undertaken a chapter within your journey. Whether it’s a stripe on your belt or a new color being tied around your waist, no one forgets the feeling of a promotion. However, seeking promotion purely for the accolade is not what it’s all about; this is a sign that you haven’t invested your faith fully in the process. You will receive recognition of your efforts in due time, if you are putting in the work and engaging in the process as presented to you by your instructors.
I think everyone struggles with this at some point. We allow our egos to become involved when we start thinking about promotions. BJJ does not care about your ego or your opinion of yourself; if you’ve put in the effort (if you’ve made the payment), you will reap the rewards (you’ll get the receipt).
If you haven’t received what you think you deserve, then it’s time for some self reflection to consider why it is you did not.
Firstly, not everyone’s goal is to compete and that is okay. Secondly, competition is a very effective way to receive feedback on how your skills and ability stack up against opponents of a relatively equal level. If you lose, this is an opportunity for you to learn from the mistakes that lead to your loss and rectify them. If you win, you were better on the day due to your preparations and (hopefully) your consistency and work ethic in the training room. Either way, you should not be resting the validity of your skills on the results of a single competition.
Win or lose, no one is going to care about the results in a week or two. Unless you’re competing at the highest level, your results will only hold importance to you and your opponent for any meaningful length of time. That was the most relieving advice I was ever given about competition. I used to get stressed out and hyper nervous about competition until a friend, who came to watch me compete, reminded me that no one will give a fuck about any of it in the long run. All that matters is that your learning continues, you continue to grow into a proficient grappler and develop as a good human.
At the core of all of this is work ethic. If you are willing to put in the work, you will reap the rewards.
One of the most poignant examples of this that I have seen recently was whilst travelling to Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. On any given day at Tiger there are hundreds of people attending classes, working towards their own specific training goals. While others rested during the heat of the day, a core group of professional fighters push themselves to the limits of human endurance in preparation for their upcoming bouts in international mixed martial arts promotions.
These are human beings who understand the concept of work ethic and trust that, in their dedication and preparation, they are engaged in wholly in the process of learning & improving as martial artists, humans and as warriors.
In retrospect, their efforts lead them to resounding victories and success in their fights. I was inspired to see the amount of effort they put into their training, and it has pushed me to higher levels of intensity in my own. After seeing the levels of intensity these battlers put into their training, I knew I had to approach my own with the same mindset if I was ever to be satisfied in the training room or on the competition mat.
At the very core, there is no compromise when it comes to investing time and effort into the process. You get out exactly as much as you put in. If you aren’t happy with the result, then you need to reflect on the preparation. We get no receipts for payments we do not make.
Thanks for reading.