Every time I step on the mats, I feel this little wave of fear and self-doubt. Even after 4-5 years of training Jiu Jitsu, I still feel it. It doesn’t matter if its to compete or just to train. The questions that I asked myself may have changed and evolved but the feeling is still there.
What if I get injured?
I’ve had my fair share of injuries; knee injuries, over-extended elbows and shoulders, wrist strains, broken pinky toes and my most annoying at the moment: a neck/upper back injury. Not to mention all the bruises from accidental strikes while rolling. Recently, I did a No-Gi class at the tail-end of my neck injury, I had a swollen ankle (from a Bull Ant bite!!), I got kicked in the head and then kneed in the face. It was hilarious to look back on, not too much fun during! Accidents happen, but unfortunately injuries aren’t healing up as fast as they used to 4 years ago so I’m always afraid of injuring myself and putting myself out of training!
What if I get completely smashed?
Or worse, what if I get completely smashed by someone less experienced than me? Or the ultimate, what if I get completely smashed by someone less experienced, smaller and physically weaker than me??
I know, I know, leave your ego at the door when you step on the mats. But there’s always that little bit that just won’t get left behind!
What if I don’t deserve my blue belt?
When I was nearing the end of my white belt journey (about 3 years into training), I felt an immense pressure! All the people I regularly trained with had been graded up and it was only me left behind. I competed a lot at that time and I felt so much pressure that I absolutely had to win all the time because I’d been a white belt so long and so should technically be better than my less experienced opponents.
When I got my blue belt, at first I felt relieved because I could now start again at the bottom of the pack. Back to being a noob, just that this time I’d be a blue belt noob. But that didn’t last long! I then started feeling the pressure of having to prove to everyone (but mainly to myself) that I deserved getting my blue belt.
Every time I have a hard time on the mat and come off feeling helpless, I feel like a blue belt impostor.
What if I let my ego get in the way?
This is a really big one for me. As you can see, my two “What If’s” up there are completely ego-related. And I know that if I let my ego get in the way, I’m wasting time on the mats because I’m making excuses, I’m being stubborn and close-minded, and I’m probably going to end up injured as well.
What if I give up?
This is my worst fear. The one thing that I feel most confidently about myself if that I don’t give up easily, to the point that I feel it’s what defines my martial arts mentality. And so I feel if I were to step on the mats and just gave up, then I will no longer be who I think I am.
Is it just me?
I’m not sure if other people think or feel this way when they step on the mats. If they do, they certainly hide it well! But I suspect that many people have had at least 1 or 2 of the same kinds of self-doubts and fears that I do.
I don’t think it will ever go away, but it will evolve as it has over the years as I experience different parts of my journey training Jiu Jitsu. And that’s fine, I think a healthy dose of self-doubt and fear is a part of Martial Arts.
So why do I keep stepping on the mats?
There are days when I have absolutely no idea why I put myself through this. But through all that self-doubt and fear, there is one thing I absolutely do not doubt at all:
Whether or not I become a kick-arse Jiu Jitsu-ka or whether or not I ever reach the day that I can confidently smash everyone on the mats, none of that ultimately matters.
What matters is the day that I let any of that self-doubt or fear dictate whether I step on the mats is the day that I give up. And I don’t give up.