The Importance of Embracing the Grind
Very often we hear tell of this always within reach, but never actually attainable “grind”. We are told to embrace it, we are told to savor it, and the best of us strive for it on a day to day basis. The grind is important to sports in general, but holds a special place in one on one combat, including but not limited to grappling and jiu jitsu.
“The grind” refers to the inherent suffering and literal grind of training. In grappling it literally refers to the sensation of the mat rubbing against you, your gi rubbing against you, and of course person’s pressure and intensity grinding on you. The grind hurts. The grind is uncomfortable. And the reality is that the grind is what is required to really be able to say that you put hard work in.
The grind can mean different things to different people. It can be reflected in how a person drills or in how they roll. It can show up in who you choose as your training partners. Here is a hint: if you want to embrace the grind, always seek someone out who gives you no quarter, someone who forces you to work. If your training partner is too much better than you, you will not be able to really put in work on the right level, if they are not even close to as good as you, you will not really have a challenge. For this reason, when it comes to “The grind” it may be best to choose people just above your skill level.
To take it a step further, who you train with is not as important as HOW you train. If you sit out between rounds, you are not embracing the grind, if you show up late and leave early you are not embracing the grind. However if you are present and working the entire training session you are on your way. And it is not easy. You have to push and motivate yourself on days that you do not feel like it.
Another crucial aspect of The Grind is your willingness to put it on the line should the opportunity present itself. Competition is not necessary to excel in jiu jitsu, but short of using your jiu jitsu in a fight (MMA or street) it is very likely the best way to test and push yourself and really see how your jiu jitsu stacks up against that of others. It also teaches you how you react to a level of stress that is unavailable to you in the comfort and confines of your gym.
There are three major aspects of being a successful grappler: technique, physical prowess (speed, flexibility and strength) and toughness. If you are technical but very weak and weak minded/not tough, your technique will likely fail you. Technique is a must for toughness and physical prowess to play a roll, but once your technique is up to par, toughness is the most important aspect. And the only way to develop toughness is through the grind.
But how does “The Grind” develop toughness? It is similar to a Muay Thai fighter conditioning their shins. We gradually callous our minds to the point at which bad positions and situations do not evoke terror. We become capable of maintaining our composure regardless of where we may wind up, and thus are able to mount intelligent defenses and even attacks from positions and situations that before would have left us clueless and ineffective.
The only way to really become excellent at jiu jitsu or grappling in general is the grind. There are people who can make it all the way to black belt without ever truly embracing the grind, but those people will never make it to the podium, and those people are not really experiencing everything jiu jitsu has to offer. The best way to know that you have experienced and embraced the grind is when everything else in life seems easy in comparison to your training sessions. If you reach that level, you are embracing it and you will see benefits from it.
Check out this video in which Bernardo Faria talks about the work he has put in to reach his significant accomplishments.