Editor’s Note: We run occasional guest posts from members of the jiu-jitsu community, and would love to run more. If you would like to submit one, please e-mail us. This is one we received from a competitive blue belt in North Carolina, in “open letter” format. We liked it a lot and hope you do, too.
To the girl who thinks she can’t do it:
As I look back over the past 2 years of my life, I am almost unable to fathom how much everything has changed.
Two years ago, I was sitting in the breakroom at work talking to an old friend, when he broke the news. I found out the guy – that just a year earlier I thought I was going to marry – just became a father. He was starting a family, a life, and I was just sitting in the breakroom. Granted, I didn’t want to be a mother at 23, but this news hit me like a ton of bricks. (I now know that no one has their life together at 23, but at the time it felt like my world was falling apart).
The situation slowly sunk in and weighed heavy on me.
What the hell am I doing?
My best friend is married. My ex is a father. Other people are making lives for themselves, creating families, moving … they are moving and I am stuck.
I am stuck and have no clue how to change it.
A few months later, a friend invited me out to a kickboxing class. Sure, I saw Never Back Down: that seems kind of cool! We went through our intro and I thought that was it, until one of the coaches told us we could stay for the next class: Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
“Nope, they are wearing weird robes. This looks so weird. PASS.” But my friend talked me into staying with her to check it out. The next day, we signed up.
Slowly (very slowly) I started sort of learning. But it was hard and strange and I couldn’t find the motivation to really push myself. Instead, I found excuses not to go. I was busy at work, traffic was horrible, my friend couldn’t make it so I couldn’t go either.
And there was NO WAY I was actually going to grapple someone.
And then I did. After a week of trying to talk my way out of it, my coach made me roll with a purple belt. A PURPLE BELT. That did not help boost my self-esteem one bit. I felt like I was a lost cause, like I was never going to figure this out.
But one day I stopped. I stopped making excuses. I stopped thinking I was hopeless. I stopped letting my self-doubt keep me from training. I started going to the gym 4 days a week. I became friends with the people I trained with. I found a support system — people to keep me motivated, accountable and honest with myself.
JUST DO IT. Just make yourself do it.
Emotionally, I was getting settled. Physically- I still had no clue what I was doing. But at that moment, I realized that didn’t matter. My first obstacle was myself.
Stop being dramatic, stop the self-loathing, stop thinking you’re not good enough.
One year ago, I never thought I would sign up for a tournament, much less multiple tournaments. Every time I thought I understood a technique or movement, I quickly learned it was not as simple as I thought. Time to focus on the physical.
I have always been fairly athletic, but jiu-jitsu is not about being athletic. To me, it’s more like using your body to solve a puzzle. Movement, flexibility, endurance – all areas I needed to work on. Along with how to solve puzzles.
With help from my coaches, I started breaking things down. Smaller drills, smaller obstacles, smaller goals. Slowly, but surely, I found myself fitting puzzle pieces together and feeling more comfortable with actually grappling.
How do you start moving when you’re stuck? You throw yourself into the most uncomfortable place you can think of.
So there I was, standing at the edge of the mat about to start my first match at my first tournament. My mind instantly went blank when I was on the mat and shook hands. I got the takedown. I got to mount. I got an arm bar. (I don’t actually remember any of these things happening, but the video after proved it to be true).
This was the first time I put myself up against anyone outside of my gym. The first time I realized I can actually do this. I am actually doing this.
I won. Then I won again, 8 times. 4 golds. I, being the big sappy ball of emotions that I am, found myself almost in tears at the end of the day. What the hell? HOW DID I DO THAT? What just happened?
A year before, I didn’t know a single thing about jiu-jitsu and now I had actually accomplished something. Yes, I was still a white belt. Yes, I still knew almost nothing. But I was there, I stepped out on the mat, and I did it.
More importantly, I realized I wanted to keep doing it. Training, competing, learning. This all felt right. I felt myself moving.
This was now my thing.
Since then, I have received my blue belt. I have competed against ladies who have trained more than twice as long as I have. I have won and lost. But in my mind, I didn’t lose.
Ok, yes, I didn’t win — but I learned (we all know the quote). Every time I step on the mat, class or competition, I learn. Sure, I learn techniques and positions and really cool ways to flip upside down and sweep someone. But that’s not really why I’m there.
In the past two years, I have learned more about myself than I thought was possible. I have challenged myself, stepped outside my comfort zone, and accepted who I am. I have learned to protect myself. I have learned to love myself.
I am on my journey. My path is not the same as my married best friend, or as my ex and his new family. It is mine alone. I have stopped comparing it to everyone else’s and learned to love it as my own.
If an emotional, dramatic, self-pitying, 23-year-old can do it, you can do it. I promise you. Find what pushes you, find your team, find your home.
You. Can. Do. It.
–The Girl Who Thought She Couldn’t Do It