"Athletes" In Jiu Jitsu Have It Tough

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber

Athletes Have it Tough
You were a star athlete. You worked really hard for your skills and you should feel good about them, even as you’re being brutally crushed by a 120-lb brown belt. Somehow, you ended up walking through a Jiu-Jitsu academy’s doors. You might not have expected it to be easy, but you were optimistic. You’re an athlete! People don’t even run in this sport. This won’t be so bad. A little weird but I’ll be up and running in no time. Unless you were a wrestler, you probably had no idea what you were in for.

It’s Close, Stays Close and Gets Even Closer
Like whoa, man. Back off of me. Oh wait that’s what we’re supposed to do. The art of distance management in grappling arts makes personal space a thing of the past when you’re on the mat (with proper etiquette observed). You’ve never had so much of another person’s sweat on you before. Certainly not unwillingly. You might have had the urge to tap just from having someone on mount for the first time. Does their face REALLY have to be that close to yours??

Bigger, Faster, Stronger…
Only makes it feel worse. Your strengths matter less here. Physics and timing are cruel teachers. Using strength results in some crazed spider monkey whipping around your best efforts and choking you from the back. Using speed keeps resulting in faceplants and the wrong end of overhead sweeps and reversals. Balance that makes you able to stop and turn on a dime doesn’t really transfer to holding someone in side control or mount. People keep just rolling you over or getting their damn legs in between you again. You try to keep good humor about it but honestly, it’s tough.

You’re Not in as Good Shape as You Thought
Welcome to the law of specificity. Your wind was developed in your sports’ individual ruleset and parameters. Grappling feels primal and can induce a sense of panic at first. Past that, you’re using different muscles. Or the same muscles at entirely new angles of tension. You’re tired, fast. The answer probably isn’t to do anything besides Jiu-Jitsu to build your stamina for Jiu-Jitsu. Extra conditioning will come back in play later. I would probably die if asked to play 10 minutes of soccer but I can roll forever. You need time to adapt to the specific demands of the activity.

Don’t Hurt Yourself
I repeat: you need time to adapt to the specific demands of the activity. Be sore, but uninjured. Gradually build up the amount of time you spend training, because it’s different than whatever you were doing before, and it’s unfair to your body to expect equivalent levels of performance. As in any other training program, your tissues need to figure out what you want in graduated amounts of stress, or you will get injured. Injuries kill momentum and much worse. Skilled training partners will look out for you but you have to listen to what your body is saying first and foremost.

You’re Doing Great
Remember what you were like when you started your other sport(s)? You would never expect Day 1 You to compete with Current You. Things were rough and awkward then too. Take an analytical standpoint and live in the moment. The nice thing is that new opportunities to start fresh happen every time anyone taps or the bell rings again for a new train. Your athleticism will start to come back into play within a few months of regular training if you keep it up with a positive attitude. Strength and size do matter, they just take a backseat to skill.