If You’re Always Picked Last, It’s Time For YOU To Start Picking
One of the most common sources of anxiety in a jiu-jitsu gym (or, even in PE at school) is the fear of getting picked last. Even as an adult, the feeling of being the last choice in anything is upsetting, especially in a sport that you love.
At some point in our jiu-jitsu journeys, all of us will be the last person standing on the mats. We might have to just sit a round out if there’s an odd number of students in the class, or maybe we truly are the last choice available for someone who doesn’t have a rolling partner yet. It happens to everyone at every level — sometimes, even black belts are left without a partner when none of the students on the mats are up for quite such a challenging round. But when you’re consistently left standing around awkwardly while everyone else rolls, it can take a toll on your self-esteem.
Though this is a situation that affects students of all genders, women in particular experience this frequently in Jiu Jitsu. Whether it’s due to their male teammates wanting to be respectful or it’s due to them believing that women can’t give them a “challenge,” the end result is that many female BJJ students feel undesired as rolling partners.
The other group that this particularly affects is white belts. Sometimes, upper belts do want more of a challenge than newer students can offer… and other times, teammates may simply not want to deal with all the lumps and bumps that come with rolling with a training partner who hasn’t developed solid Jiu Jitsu coordination.
Regardless of the labels that apply to you, if you’re consistently getting chosen last when it comes time to roll, it never hurts to look inward first. Do you find yourself apologising for accidentally kneeing your teammates in the head a lot? Do your teammates frequently have to “panic-tap” because you crank submissions on so fast? Do you give unsolicited advice mid-roll or try to “punish” your teammates after they submit you? Are there ways in which you’re abrasive off the mats that may make your teammates reluctant to spend time near you on the mats?
Regardless of the reasons why you might be getting picked last, be the person to ask others to roll first. Relying on other people to come to you might be the only thing stopping you from being one of the first people in the class to find a partner. Sometimes, people look so shy and reluctant that other students assume they don’t want to be chosen for a roll. Dream big! Find the person you want to roll with, and ask them if they want to take the next round with you. The worst they can say is “no,” and if they do, it never hurts to ask why.
In fact, these “no’s,” though they may sting in the moment, can help ease your concerns or help you become a better grappler. Maybe, for example, the person you asked is injured and is being picky about who they roll with — only a select few trusted teammates. Or maybe they give you honest feedback and let you know that your gi is always unbearably smelly. You’ll never know unless you ask.
It’s impossible to know what’s going through the minds of every person on your team. While it can be nerve-wracking to ask other people to roll, especially when you may be insecure yourself, you can’t blame others for picking you last when you aren’t picking anyone to roll.
Rather than waiting to be chosen, try being the person to do the choosing. You may be pleasantly surprised at just how eager people are to roll with you once you put yourself out there.
Averi is the managing editor for the Jiu-Jitsu Times. She's a brown belt under Nick Hughes of Trinity MMA.
You’ve Got To Enjoy Getting Tapped Out
“You’re not going to win,” Jocko Willink, the one-man inspirational army and former US Navy SEAL, says bluntly about the early years of training jiu-jitsu. “You’re going to lose over, and over, and over again, to people that are smaller than you, weaker than you, not as tough as you, literally.”
An evangelist for discipline, cultivating healthy mindsets, and living to one’s full potential, Willink has been whole heartedly embraced by the mixed martial arts community as both a practitioner and coach, perhaps nowhere more-so than in the BJJ circles he frequently addresses on his Jocko Podcast.
In a recent episode, Jocko responds to a letter from a 50 something-year-old fan struggling with the “I can’t stop getting my ass kicked” frustration that all new grapplers eventually smash into…and that drives many to quit before they ever achieve anything.
So how does one of the most determined men alive push through the frustration of sucking for years at something? First, he radically accepts that BJJ is “a long, slow journey,” encouraging young fighters to stop hating injuries and losses and start enjoying them.
“You’ve got to enjoy the journey. You’ve got to enjoy getting tapped out by someone smaller than you–be amazed by that…say to yourself, ‘Chicks dig scars.’ Don’t look at (injuries and losses) as negatives. Don’t rush to the end, take your time and enjoy the sights!”
But also? If you’re going to make it from white belt to purple and beyond, swallow the ego and train smart.
“Select your training partners carefully. If you’re 54 years old you don’t want to be rolling with a 20-year-old steroid freak white belt that’s trying to kill you. You wanna be rolling with a cool, mellow purple belt that wants to do jiu-jitsu,” he says.
