The extra wait for the new cycle of trials allowed some new faces to emerge lead by 16-year-old Cole Abate who won the men's 66 kg division. He was joined by Kade Ruotolo at 77 kg, Giancarlo Bodoni at 88 kg, ADCC veteran Mason Fowler at 99 kg and perhaps the day's most impressive performer, John Hansen, who won the finals of the over 99 kg class with a submission in less than 30 seconds. The women's field saw Brianna Ste-Marie take the 60 kg category, while Kendall Reusing won the over 60 kg division. Though the women's winners didn't automatically qualify for the world championships, flograppling.com reports event organizer Tom Deblass offered to fly them to the West Coast Trials which will guarantee winners a championship bid.
Is losing or a slump mean a tough bill to swallow, yes... but what if it was turned into a blessing in disguise that's just waiting for you to seize it... let's find out
Slump periods, plateaus, whatever you want to call them. We all go through them in life, maybe at work, school, or learning a new skill, but when it comes to the skill of BJJ, they make or break us.
The journey each of us goes through over the years is a personal and transformative experience. It isn't just about technical proficiency on the mats. In fact, technical proficiency has little to do with it; in my opinion, the mindset and attitude you develop as you evolve is more what it is about. To me, technical proficiency is the result of that mindset and attitude.
As the analogy goes, "sometimes you are the hammer, and sometimes you are the nail." Personally, I do not like that analogy; I think of it more as a pendulum swinging from left to right, from light to dark. However, the message is clear: sometimes you are on top, and you "win," and sometimes you are on bottom and you "lose." Irrespective of which situation you find yourself in, you are learning and evolving. The easier side of the coin is the "winning" side, but I think it is arguably where you learn the least. The hard side, the side that evolves your mindset through stubborn will, is where you are "losing" when you are on bottom, and it isn't easy. To be in that "losing" position for an extended period, not just a class but a period of time where everyone you roll with seems to get the better of you, is the essence of the journey (or at least a crucial part of it).
This is where a good blue belt friend of mine found himself recently. Talking to him about it brought me back to my own journey of those times where I felt I was getting smashed again and again. He spoke of the same feelings: that others were better than him, that nothing worked and that things that used to work for him were no longer working, that he had to compensate with attributes to overcome his opponents.
I think that a lot of people believe that when they get that blue belt, Jiu-jitsu will magically become easier. That somehow, they have attained a level of skill that makes the game easier to bear. This is not true though, the game remains the same, "success" at any belt ebbs and flows like the tide. This truth can be a bitter pill for some to swallow, which is why I think some disappear after getting that coveted blue belt. After a bit of consideration, I gave him my opinion and advice on how to move through this period.
My opinion is that the ebb and flow never stops at any belt, there is always someone better, and sparring is always a struggle. Enjoy the moments when you are "winning" in sparring, your ego gets a nice stroke, and your skills are validated, but the learning experience is lessened. Lessened partly because the ego relishes getting the validation of the "tap" of "winning" distracting you from the lesson. You have to force yourself to evaluate how you won. Did you force the technique with strength, speed, or flexibility? Or was it technically efficient and timed to perfection? How can I improve? What did I feel in that fleeting moment? What felt easy and flowed? What felt hard, rigid, forced? You get the idea…
On the other hand, when you are not "winning," what are you learning? The experiential gains of being smashed are vast, in my opinion. Why couldn't I escape? What were they doing? Where was the pressure coming from? How could I have done better? Did I mentally tap, accepting the position through attrition (we all do it, "fatigue makes cowards of us all" George S Patton Jr)? etc., etc.
This constant evaluation serves two purposes, firstly it distracts my ego and allows me to accept the punishment being meted out by my sparring partner. Secondly, it pinpoints holes in my game, weaknesses. This was the first piece of advice I gave him "train only weakness." To develop and grow exponentially, the correct attitude and mindset, in my opinion, is to embrace loss and slump periods. Put yourself back into the position you struggled with, understand how and why you failed, refine your response to it and test it again and again until you evolve. This dogged mindset is an integral part of the journey that is alluded to with useless analogies like "just train" or "more time on the mat." When you make your weakness your strength, you level yourself up. If, on the other hand, you choose to just play your A-game and "win," you will stand still; it is only through a willingness to lose and experiment that you will grow and evolve.
The last question I asked my friend was, what are his goals? Goals are another salvation during a slump period that have saved me time and again. Or rather, given my ego a humility slap round the face. For example, my friend's long-term goal is to improve his open guard game playing off his back. If I were him, hit by a training slump, I would pick an open guard style I did not know well and play only that. For example, if my De La Riva guard is utter crap, I resolve to play only that guard and accept that I will "lose," but I will go back to it. This gives my ego an acceptable out; it is placated because it knows it will "lose" through experimentation. Eventually, over time I will see improvement in my De La Riva skills... it might be retention or a sweep. This discipline helps me turn the corner and keep showing up.
My friend already knew this stuff because we talked about it a lot before. He has the right attitude; he trains Gi, No-Gi, wrestling, and a bit of MMA. He makes sure he goes to the fundamentals classes and doesn't just attend the advanced classes because he's a blue belt now. In a nutshell, he doesn't pigeonhole himself into one ruleset or style; he learns all ranges. Most importantly, he trains consistently; he is there each week – he has the Jiu-Jitsu obsession. One part of his attitude that I admire is that he is uninterested in stripes and the next belt; he trains in the now and focuses on legitimate mat skills and technical proficiency.
