It doesn’t matter if you train in BJJ, Judo or Ju-Jitsu, most martial artists will tell you that frustration is part of the learning process. Well here we are going to challenge that opinion. It doesn’t matter whether its white belt frustration, blue belt frustration or even black belt frustration (yeah that’s a thing) we are going to take them all on. Whether you’ve just started or have been diligently training for years, everyone is susceptible to a little frustration now and then. So how can this be overcome?
Here I’m going to look at some of the things that have frustrated me and some of my training partners over the years and try and dispense a little of the wisdom gained along the way. This is by no means going to be a definitive end to the frustration you feel, it might even make you feel worse so hold tight as we take on frustration!
Before we start here’s where frustration can end up if your a complete idiot on the mat!
Beginner Getting Smashed (White belt frustration)
This is the classic type of frustration you will see in every gym and Dojo around the world. The new person, usually male starts let’s call him Brad, he fancies himself as a bit of an athlete because of some past sporting success. In Brad’s mind there’s no way a scrawny teenager half his size is going to get the better of him. The problem is that teenager has spent half their life training and learning technique. Brad’s size and strength advantage is of little help now.
Well your ego might have not started as inflated as Brad’s point but almost everyone who begins their journey in martial arts brings with them an ego (it doesn’t go away you just learn to make peace with it). Success in any grappling style rarely comes easily and part of being a white belt is dealing with what sometimes feels like slow and painful progress. This leads to a sense of being overwhelmed and ultimately frustration.
Fortunately for all you frustrated white belts this is a place a lot of people have been in before. There’re loads of material out there if you’re the kind of person who likes to read up on there problems. In BJJ there are numerous books written to help navigate your way through the stripes and on to a blue belt. Saulo Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu University comes highly recommended and has become somewhat of a bible for BJJ white belts. Whilst in Judo there isn’t such a definitive text there is still loads of information to help turbocharge the start of your journey.
It’s just an unfortunate fact that as the newest person you’re probably going to be the worst person there for a few weeks, at least until someone new comes along anyway. The best thing you can do is relax accept the situation as no one gets good overnight. If you’re a white belt looking for some tips check out this article here.
Frustrated with a lack of progress (Blue belt frustration)
This is another classic place frustration can brew. One session you walk away thinking you finally know what you’re doing you’ve worked it all out and from here on it will be a breeze. The only problem is the next time you train it feels like the worst session you’ve ever had, your clueless and don’t know why you bother.
It almost sounds like a metal heath problem until you realise lots of people who train are guilty of falling into this mindset. An element of proportionality needs to be applied to these situations. Just because you had one good session doesn’t mean you won’t struggle again. Equally one bad session doesn’t mean you have started backpedalling on your progress.
Progress in martial arts very rarely feels linier, it more a confusing mess of lurching forward and backwards and failing to take stock of your progress only makes it more difficult to determine if you are moving forwards.
Lack of quality training partners (Black belt frustration)
This doesn’t get talked about a lot, but higher grades or skilled players can feel frustrated when they must repeatedly train with white belts. Although at the heart of most martial arts there is an expectation that those with the most skill spend at least some time helping lower ranked students this can be a cause of frustration.
It’s one of the reasons lots of BJJ academies split their classes in to advanced and beginner but if you train at a smaller academy this may not be an option. What this essentially boils down to is a lack of good quality training partners.
In order to continue improving its important that there is a reasonable pool of quality training partners. If you train at a newer school or have moved from an academy that was better established, finding good quality training partners can be difficult.
There’s a reason why top professional athletes are willing to travel the world to access the best training, because they know what is required when the margins between victory and defeat are so slim. Whilst training as a hobbyist fighting for these margins might seem unnecessary if you want to continue progressing finding a competitive environment is important.
For most people leaving to train somewhere else isn’t an option, so they stick it out training at a lower level then they would like. But eventually the white belts will progress and become training partners of the future so in many ways helping them improve is an investment in your own future progress.
You absolutely sucked once upon a time and someone had to train with you, unfortunately this is just a suck it up and deal with it situation.
This is probably the most frustrating of all the frustrations. Getting injured and not being able to train is a major anchor on your progress. Whilst you might sit at home reading every book ever written, watching youtube videos or visiting fantastic resources like Get into Grappling.com not being able to train is a real bummer.
Ultimately if you are injured the best thing to do is sit out training, there is no point trying to fight your way through a session if you’re not feeling good enough to be there. Not only are you unnecessarily risking further injury but you’re also putting your training partners in a difficult position as well. No one wants to train with someone who has an endless list of things you can’t do because of there injury.
In this instance the best thing to do is wait it out until the injury has passed and get right back to it with a fresh body and mind. The one positive tat can be taken from getting injured is when you return you will appreciate your training more than ever, well for the first few sessions at least.
As a side note, if you’re getting injured because of the way your training it’s worth evaluating how this has happened to try and prevent it from happening again. Whilst some people like to go hard as hell with there training there’s no point pushing that hard if you find yourself looking for the first aid tin or have to miss the next two sessions because of an injury.
Charting progress against peers
Some people are fast at learning and others are slower, if you feel that your developing slower than someone you once considered to be on the same level or even not quite as good as you, this can be an incredible source frustration. Its easy to get caught up on comparing your own development to that of others especially if you started around the same time as the other person.
The problem with charting your progress against someone else’s is there are so many variables that can impact how you develop. Some people are just freaks, they can pick up techniques seemingly without trying, they have great physical attributes and as a result develop quicker.
Aside from this though there are a range of other reasons why people develop at different rates. So, for example, whilst you have been steadily juggling family life or work commitments and training twice a week the person your comparing yourself with has been slugging it out 6 days a week because they don’t have those same commitments.
In these situations, the best thing you can do is make peace with your own development and accept the realities of your situation. Maybe they are getting better quicker than you but are they getting as much out of their 6 session as you are out of your three? Any martial art is a personal journey and its important to not get bogged down to deeply with comparisons.
Accept the frustration
If you allow your frustration to fester regardless of the cause it will certainly have an impact on your training. If your frustrated its harder to focus on learning good technique and often it will result in attempts to muscle through problems rather than apply the proper techniques.
I’m not suggesting you need to adopt a zen like persona to navigate the minefield of frustration that lies before you. But it is important that you keep the frustration you feel in context to your situation. Try to not let it eat away at you or effect the way you train, as frustration can easily take the enjoyment out of training altogether.
Everyone’s situation is different and I’m sure if you ask around your class you will come across a range of frustrations others have with their training regime. So, you won’t be alone, especially if you’re a white belt! Everyone has felt the annoyance of being repeatedly tapped, slammed and generally dominated.
As a final thought try not to be to hard on yourself, whatever stage you are at in your journey be comforted by the fact many people have started out on the same path as you and made it to the top but remember even more have started that journey and given up.
Just hanging in there is a victory!