Beyond that, however, Willink–the guy who gets up to go running at 4:30am by choice–reminds listeners jiu-jitsu is supposed to be fun.
“It should be a good time,” Willink explains. “Whatever goal you’re trying to achieve, if you’re letting those frustrations get you down you’ve got to change your attitude. Look at is as something good that’s happening.”
Check out his video, it’s a pretty cool perspective.
How To Stop Injuries
Would you believe me if I told you that 99% of injuries that occur in training ARE avoidable?
The one percent injuries that occur are typically ‘out of the blue’ like a torn calf muscle, or an overuse injury (strains and sprains).
Of the 99% of injuries that occur, they are a shared responsibility between partners. They are equally responsible for the injury as it is their egos that get in the way. Often it will be one partner attempting a technique (that they should have refined to apply correctly) whilst the other is being stubborn attempting to escape, or hold on when they have no opportunity to escape. This happens across all levels of the sport.
Lets have a look at the different athletes and how to identify them.
The ‘ego’ athlete.
You don’t have to be a specific gender or size to be an ego athlete. The ego athlete can be a smaller/weaker partner playing a much bigger or stronger teammate, or, the opposite sex thinking they can beat or can’t be beaten. Either way, it is the EGO that needs to be let go!
Some athletes allow their age to ‘replace’ their ego when they play younger athletes. The attitude of ‘I’m older’ and can’t lose to a younger individual is a frequent instigator. These older athletes are more susceptible to injuries and end up taking time off training regularly to recover. They come back to training and the same thing happens again.
The ‘pride’ athlete.
The excuse athlete is one that will say ‘I’m green’ or ‘no one showed me’. These players use pride as their excuse. Instead of asking for assistance they just try to wrench the submission on.
It costs nothing to look at the belt of the teammate you are about to fight with and ask, ‘how do I do X’? It doesn’t matter if the teammate is a two stripe white belt, at the end of the day they’ve been training longer and might just know something.
The ‘gender’ ego.
Typically is a male playing a female, the ultimate in combat. How can the male lose, come on!
This is pure ego and the male has already lost. Importantly they lose more than their ego, they lose respect from their teammates. The rest of the team sees what goes on and will do one of two things, avoid the ego or go out to destroy it. However, trying to destroy the ego can work in reverse as you can fuel the aggressiveness in the athlete.
This goes the opposite way too where a female may go head hunting a male to make a point. Irrespective of getting the submission or not, their ego got in the way.
The ‘I’ve been training as long’ ego.
Athletes that train infrequently (once every couple of weeks) are more susceptible to ‘injuries’ even more so, as they compare themselves to newer people or ones that may have started when they did.
What they don’t realise is that their teammates may attend training on a regular basis and have the skills to back it up.
Unfortunately the infrequent trainer thinks that their skill set should be the same as their teammates, and be able to either beat them or not be beaten. So instead of taking the sport in their stride, go hard at it and suffer the consequences.
The ‘higher belt’ ego.
This is another classic where the higher belt (can even be the coach) take on the young bull with the intent of making them yield. Only to find out that the younger athlete may be way stronger and fitter. They might lack in the skills, but what they lack in they certainly make up with in other areas.
After training for some time coaches can pretty much tell when an injury is going to occur.
The only injuries that should be sustained at training are from repetitive movements, not stretching regularly or not listening to your body. But even then, we can often avoid those injuries.
More often than not, injuries occur at the novice end of the spectrum because the athlete is still learning to let go of their ego.
Even as a black belt I have to check my ego from time to time when I wrestle. I will have the old bull ego, to stop the young bull who more often than not, is stronger and bigger than me. What ends up happening in this scenario is that I am not playing my game, I’m playing the young bull’s game and trust me when I tell you this, I might not tap out, but I certainly lose with the discomfort the next day.
What to do if your child want’s to quit Jiu Jitsu? – Part 1
Benjamin Franklin was quoted saying, “nothing in life is certain except death and taxes”. I’d like to add to this and say that success and failure is also certain, and all we want in life is to be successful but success means different things to everyone.
It is tough being a Jiu Jitsu parent, but it is even tougher when your child tells you they want to quit and you see the benefit of what the sport has to offer. As a parent, all I want in my life is to know that I have given my children opportunities that will empower them for the future and know that there will be times where they will fall and rise. This has been the most important lesson I have tried to give them. However, quitting has never been an option in anything they have done and they have always been required to see everything through to the finish.
