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Starting something new will always carry with it an element of uncertainty, risk and difficulty. The choice to start jiu-jitsu is in some regards an acceptance of the risks and uncertainty of starting something new.

As with life in general, the greatest opportunities for growth lie on the precipice of the unknown, in times of discomfort and through overcoming adversity.

Having just passed the one-year mark of my jiu-jitsu journey, it is a good time for me to reflect on some of the most important lessons I’ve learnt from jiu-jitsu, What I’ve gotten from jiu-jitsu and also my favorite aspects of jiu-jitsu

My three most important anecdotal lessons from jiu-jitsu to date as of 2020:

You’re going to suck AND things are going to suck- for a long time. You’ll feel uncoor

dinated and confused when drilling and defenseless when rolling- once you’ve been exposed to the staggering skill curve and skill ceiling of jiu-jitsu you soon realize the massive scope of the journey you’ve begun and you may also feel a bit intimidated. However! allowing yourself to be bad at something is the first step to improving. Inversely, refusing to allow yourself to lose in order to salvage your ego is a pernicious concept that will do immeasurable damage if you allow yourself to continue with this line of thinking. Being beaten is part of the learning pr

ocess and refusing to be beaten is denying yourself a chance to grow and improve both as a person and as a martial artist. For now, just remember that improvement is an incremental and active process and that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, sometimes that first step is just to walk through those doors and put in the hours. Everyone including the untouchable black belts and the elusive purple belts has had to start where you are now and it may seem impossible at first but the saying “black belts are just the white belts that didn’t give up” exists for a reason and goes to show that turning up, leaving your ego at the door and being open to learn is a dead simple surefire way to improve.

The people around you are both an immeasurably valuable resource and also some of the best people you’ll meet. In a learning capacity, being surrounded by people who are also actively trying to improve and learn aids massively in helping you improve. The common goal that exists between you and your training partner also does wonders for creating a relaxed and friendly atmosphere thanks in no small part to the attitudes and beliefs of the teaching staff- whose own personalities will serves as the se

ed from which the club or gym’s own atmosphere and personality will grow. Having visited other gyms on occasion I can confirm from my experience that- competitive coaches breed competitive gym culture, and in the case of Eastside, friendly and relaxed coaches equate to a friendly and relaxed gym culture/atmosphere.

Don’t concern yourself with an end date, it’s a lifelong journey. Setting nearsighted goals in an attempt to justify the time and effort you invest has been a trap I’ve tried very carefully to avoid. An example of this thinking may be “Man I can’t wait to get my stripe, belt promotion etc. then I’ll feel so much better” But what happens when you achieve your goal? Maybe you

feel demotivated by the fact that you’ve achieved your goal and yet you feel no better- because you’ve been exposed to just how much you still don’t know. The cycle of- sucking, improving and sucking again seemingly repeats itself indefinitely and I see it (or at least I think I do) in many of my teammates and also in myself. My personal solution and also my recommendation to others is to focus on “just getting better”, learning that submission that you still screw up, fixing and improving what you already know and slowly adding to your repertoire of moves. Focusing on an abstract concept as your goal as opposed to a fixed point in time allows you to continually improve without having to constantly readjust your goal and worry about losing motivation.

Final thoughts

The main takeaway from my first year of jiu-jitsu is to embrace everything. Embrace the process of sucking and improving, embrace your teammates both as training partners and as people and embrace the journey you’ve begun.

Andrew Helding



East Side Jiu Jitsu is an inclusive, family friendly and community focused Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy offering a holistic approach to martial arts and self-defence. As a member of the Carlson Gracie Federation, East Side Jiu-Jitsu is proud to be continuing the legacy of Carlson Gracie in Australia.

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