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Pushing Past Your Mind When You Want to Quit
The deep waters of BJJ. We've all felt them. Whether we are brand new practitioners first starting to roll or veterans which thousands of matches under our colored belts, that feeling that comes over you as you are trying desperately to catch your breath and try to get your muscles to cooperate with your brain and nothing seems to work can be scary for sure.
Unlike someone who is working to exhaustion in the gym, or running sprints or a marathon and pushing to reach their limit, you have one very different nuance to your particular problem. You have another human being who is doing their best to make it worse and to, for lack of a better term, kill you. And in a very nice way, of course.
World class competitors like Tom DeBlass will talk about being willing to metaphorically die on the mats. If we set limits upon what we can do, we will most likely only reach those limits. By saying that he will go till he dies, Tom is saying that he's going to go beyond the point when his mind says he's tired and be willing to go outside of the comfortable level. Bernardo Faria said that the best thing he ever did for competition preparation was to roll with 4-5 (or more) fresh training partners after each tough training session. This forced him to go well beyond his normal level of fatigue and when it came time for the competition, he was more likely to persevere because training had been much more physically challenging.
We all have that time when we first start training when halfway through our round, we want to quit, to give up and catch our breath. It's normal. Even if you're experienced, have developed a fair amount of cardio, to reach this point if you're attempting to push yourself. What should you do at this point? Should you stop, catch your breath and get ready for the next round? Or should you push through? Let's look at some questions to ask and the benefits of pushing through. Of course, if you truly need to stop, please do so!!!
What's the worse that can happen?
Again, make sure you maintain a little self awareness. If there is any hint of injury or you're feeling dizzy, about to throw up, or anything of that nature. Please stop. But if you're simply spent, drained, tired, and nothing is working and you can't catch your breath, what's the worse that can happen if you keep going? You might get tapped? So what.
Maybe you need to change your idea of what a positive outcome is. If you're brand new, rolling a full 5 or 6 minutes can be one of the hardest things you've ever done physically. I have seen so many people who start out BJJ and when they first start rolling they make it to about the halfway point of a roll and want to quit. Soon though, they will begin to make it through an entire round. Then they may sit out one to catch their breath and be back at it. Over time, you will eventually build up your stamina and more importantly your knowledge of jiu jitsu which has a way of extending your stamina, because you're using less strength, you're panicking less, and moving with more control.
So when you hit that wall, say to yourself, you're just going to keep going, to be as defensive as you can and work escapes and get to better positions. Our minds have a way of trying to protect us by telling us that we're tired before we are really physically tired. At the end of the day, our minds mean well. But the need for the mind to protect and self-preserve can have serious negative effects if we prevent it from allowing us to step outside of our comfort zone and challenge our limits.
Push through, survive. Catch your breath and get ready for the next round. You will find that your most exhausted training can be your best as you're not going to be relying on strength. You are not going to be wasting energy. You will be using leverage, technique, and pushing yourself into the deep waters where true change can happen.
What is your goal in training?
On a basic level, we all go into a training match wanting to execute our game, control the positions we find ourselves in and ultimately get a submission or at the very least not get submitted ourselves. But does this have to be the only way we approach training?
You can have different or even many goals within the same training match. Though I may be looking to work my game, there are times that I train when I will focus on bad spots and let myself get put there, or start from those spots, like side control, mount or having my back taken. By working from bad spots over and over, you inoculate yourself to being stuck there and make it much more likely that you will stay calm and work your way out.
There are days when I train that my goal is to simply keep moving the entire match and to not settle in to any position, to rest, catch my breath or regroup. Instead, it will be a constant flurry of positional changes and scrambles in an attempt to build cardio, endurance and to get used to scrambling to new positions and making adjustments to stop someone else's scrambles or escapes.
By taking a look at how you train and how you approach training, you will begin to realize that it's not always about the taps. There are plenty of positive things you can pull out of a roll where you gassed midway through and dig deep, ignoring your mind and pushing to the end. When the bell rings, you can say that you gave it everything you had and didn't stop prematurely. That's jiu jitsu. And by training yourself and your mind to enter those deep waters, you will become a better, mentally stronger, practitioner, competitor, teacher, or whatever role might come your way.
Besides pushing through those tough training sessions, another way you can improve your gas tank is through additional strength and conditioning exercises outside of class. Check out Ethan Benda's "Diamond Protocol" here at BJJ Fanatics. As an older guy, Ethan's conditioning would put the vast majority of 20-something grapplers to shame. You can get it here at BJJ Fanatics!