Sir Conan has said he’s glad he didn’t start training Jiu-Jitsu until he was older, because by then he’d left his competitive days behind, so he had nothing left to prove. Not that he hasn’t competed in BJJ, it’s just that he doesn’t feel the same pressure as he did when he was younger, and now he’s really only in competition with himself.
Although I began grappling at the same age as Conan, when I started Jiu-Jitsu I felt like some of my fellow students took me as a joke, so I did think I had something to prove, and sometimes I pushed myself too hard because of it. I wanted to be taken seriously, I wanted to be able to keep up, and I didn’t want to be a burden to my teachers or training partners.
Whenever someone acted like I was a waste of their time, it reaffirmed my insecurities, and made me want to show them they were wrong. The last thing I wanted to do was seem weak, so when I first injured my knee in Jiu-Jitsu class several years ago, I didn’t even stop rolling right away, and I didn’t take much time off afterward (also partially because I was already addicted ;), but I now realize how stupid that was, and since then I’ve had ongoing issues with my knee.
Professor Greg once told me that recovery is an important part of BJJ, and I believe him, so when I recently tweaked my back in class, I resolved that I wouldn’t return to training until it no longer hurt and I knew it wasn’t serious, which thankfully only took a week. I was able to fully participate in the advanced class Monday night, but if my back had started bothering me again during training, I would have stepped out, and I wouldn’t have given a flying triangle fuck if someone had thought I was just being lazy and using it as an excuse, because my own opinion is the only one that really matters to me anymore.
I guess I’ve finally gotten to the point where I believe that if all of the time and energy I’ve invested in Jiu-Jitsu doesn’t prove that I deserve respect, then nothing will, and I’m not going to risk my body to try to change someone’s mind. I will push as hard as I can to improve myself, but I’ll no longer go beyond what’s safe or smart to try to prove myself to anyone.