In today’s society as a coach I’d like to say I’ve seen everything (clearly not) but when I see parents ask the child or allow the child to make financial decisions, I shake my head and wonder where did this come from?
These financial decisions I am talking about are related to the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it is from the purchase of uniforms to allowing the child to quit! As a parent it is our job to make financial decisions for our children, sure there might be times where you would like to give them a feeling of ownership within the decision however, it is the parent that is going to hand over the credit/debit card or cash.
The sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is hard. It is unlike Australian Rules Football, Rugby Union or Netball as it is combat based. It is all about time spent on the mat, learning, refining and testing oneself under pressure. The child is going to be sore, tired, lose and win. They will feel like not going at times or may even be intimidated by one of their teammates because they always get beaten by them. If it hasn’t happened to your child yet, it will. They may even want to quit. Our question has to be why they want to quit and how can I get them to remain focused and stay with the sport.
Before you allow your child to quit, as the parent or guardian you have to ask yourself these simple questions; does the place you train at have a positive influence on your child, are there good role models, does the place you train at provide a friendly and comfortable environment and is the coaching consistent? If the answer is yes, the why would you allow your child to quit?
Sometimes our children start Jiu Jitsu because their friends participate in it which is fantastic as it can help take the anxiety away when they first get on the mat, other times it is because the parents have heard from other people about the sport or even the child has indicated they would like the opportunity to experience the sport. Very soon the realisation sets in about how difficult the sport is when they may be being bested on the mat. The child may feel as though they are no good and compare themselves to their friends forgetting that that person may have been at training for a considerable amount of time longer than them.
The sport may not be in ‘vouge’ as their friendship circle changes and other external influences dictate what the child may be interested in. However, if you the parent or guardian sees the benefits that the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu provides then you need to formulate some strategies that will see your child move past this change in attitude.
Parents pushing their children either during or after training, badgering the child asking questions why they didn’t do this or that when they have no idea of what it is like to step on the mat and experience being dominated by another human. Or parents just allowing their child to stop so they can try new things (which is fine but if this is a regular occurrence we may be allowing a bad habit to creep in).
So your child wants to quit, what can you do to change this attitude?
Firstly you should try to communicate with the coaching staff to let them know what is happening. This is important because the athlete may be close to being recognised for their time on the mat and their skill set by being awarded a stripe or belt. This may assist in correcting the course of the child. Communicating with the coaching staff may also give the coaches the opportunity to communicate directly with the athlete, find out what the challenges are and help them find their place again.
Forcing children to do something they don’t want to do is always a fine line to walk as you can make them resent what it is you are trying to achieve, so take that out of the equation straight away. Depending on the age of the child teaching them about commitment and seeing things through until they are completed is the best way about change their attitude. ‘Quitters never win, and winners never quit!’ If we allow our children to just quit a sport because it is not cool, or because they want to try something new doesn’t teach the child about commitment. It also won’t teach them the importance of dealing with hardships either. If they have the opportunity to quit when they want to then they will never understand what it is like to truly achieve a long-term goal.
Teaching children about consequences is very important. As the parent you will know your child better than any Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach and if you have paid for a 12 month training schedule the child needs to understand that there is a cost involved should they quit. Remember earlier when I asked the question of who lets their child make the financial decisions for the family? Well if the child quits before the end of the obligation that they were committed to the parent still has to pay, it might not be on the remainder of the Jiu Jitsu membership but it will be in other forms.
Giving the child athlete some time off is not a dumb idea. The sport is very hard on the body and different to a normal fitness routine. The body is pushed and pulled, put in awkward positions and squashed. Everyone that participates in the sport get sore and it does not get easier. Taking a week off can be a good thing especially if the child is having a negative attitude towards the sport. In this time off take the time to sit and watch a Jiu Jitsu match on YouTube or show the child the clubs Facebook or Instagram page and see if they can find themselves in it. These things will enable the child to reconnect and keep the fire inside burning.
Meeting the child halfway can work in that you may suggest that they train once or twice a week as opposed to four or five. After one of the training sessions it may be an opportunity to take the child to their favourite restaurant or do something fun. This too will enable you to connect with the child and they understand that there is a ‘reward’ post training.
At the end of the day we all want to have strong, confident and resilient children that understand that quitting is never the best option. It is our job as parents to help them make the right decisions and understand consequences.
Reg is a first degree black belt that has travelled and trained extensively around Australia. He is a competitive black belt competing at the national and international level.
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