As practitioners seeking longevity in the grappling arts, we are bound to the cycle of experiencing ups and downs, peaks and valleys, inspired energy, and plateaued progress as our skills grow. The key to navigating this process is to understand that it is normal, and more importantly, it is necessary.
These elements can take many forms and present us with a unique learning opportunity each time we face a new dynamic. This can be an acute process, such as a mixed experience in competition or rolling. It can be a prolonged process with emotional attachment such as an injury or illness event. It can even be a long form process of simply falling in and out of love with the art overall, leading to periods of absence after periods of extreme consistency.
All of these will likely be experienced in some way, and I am of the firm belief that we stand to gain a great deal from understanding the reasons why they happen as well as challenging ourselves to think differently about our experience, learning from the cycles and stopping them from repeating.
A quick example is, of course, when we win a match in competition or have success in implementing smooth technique in training, we feel good about our achievement and can sometimes over do our response by revelling in the success. This leads to a level of complacency and a lack of drive to improve. Conversely, we may lose a match or have a bad experience in rolling and again dwell on the negatives of those scenarios, blocking us from seeing the lesson in the failing.
In each example, what we are presented with is an opportunity to develop the skills of acute resolve and composure, allowing us to employ an emotionally levelled approach to grappling and ensuring longevity in it. When we win, we stay humble and composed, disallowing too much of an emotional peak which normalises the experience and allows us to move through it healthily to gain the next piece of information for progress. As for the loss or poor experience, we gain the ability to immediately rectify our mistakes by seeing them for what they are and having the mental clarity to move ahead to the next match with renewed confidence, understanding that adversity was faced and overcome as well as new details unlocked.
When an athlete suffers injury, this often highlights to us how strong our bond with the art has become as we feel that initial hit of detachment and isolation. We can feel disconnected from our peers, our goals, our progress, and for some, our dreams. When this occurs, the next opportunity for growth has arrived.
A common trait of a practitioner who has faced this down is that they reflect on their learning capability and improve it with a targeted effort. They begin to study with renewed enthusiasm and become hyper focussed on the most clear and detailed elements of their game, planning for when they return to the mats to implement the knowledge they are gaining. Along with this, a deeper understanding of anatomy, physical education and training systems is achieved as a rehabilitation process becomes paramount for their general physical and mental wellbeing.
Being taken away from the mats gives you an opportunity to improve your understanding of how you learn and empower you through carrying that newfound ability into the future. I have seen drastic shifts in ability levels from those who have undergone this process. From the lowest low to a newfound perspective, it is almost as if it was meant to be.
The most common form of peaks and valleys of course, is the long form. The over arching idea of what we “should” be doing. The impending pressure cooker of what we “need” to achieve in the absolute immediacy, taking precedence over all other goals. The comparison effect of looking outwardly at what others are achieving and in what time frame, leading to disillusionment and ultimately disinterest, or maybe even ceasing involvement. Though as we have come to realise, the way we internally frame our experience can massively impact our lived experience overall. This phrasing is the most important, as it truly our experience.
This is such a beautiful idea. That the journey is completely unique to us, and our should be cherished, flaws and all, as it is the story of what we have endured, overcome, achieved, and gained.
With this understanding comes complete liberation from the idea of what we should do, or what we need to do. Taking a long absence from training is just what was necessary for you at the time. The mats were still there, and you were welcomed back with open arms. Winning the big comp and then losing the next one helped you grow as a person and all your loved ones were still there for you, admiring you and acknowledging your efforts. Getting that injury just before the grading didn’t hold you back at all! It made you even more prepared to level up to the next rank when the time came for you to step forward again.
Of course, I am not asking you to become an emotionless robot incapable of feeling, or a holistic optimist placing yourself in the hands of the universe. I am however, encouraging you towards developing the critical skills of resolve and composure, to aid you in the pursuit of your grappling goals, and to stay safe, healthy, and happy, along the way in order to ensure longevity in the sport.
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