60-Day BJJ Weight Loss Challenge – Trip’s Week 3 Blog: The Mental Game

Copa Jiu-Jitsu provides a one-of-a-kind blend of physical conditioning and practical self-defense in a supportive and fun environment. One student chose to document his experience with our methodology over 60 days to see how quickly our system produces results. These are his unedited journal entries.

Week 3

Weight: 243 lbs

So, the weight loss slowed a bit this week. I only lost 1 pound. The diet didn’t change, but the workouts were a little lighter this week than normal (I was able to do 3 classes, but I wasn’t able to do Wednesday night, and the school was closed Saturday for the US Grappling Tournament, at which Team Mack the Knife had a great showing: 15 medals total).

As promised last week, I’ll touch on the mental aspect of not only training jiu-jitsu, but the overall lifestyle change (diet, sleep, etc.).

One of the things that I’ve struggled with in jiu-jitsu is something that I’ve always had a hard time with: pushing myself to succeed when the going gets tough. This has been a pattern throughout my life. As a kid growing up, I wasn’t athletically gifted, but I excelled in other areas (music and academics). It wasn’t because I worked harder than others, I just happened to go with my natural talents and aptitudes, and the path of least resistance took me pretty far—but this was ultimately not fulfilling. I was able to work in music and pay the bills, but I always felt like I was somehow faking it… I didn’t feel like I truly earned or deserved success, because I hadn’t truly sacrificed anything worthwhile for what I had achieved.

This changed when I decided to train in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. I had done some half-assed training in boxing and Muay Thai, but the one martial art that I kept coming back to was jiu-jitsu. After a lot of reflection, I’ve realized that jiu-jitsu is compelling and even vital to me, because the practice of jiu-jitsu is the most reflective mirror into my character that I’ve ever experienced. This can be said about a lot of practices. Hundreds of books have been written about the martial arts alone with regards to how diligent practice in a given martial art can temper and mold a person (not unlike a sword being fashioned from repeated exposure to heat and hammering). In another sense, I have been compelled to continue training in jiu-jitsu because, frankly, I kind of suck at it. Any progress I’ve made in jiu-jitsu is a result of actual sweat, tears, and (sometimes) blood. This is the first practice in my life in which I don’t wish to take the path of least resistance. However, old habits die hard, and in training, I often encounter the “Old Me”; that devious part of myself that says “You don’t need to do this… You can take a break… Sit this round out.”

I asked my Mack about this after class this week, and we began discussing a book that we had both read, “The Fighters Mind” by Sam Sheridan. This was a collection of interviews and reflections with some of the fight world’s premier practitioners: people like Dan Gable, Randy Couture, and Marcelo Garcia (to name a few). Mack mentioned that he had personally drawn a lot of inspiration from reading about Dan Gable, probably the greatest wrestler who ever lived. Gable’s work ethic in training, competition, and coaching was legendary: the man had no quit in him, and much of this was due to the fact that he outworked everyone in the sport. Mack said that on the plane to Brazil to compete in the Pam Am’s a few years back, he drew upon some of Dan Gable’s quotes to psych himself up for competition. Taking my cue from my coach, I began re-reading “The Fighters Mind”, but also investigated other sources of inspiration.

I happened upon a YouTube clip of an interview with a retired Navy SEAL, who said something really profound that stuck out to me: “There are only two ways a man can be stopped: Either he gives up, or he dies”. Perhaps it was the simplicity of this assertion that was so poignant to me. Nevertheless, I can recall during training this week, when we were doing our warm-ups, I repeated this quote to myself (I have a very clear image of being on my back doing “Upside-down crabs”, engaging my abs/core to prevent an opponent passing my guard). It’s often during this drill that at some point I say “fuck it” and put my feet down, pretend to adjust my belt, whatever: however, reflecting upon the simple truth that I was in complete control of whether I continued past the pain and burning in my gut seemed to give me added strength, at least in the moment. I won’t say that I completed the drill in the most graceful way, but the drill itself took on a different quality when I repeated the quote in the midst of the physical discomfort—there was a meditative, purposeful feeling that replaced the “Oh man, this sucks! Why am I doing this?” voice that has drowned out a part of myself that has remained dormant for so many years—that part being one imbued with inner strength and resilience, willing to meet a challenge. I experienced real clarity of purpose in this moment, and it is something that I would like to hang onto, or at least revisit as my training progresses. There is something incredibly empowering about making a choice to sacrifice comfort and safety to push oneself towards their true potential.

Again, this is what is so beautifully compelling about jiu-jitsu for me: Jiu-jitsu doesn’t lie. You will ultimately have to face that which you fear most about yourself. It will uncover parts of yourself that you wish to remain hidden. Personally, jiu-jitsu has exposed and issued a challenge to that side of me that has counseled me to take the path of least resistance, to skate by without having to really understand the value in hard work and sacrifice. In order to proceed and excel to any degree in jiu-jitsu (and in all other areas of my life), I will have to shed that part of myself like an old skin. It’s a scary prospect, because I don’t know what sort of person will emerge from this practice. I am certain, however, that whoever does emerge will have done so through hard work, and that it will have been earned—not given.

Sorry if this entry seems a bit preachy, but this is a topic that I spend a lot of time thinking about, and one which carries as much value to me as my physical training. Next week, I’ll take a moment to reflect on how I’ve been trying to navigate my “day-to-day” responsibilities such as work, marriage, and other responsibilities while maintaining a pretty strict regimen of diet and jiu-jitsu training. Thanks for reading.

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