The disorientation of being initiated

Two weeks ago, I decided to start a new journey. Something I had been mulling over for a while.

I started practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ).

Four years ago, I began practicing Hapkido and a year ago earned my first degree Black Belt. I love Hapkido and intend to continue my practice in it for as long as possible.

But Hapkido doesn’t have a robust competition scene in America, and I’ve been itching to compete athletically. So I signed up at Nashville MMA to begin training in BJJ.

Some of the things I’ve learned in Hapkido translate nicely to BJJ, as Hapkido has its roots in Japanese Jiu Jitsu. But in many ways, the two arts are pretty different.

The objective in BJJ is to submit your opponent by either choking them out or applying a lock to one of their limbs. The smart thing to do when you’ve been put into a submission that you can’t get out of in practice is to tap so that you don’t sustain any unnecessary damage.

But when you start, you don’t quite know what your threshold is.

In BJJ, there is a much larger focus during training on live application through what is called “rolling,” which can be thought of as sparring in a practice setting. In my first class, while rolling, a guy who earned his blue belt put me in an armbar. I didn’t know whether or not I could get out, so I resisted. Then I heard a bunch of small pops around my elbow, so I tapped.

It was a great class. I did well. I was completely worn out by the end. And I hyperextended my right elbow. Well, the guy I was rolling with hyperextended my elbow.

Once again, I’m a white belt.

I am at the back of the line again. I’m the new guy who’s going to make all the mistakes, like not tapping when he should. Everyone around me knows more than I do, and it’s fantastic.

Over the last two weeks, I’ve been watching a lot of videos on BJJ. I went to check out a tournament that was in Nashville to see what live competition looks like, and went to another practice. This feels like the right next step in my progression as a martial artist, but it’s also going to require me to give up some things.

I’ll have to give up some of my favorite workouts, which will be hard because I love them, and I’ve gotten good at them. I just can’t afford to spend the time and energy on them if I’m going to take my development as a martial artist seriously. These workouts have been good to me. They got me here, but they won’t get me where I’m going next.

I need to develop a recovery protocol because my body is going to take more damage than it has in a long time, hopefully for at least the next ten years.

A single decision I made two weeks ago will determine what I do for at least 150 hours a year for the next ten years if I don’t falter. For now, I get to enjoy all the lessons that come in these early training sessions as a white belt.

There isn’t enough time to do everything in life. We have to make choices. If we seek mastery, we must make choices about how we will invest our time. We have to find joy in the disorientation of being initiated and the changes in our life that our commitment will lead us to.

I’m not content with the black belt I’ve earned. I always want to live life with the courage to step on a mat I don’t know so well, and enjoy my time as a white belt.

Have a grateful day.

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