I have begun my fouth month as a BJJ student. The longer I study this beautiful martial art the more I see interesting parallels between it and a good relationship. In this case I'm thinking of my husband, but it could be anyone that you are close with.
For instance, in order to be successful at all in BJJ you have to be willing to be completely vulnerable. Every time I walk onto the mat I expect to end up hurt and beaten. That is not negative thinking, that is just plain ol' realism. Of course, these beatings are occasionally followed by brief moments of joy when I magically (or accidentally) perform an armbar or kimora; but these moments are few and far between. I have essentially developed an expectation of failure, and yet for some reason I and many others continue to give everything we've got on the mat and experience that failure over and over again. Is that all that different from being vulnerable to your friends, family, or spouse? I submit to you (pun intended) that it is impossible to love anyone without becoming vulnerable to them. Yet we do so anyway, because the rewards of a healthy and vibrant relationship are TOTALLY WORTH IT. And this is true of BJJ as well. The rewards of allowing myself to become vulnerable on the mat are worth every bruise, scrape, headache, backache, neckache, and sleepless night. Rewards that include a sense of pride unmatched by anything else I have accomplished, a sense of strength that goes beyond the physical and permiates into the deepest parts of my soul and spirit, and a sense of belonging that I have experienced in no other avenue.
Another parallel you might draw between BJJ and a good relationship is that it exposes both the strongest and the weakest parts of your personality. Even starting this venture highlights one of my strengths, and that is that I refuse to be intimidated by something unkown or seemingly dangerous...and/or stupid. Walking into a gym full of buff dudes who looked like they could crush me with their little finger was hard, but I did it, and I keep doing it. On the other side of that optomistic coin, it has also shown me in sharper detail a definite weakness that I have struggled with my entire life, and that is an unwillingness to FINISH things. When I get tired from rolling I tend to just, stop. I've never had to push myself really hard to finish anything. Even growing up, having not been involved with any team sports or any thing like that, I didn't learn how to be accountable to other people. If I am only accountable to myself it is easy to justify any decision. Like, "I'm going to leave 10 minutes early tonight so I can have time to wind down and get a good night's sleep". Well, yes, that is very reasonable. However, it requires leaving class 10 minutes early and it's a convenient little way of avoiding the pain of pushing to the end. Obviously I have identified this particular weakness and am currently working on some strategies to strengthen that area.
And like any good relationship, the better you get, the further you realize you have to go. There is no 'end'. There is always, always, always going to be someone better than me in this sport. Always. But that's no reason to quit!
Let's keep on keepin' on, folks!
Thanks for reading,