My Jiu-Jitsu is Frustrating Me


I'm extremely ticked off tonight, partly at myself, partly at my school, and just overall in general. I've been training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu (Brazilian JJ, generically) since October 2008 - so, less than a year, not a whole long time. I'm a white belt. Some day I would like to earn a belt of color, but for now I'm the level I should be.

So why am I upset? Well, a few reasons. First, I got hurt tonight, doing a move the wrong way, but because I didn't know any better. Second, I'm tired of guys from other martial arts coming in and not training or playing "nicely." Third, I don't feel like I'm progressing at all after a night like tonight, which makes me question why I bother. And, fourth, as per usual, I just can't keep my mouth shut sometimes and it just embarrasses the heck out of me.

So. first up, I got hurt tonight (severity TBD, but the ibuprofin seems to be holding for now). During sparring, I ended up paired with a purple belt, and I got into an armbar situation. When I spar, I try not to get into this situation as it pretty much sucks, and I tap out as soon as the arm is locked in. I will work to resist it whenever possible (such as by locking my hands), but in the end, I just don't have the strength (or maybe energy or experience) to get out of it.

Well, so, tonight, I had the mistaken notion that you roll into your opponent towards the arm being locked, and so did this, and seemed to achieve success as I was able to get a foot onto this purple belt's shoulder and break his grip. Or so it seemed. However, before I could change position, he grabbed my arm again, and when I tried the same technique, he locked it out and when I rolled back down to a flat position, the result was a hyper-extension of my elbow. It really freaking hurt.

It was at this point that our black belt instructor told me this was all my fault for resisting and not tapping out right away. However, I have two issues with this. First, it turns out that my higher ranking opponent had let go the first time to keep me from hurting myself, but didn't bother to say anything to me (something along the lines of "you're going to get hurt if you keep doing that" would have been appropriate). Second, as far as I've been trained, it is the responsibility of the higher skilled person to look out for the safety of the lesser skilled person. In this case, it is the responsibility and obligation of the purple belt to do their best to make sure I don't get hurt. It should have been clear I didn't realize that I was doing something potentially dangerous, and so he should have stopped and pointed it out to me.

To say I'm extremely upset about this is an understatement. I still cannot believe that he actually let go of the armbar the first time and then didn't say anything to me. To me, this violates the trust that we place in each other during training. IRRITATING!!!! I mean, seriously, how can I go back to this school and train with these people if I cannot trust them to do the right thing. Where is the sense of shared responsibility? These "hard lessons" that can be prevented by stopping and saying something are so inappropriate.

Next up, I'm getting tired of the cross-over martial artists who can't control their actions and do patently harmful things. Back in January at my school in Virginia I was sparring with a guy who had been doing more Muay Thai than JJ and he gave me a bloody nose and tongue because he threw elbows during sparring. I now where a mouth guard and headgear as a result, but it doesn't always help.

Tonight during the training portion of class I ended up paired with a guy who is also a judo black belt. He has excellent balance, as you might expect. This is all good and fine, but during training, you need to work with your partner to let them learn the new moves. While he claimed that he wasn't actively resisting on one particularly challenging move, it was clear that he was not being helpful, either. His balance was too good, and he had 30 lbs on me, so trying to sweep him simply wasn't happening. Very frustrating.

Later, during sparring, he also hit me with elbows a couple times. The last blow that put me down hard was a knee to the solar plexus. We were rolling and he didn't just come over on top of me with his knee, but literally rolled and landed hard, driving his knee into my stomach and above. It took the wind right out of me and left me woozy. Maybe I'm just wimpy, but I thought the point of sparring was to learn in a simulated fight, not to beat the crap out of your opponent.

Another sparring opponent later had considerable other martial arts experience of the striking variety and threw me off with some of his technique. While he never struck me, he came very close enough times, and with my having already been struck, it made me flinch and lose advantage. More annoying was having a thumb grabbed alone to pry off a grip. At least when I said "whoa, careful!" he listened and released, but man, I tell ya, whatever happened to understanding basic rules here?

Third, I'm extremely frustrated with my progress, or lack thereof. Last week I felt like I might be getting better. Tonight I feel like I don't even belong in the kids' class. If I'm not progressing, I don't know that I belong in this sport any longer. It's not worth the injuries, the bruises, and the general malaise. I'm eager to learn, but at what expense? I don't want to end up being the only 20-year white belt in the history of the discipline. I now question whether or not to compete in December as originally planned as I'm thinking I will simply get my butt handed to me, which is not instructive or worthwhile. It's depressing and demoralizing to face mortality and think that this may be something for which I'm simply not equal to the challenge.

Last, but not least, I feel like an idiot tonight because I just can't keep my mouth shut. I talk through my problems (hence blog posts like this), and people simply don't understand that. And then there are times when I say things to other people to be helpful and then realize I really have no place to say anything and should be focusing on my own problems. I'm sure it did not escape the attention of others when I made a suggestion to someone else struggling with one of the moves I was actually understanding tonight. In retrospect I feel like a complete idiot. Of course, I wonder if my "hard lesson" was related to that comment (probably not, but you never know - if it is, it would certainly further reduce my trust in this school). There are times when I have these searing realizations that I really just need to shut the frack up. I wish I would have these realizations before I said something rather than well after the fact. It's embarrassing and stupid. Grrr.

So, anyway, that's my reason for being awake still here at 11pm+. After having a highly productive day at work, I went to Jiu-Jitsu and got beaten to a pulp, possibly injured, and really just feel completely worthless about my ability to progress. There are probably lessons to learn here, but I wonder if one of them might be "quit while you're ahead" (that is, not truly injured seriously). Darn it all. :(


I've been studying Traditional Aikido (Iwama Style) and Wing Tsun nearly 2 years. Both are very hard to learn. Especially Aikido. It is really a long way. After 20 months of work sometimes I feel like an idiot. So I really understand what you mean.

I'm not a bad student. I feel it because I compare myself with black belts whom started aikido 5-6 years earlier than me. It's really an evolution/revolution process. You feel like you learn nothing about 3-4 months. Than one day you find out that you learned lots of things. Than it starts again. It's hard to explain (And my English not good enough).

I'm not sure about your dojo. But we have strict rules. Nobody can hurt beginners. It's always senior's fault. No matter how they acted. You have to protect your uke. Of course there has been accidents. But you can see how much your seniors sorry for you. And this makes easy to forget and respect.

Our sensei doesn't accept students who simply wants to hurt other people. That kind of students couldn't stand long in our dojo. It's a culturel thing. And well meant students learn it very quickly.

I hope you won't give up. But I think your trainers must be remembered real meaning of martial arts.

@E. Erdem -

Thank you! Your comments, and similar comments from a couple other people, have really helped me remember that this is a long process and patience and persistence is important.


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This page contains a single entry by Ben Tomhave published on August 26, 2009 1:40 AM.

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