In November of 2008, Conan wrote a post on The Jiu-Jitsu Fighter called “What Motivates You to Train”. It would be another five months before I started training Jiu-Jitsu, but I was already interested in it at the time, and I read Conan’s blog because he was the head Jiu-Jitsu instructor at our dojo, where I was a brown belt in Karate.
In that post, Conan said one of the things that had motivated him in the beginning of his training was the desire to someday be as good as his teacher, Darin. I left a comment on that post, which was the first time I had ever commented on a blog in my entire life…
What about the prospect of training without ever being better than anyone else, just to improve yourself? I had to come to that conclusion in Karate, I will probably never be able to beat most of my Sensei, and I may never be really be GOOD at it, but the quest for perfection of the art is motivation enough for me. In the process I become stronger, mentally and physically, and hopefully gain some ability to defend myself. The only person I care to beat is my past self, and that’s the only person I gauge my success against. If not, I would have quit Martial Arts a long time ago.
Even though at the time I was talking about Karate, that statement holds just as true for my BJJ training today. I am motivated by improving myself, not by being better than anyone else. I’m not a competitive person by nature, and even though I do compete in tournaments, I’m not even completely comfortable with winning (although it’s definitely better than losing!). I didn’t start training Jiu-Jitsu because I wanted to be able to hurt people, but because I wanted to be able to stop them from hurting me.
One of the other people who left comments on that blog post was Big Andy…
Gina, thank you specifically for the response and I respect where you are with your training and how you approach it. I wish I was at that point where my training was more intrinsic, but I still use others to gauge my success. Sometimes the gains are so minuscule in our sports, I’m not patient enough to not look outside myself to see improvement…To a fault Gina, I am still too hard wired on the competitive aspect of this sport.
Not too long after I started training Jiu-Jitsu, Andy quit. He actually sent me a personal message saying that he didn’t know how to let go of his competitiveness, and because he was so focused on “winning”, it just wasn’t very much fun for him anymore, even though he was able to beat most of the people in class.
The good thing about being motivated inwardly instead of outwardly is that I always have a reason to keep going, because I can always get better. The bad thing about it is that I am never satisfied, because I can always get better. Then again, what would I do if I was satisfied…quit? Even if I could beat everyone, I’m not getting any younger, and I wouldn’t be able to beat them forever, so I think any ego boost that comes from comparing yourself to others is a temporary motivator, at best, and won’t serve you well if you want to last a lifetime in BJJ.