Capping this one-off, the hard things in life are the most rewarding, and that is one of the attractions of Jiu-Jitsu. It is hard, and just when you think you have "mastered it" and are "winning," something new comes along, and you get smashed. The truth of it is to embrace the grind, savor and learn
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Guedes, who has been on fire in the female ranks recently, continued to shine claiming the women's 76 kg division then beating 71 kg winner Elisabeth Clay to take the women's open weight title. Also notable was men's 55 kg champion Estevan Martinez who was the only black belt competitor to win every one of his matches by submission. This was the first no-gi world championship since 2019 and the first ever to allow heel hooks. No one took better advantage than Lucas Silva who won his first two matches in the men's 73 kg division by heel hook before losing to Gianni Grippo in the finals.
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How Jiu Jitsu can tame the ego when people test your anger
Samuele Errico Piccarini
If you, dear reader, have not had this experience, I would be surprised. I sure have. And what a different momentary experience in brain chemistry you are both having. At the very least, he feels differently than anyone who is coasting responsibly, driving below the speed limit. And while we know that in this moment, his ego is taking him on an adrenaline ride, we wonder… Is he angry? Is he sad? He can't be happy, even if he does seem to get a sadistic thrill out of cutting people off. Speeding can be a thrill… but why the insult?
How quickly the innocent in this situation can be drawn into something so unpleasant, where they feel like yelling, "Watch it! Whatchu doing man? You didn't see me back there!?" Normally, this reaction does not happen and, thankfully, people just mostly do not have the desire to give chase. Typically, you are just startled; you were surprised and insulted all in 3 seconds, and by the time you process it, it's over. Still, some do-follow, actually giving chase… and that never ends well.
Now, consider what would happen if you bumped shoulders with this same individual on the street. There would be an exchange of "Oh, I'm sorry there bud," or something like that. Light skin-to-skin interactions very rarely come with such aggression, and the reason is obvious… fear and respect coupled with the lack of adrenaline.
When someone trains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, they grow accustomed to adrenaline. This is good behind the wheel of a car. While everyone has a set point to where one might lose one's temper, by training Jiu-Jitsu regularly, you will have a longer threshold of patience… even longer if you are on your way home from training Jiu-Jitsu. If this is the case, you've already had your adrenaline dump; it was left on the mat, where it should be! You would look at this person as a silly danger; and feel thankful that he passed by. This is the power of Jiu-Jitsu.
I personally have driven a lot in my life, and on the regular, I have yelled back. Although I was never the initiator, I have yelled back in what I incorrectly labeled as righteousness to myself, only to realize shortly thereafter, my own fault; knowing I could have done better.
There are situations where you might reencounter this person, and here is what to do, if you can. If that person goes straight, you slow down, take the next turn if you can, whether or not you are headed that way. Keep in mind that a quick u-turn puts you right back on course, with the aggressive driver out of sight. This is a choice you must train your ego to make. It's not easy, particularly when you know for sure that the other driver is in the wrong. If you train Jiu-Jitsu, trust me, you will feel less compelled to respond. I'm not telling you that BJJ is an anti-road-rage pill but, it will put you in the most practical mindset for this type of situation. And hopefully, you will do the most appropriate thing, which is NOTHING.
Growing up in the Bronx, I experienced no shortage of aggression. When I was a bouncer, there was an abundance of aggression. And I can tell you first hand, often the best response to a verbal assault is nothing. And while doing nothing is hard to do, you have still made a choice. Rarely have I seen violence take place, and someone say, "Well, I'm sure glad that turned violent." Are there jerks and aggressors in the street who train Jiu-Jitsu? Yes, there are more today than ever, but not that many aggressors. Jiu-Jitsu clamps down a lot on the ego, and the more you train, the more you will lose the desire to respond to aggressive behavior from others. You will also develop a longer interval of time for your anger mechanism to kick in, due to your regular doses of mat adrenaline. You might even see aggressive actions coming before one makes a move, just like on the mat.
When I was in the early stages of my Jiu-Jitsu training, I had the benefit of being one of the few Americans on a mat with the first wave of Carlson Gracie students to come to the United States. These were rough guys; very passionate and aggressive, but they had a calmness to them. They would train life or death on the mat, but then I would see them in social settings, always behaving like cool and calm gentlemen. Jiu-Jitsu created that.
When you know your capability, most often, there is a lack of a desire to use it. You generally know the outcome in situations of conflict, and this puts your ego in check. The other person often does not have this benefit, and he is most likely misjudging his abilities. Most importantly, he almost certainly does not have Jiu-Jitsu training. We train for self-defense, among other reasons. In the street, aggression is an offensive move, and you rarely see Jiu-Jitsu used offensively for no gain. Call it the gentle art if you want, but it can rip your arm off and put you to sleep… it's not gentle. Jiu-Jitsu is attitude first. It is the first thing we control. And your attitude is linked with your ego. Roughly speaking, the higher you go in Jiu-Jitsu, the more appropriate your ego generally is. So, when the next fool cuts you off and flips you the bird, just try your best to use your emotional Jiu-Jitsu and make that quick right or left turn and let 'em by.
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