When We Forget Why We Train

Filed in Perspective by on July 3, 2013 4 Comments

I’ve been getting into Jiu-Jitsu blogging for a few months now and I have to tell you, it’s been better than I imagined it could be. It’s like a small club. I’ve found many well thought out websites authored by many well thought out individuals. I’ve subscribed to their blogs by email and many mornings I awaken to find truly inspiring posts. It’s a good feeling to know that there are those out there who consider the finer points of what we do and who take the time to write about them.

In the past, I think I’ve mentioned that the BJJ world is somewhat reserved for, well, a different crowd. A crowd that gives very specific areas of their lives importance. This is especially true for the older folk among us. If you’re over the age of 35 and are actively training Jiu-Jitsu, I venture to say that you’re doing it for reasons other than to train for the next big tournament. Perhaps I’m wrong and perhaps you’re out there to win, but I’d say that by and large, there was something that prompted you to make that initial phone call. Something other than the desire to simply win tournaments.

There’s a fellow who writes over at Jon Jitsu who’s stirred up a few ideas I’ve had for the past few days. He’s written two posts – one called, “Funk” and one called, “Break on Through” that deal with the mental side of what we do on the mats. These posts aren’t about techniques and they aren’t about how to train to get better – they’re simply about the ups and downs of the motivational drivers that keep us going every day.

I’m not going to go over his posts. Read them by clicking the links above. If you’ve trained for a while, you’ll know what he’s talking about and if you can’t make heads or tails of them, you’ll probably get there in the future. Much of what he says is true for many things in life, whether is be in sports, relationships, work life, etc…

What I am going to do here is put my own spin on his posts by breaking things down as simply as I possibly can. And I’m going to try to do this by offering up some of my own experiences with beginning and continuing to practice Jiu-Jitsu. Which is no simple feat, if you believe the statistics put out a while back about the percentages of white belts that make it to blue, blue belts that make it to purple, etc…The higher the belt, the more the numbers dwindle. And it’s no mystery why they do. Sticking to an emotional roller coaster like the one BJJ offers can be, at times, painful, to say the least.

When I began practicing, I remember, very simply, finding a sport that allowed me to wrestle – as an adult. I didn’t even know things like this existed at the time. I tell you about some of my experiences on my “About Me” page, but I can go into them a bit deeper here.

Now, why I thought I needed to wrestle at the time was beyond me. Obviously, I was searching for something to ease a craving – I was either searching to ease a craving, or for something to fill a void. It was only my body that was telling me what to do, so I’m sure my mind was in the dark all that time ago. What I do know is that I’m certainly happy that I was introduced to Jiu-Jitsu when I was and that I pretty much hit the nail on the head when it was time to find something to satisfy me. After years of training, I really don’t know what I would do without it. It’s been so ingrained into my existence, that it and I are remarkably one and the same.

It’s taken a good amount of training for me to move past the hunt for better technique and to get over much of the competitive aspects of things. While I constantly beat myself up for not being better than I am and continue to search for the BJJ holy grail, I think I’ve somewhat enlightened myself to the real reasons I train. And when I let the cat out of the bag below, I sincerely hope that at least one person on earth knows, or at the very least, can sympathize with what I’m saying.

Alright, here it is. I train because I sweat. That’s it.

Like I said above, yes – without a doubt, in every single class I attend, I strive to get better at all the things I write about on this blog. I want to learn the concepts and the underlying principles of Jiu-Jitsu. I’m intriuged by the beginnings and evolution of the game. I’m thrilled to be a part of something that’s growing leaps and bounds globally – something that’s as pure as it can be. Something that’s infinitesimal and uncorrupted, as of yet. When I watch footage of tournaments and videos of training, and when I attend seminars and classes, I look around at all the faces online and among me. There’s not a day that goes by that I can’t help but feel that I’m part of something special. Something that has yet to be discovered by the majority of those around us.

But seriously, and I can’t reiterate this enough, if I don’t roll, I don’t care about all that. All I want to do is sweat.

We’ve been training pretty hard recently. Last Thursday evening was one of those, I felt like I was going to die and puke at the same time, kinds of nights. And just yesterday, someone again mentioned how tough it was. It was hot, my gi weighed about 40 pounds because of all the sweat and as I walked off the mat to get a drink, I said to myself, “This is how it happens Jay. This is how I collapse because of heat exhaustion and wake up to a bunch of guys standing around me pouring water on my head.” And after I got a drink, I walked toward the mat to go for a few more rounds. And honestly, I haven’t the faintest idea why I continue going back for more. If I do it for the sweat and if the sweat makes me feel like I might lose consciousness, why on earth do I not only crave the mats during my off time, but pay for it as well?

