“Do you know why race horses wear blinders?
Because they have to focus on running their own race.
Learn to do the same” – Steve Mehr
If you’ve been practising BJJ for a while, you’ll likely have met or heard about the new fighter who turns up at the gym and automatically assumes they will smash everyone because of their size…only to be presented with a huge serving of humble pie when much smaller fighters tap them (and their ego) into next week. This usually results in one of two outcomes: the fighter never steps back on the mats, or they become addicted to jiu jitsu, fascinated by the technicalities executed by much smaller individuals.
Conversely, you might have been training for a significant length of time and one day, a new starter turns up at your academy and picks up the techniques effortlessly. You might disbelieve their claim that they have no background in BJJ, but the truth is some people naturally pick up concepts and techniques much more quickly than others. This can lead to feelings of envy, or even worse, jealousy.
Last year, a timid 19-year-old girl walked into Stealth BJJ Madrid, never having done BJJ in her life. I was paired with her to roll and let her set the pace. It’s no exaggeration to say I had to tap virtually every minute from the meanest armbars I’ve ever experienced! While she was completely new to BJJ, she was ranked the second best judoka in the whole of Spain and her training facility focuses extensively on ground work, in addition to traditional stand up.
Was I envious or jealous? Far from it – I was in complete awe of this amazing girl and wanted to learn from her. We worked together to focus on armbar defences as she was catching me from positions I didn’t even realise you could armbar from. While others might have walked out of that class deflated, I was elated that the club had a new fighter who we could all learn from and I was excited to roll with her again.
A background in judo is a huge advantage but as a black belt, she was unable to compete in BJJ until she gained her blue belt. There were aspects of her game that needed work as while there are similarities between the two, judo isn’t the same as BJJ. Working together has proved beneficial to both of us. She competed for the very first time in February and to say she wiped the floor with her opponents is an understatement.
In August last year, another girl joined my academy with absolutely no background whatsoever in any kind of martial arts. Despite her lack of experience, she is a high-level contemporary and ballet dancer who, at the age of 24, was dancing for 10 hours a day. The sheer level of competition she has faced in her dancing career has enabled her to develop a mindset that will serve her extremely well in BJJ.
She trains every day and her background in dance has set her up perfectly for the persistence, resilience and grit required to succeed in both training and competition. Working in choreography, she is used to putting together long sequences of different movements and is able to memorise them with ease – a hugely valuable tool in BJJ when executing techniques as it’s very easy to omit a step, which can prove costly in competition. She also wiped the floor with her opponents in all her fights in February and came away with a very well-deserved gold medal. Despite having just been awarded her second stripe on her white belt, she regularly taps blue belts.
Both girls are huge assets to Stealth BJJ Madrid and I encourage anyone who struggles with those progressing faster than them to embrace and appreciate the fact you have such talented fighters on your mats. Understand that everyone is different; how you advance is unique and negatively comparing yourself to others only gives rise to feelings of inferiority. Look in the mirror: that is your competition – not your teammates.
Iron sharpens iron and remember: your ego is not your amigo.
Thanks for reading, if you enjoyed this post then you should checkout Teanna's previous blog post: 'The BJJ Fighter Who Never Gives Up'
Have a great day!