Have you ever have an absolutely terrible BJJ class?
One of those days where your regular training partners – the guys and girls you’re normally neck and neck with – basically had their way with you? Maybe even junior belts passed your guard, took your back, swept you repeatedly, dominated you positionally, and tapped you out again and again?
This can be difficult to deal with; some people limp out of a session like this and actually quit BJJ forever.
Well take heart; the good news is that days like this on the mat happen to everybody!
There’s not a black belt out there who didn’t get caught in something stupid by a blue or purple belt and felt – momentarily – like burning his gi.
Every world champion has a nemesis in the gym who knows his game inside out, can exploit it, and gives him more trouble in class than what he faces in actual competition.
There’s an old gypsy quote that goes, “Sometimes you get the bear. And sometimes the bear gets you.”
I like that quote because it speaks to the random nature of performance. Some days you’re on fire and nothing can stop you. And other days you’re dragging yourself through class and everyone pretty much does whatever they want to you.
Nobody performs at their best every single day. If you train then sometimes you are going to underperform. It’s really that simple and it’s also just part of the game.
Now it’s true that maybe there were specific reasons why you underperformed on a given day…
Maybe it’s sleep deprivation that’s caused you to not fire on all cylinders that day. Sleep is critical for performance; as Marcio Feitosa told me, “The first part of training is the sleeping“)…
Maybe you’re just in a slump and need to mix up your training regimen to get things moving again (click here for some ideas about slump-busting)…
Maybe your mind just went blank for some reason and you just couldn’t find the right technique to do in time…
Maybe you just haven’t been training enough to keep your skills sharp! There’s a big difference between training once a week, two times a week, and three times a week, and if life has kept you out of the gym then you can expect your reaction times to slow down (click here to read ‘How to Train When You Have No Time‘)…
Or maybe it’s the exact opposite; maybe you’ve been training so hard that you’re totally overtrained and need to take a bit of a break…
Of course the other alternative is that maybe the other guy was just having one of those brilliant, super-sharp days on the mat and your ‘underperformance’ had everything to do with him nothing to do with you.
It’s useful to know what happened and why you had such a crappy class, which is why I included some relevant links in the text above.
However, regardless of the actual cause, a single bad class (or even a month of bad classes) is no reason to panic!
Everyone who has ever trained – Marcelo Garcia, Rickson Gracie, and Georges St Pierre included – has had bad days in the gym.
Know that this is normal. The important thing is not to lose hope and not to overreact.
The fact that I’m a black belt just means that I’ve dragged myself back from more disasters on the mat than most people have! Ultimately the ‘secret’ to getting your black belt is simply not to quit.
So after a terrible outing I give you permission to feel bad for yourself for 10 minutes. Then suck it up, get over yourself, and go back to class.
Take the good days with the bad and keep going – you’ll get there.