I grew up a worker. My father made me work like it was nobody’s business. Among many other things, we cut down trees and split wood, only to stack the wood and burn it later on. And when I say wood, I mean wood. We didn’t have one of those cute little wood burning stoves that made the living room look pretty. We had one to heat the house. And later on, I worked for a variety of tree companies. I did it for years, and during that time, I’ve worked some of the most strenuous days of my life. To this day, my friend and I discuss one job where we had to lift enormous pine logs into the back of a dump truck. Lots of them. These were the days before outfits regularly had lift gates or cranes. And on this day, I recollect most vividly, my face tingling because of the heat and blood pressure I created by lifting weight no human should endure. We lifted and lifted and lifted that day, well past dark and into the night. The job had to get done and my one friend and I were the only ones there to do it. I remember that day and from then until now, I haven’t had one like it. And perhaps that’s why it’s such a memory.

After we got home from work back then, we liked to shower the sawdust out of our hair, get dressed and go out to dinner. We’d oftentimes reward ourselves for the work we completed. It was sort of a ritual we had – work hard and play hard, as they say. But unlike many of the white collared folk who came up with sayings like that, we actually worked hard. So hard in fact, that it seemed that our satisfaction with our progress justified our constant prize of food and drink. We’d work again and eat and drink again the next day and the cycle would continue.

That was a long time ago. During the years between then and now, I’ve settled down quite a bit. I haven’t touched a piece of wood in years and I now write blog posts. Needless to say, the sweat, the endorphins and the pat on the back for a job well done doesn’t come around nearly as much as it used to. And because of it, I’m beginning to think that there’s something missing from my life.

It’s funny that I read those posts over at Jon Jitsu just at the time I’ve been thinking about life in general. So many people I know now don’t put nearly as much physical effort into their lives as I know they used to. For so many of them, there’s relatively, if any, physical struggle. And when I think of them and the last time they’ve earned any amount of sweat and discomfort from something other than heat or sunshine, I think of nothing other than dry bodies. Bodies that enjoy their air conditioning and their stasis. A stasis that I’m embarrassed to say infuriates me. A stasis that simply can’t be as fulfilling as the days of yesteryear when we used to labor for a living.

I was talking with another friend a few days ago when we got into one of our famous philosophical conversations. We like to go round in circles and ask each other interesting “more or less human” questions. He’d say something like, “Are you more or less human if you don’t run?” and I’d reply with an answer such as, “Well, do humans have the ability to run?” He’d say yes, which would open the door for my response of, “Well then, if you are human and have the ability to run, and you don’t, then you are acting like less of a human.” I actually despise these types of conversations because they ultimately lead to nowhere, but there was one part of it recently that kind of struck a nerve. My friend asked, “Are you more or less of a human if you don’t sweat?” To which I replied, “Well, do humans have to capability of sweating?” To which he replied, “Yes.” To which I replied, “Well then, if you are human and have the capability of sweating, and you don’t, then you are acting like less of a human.”

It’s weird, but after I said that, I wondered if I had somehow, unknowingly, gotten into and had become addicted to a sport that doesn’t only mess with my mind on a regular basis, but has somehow made me feel like the person I was all those years ago. Had I stumbled across a “work hard and play hard” scenario? One that I haven’t felt in at least fifteen years? I wasn’t sure.

I’m reading and thinking about more and more things that question why we do the things we do. When I walk onto the mat and look for the biggest guy or the highest belt to go up against, am I looking to progress my Jiu-Jitsu? Or am I looking to put myself into some sort of challenging situation that I’m forced to work out of? And when I lose, do I look back to the same person who just beat me to roll for another round? And if so, why do I do that? If it doesn’t further my technique or my game, why challenge the only player in class who I know I can’t beat, who I know will smother me and who I know outweighs me by tens of pounds? But as I think back to my earlier days, I’m beginning to think of how Jiu-Jitsu fits into my life as a whole, as opposed to some isolated piece of it. It’s starting to seem that I don’t just hop into the car a few times a week to go get a good sweat. It’s starting to seem more like I’m getting into the car a few times a week to work on those missing pieces of the puzzle I’ve somehow lost sight of for a very long time.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Hannah E. says:

    Wow, this post was deep. I’ve learned to love sweat, too. It’s just so great to exert ones self so much that you’re DRIPPING with SWEAT.

    • Jay Gaulard says:

      That’s awesome Hannah. It’s rare to find people who appreciate such things. But when you finally admit to yourself that you love what you’re doing, it’s a good feeling.

  2. Adam Cousins says:

    Jay, I thought I left a comment on this the other day but I do have an (over) active imagination

    There is so much truth in this article.

    When I’m done training, I take my sweaty old gi and fold it neatly with my rashguard and compression shorts, then tie the bundle up with my belt, and sling it over my shoulder as I walk to my car. Let me tell you, the heavier that sweaty mess is, the more accomplished I feel.

    It gives some new meaning to “sweat equity”.

    There is a feeling of accomplishment in hard work, especially among a group of like-minded people. I know that after particularly grueling warm-ups or conditioning sessions at my club, once our instructor finally says “okay, go get a drink” and we all collapse on the floor, we feel like we’ve built something together (or maybe piled a bunch of wood into a trailer). There are smiles and fist bumps and high fives all around as we hobble over to the water fountain to restore some of what we just left on the mats.

    Great read.

    • Jay Gaulard says:

      I totally feel that. It happens everywhere and it’s true – the comradery is what many of us love about this stuff. Thanks for the great comment!

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