The tao of NSLightsOut: Training, stagnation and tapping
I've been reading a series of threads in the past week in YMAS and Guantanamo bay about training, the 'win' mentality, and tapping others. They've been bothering me for a while, but I only came to a number of epiphanies last night, based on the totality of my training experience. They're relatively simple and straightforward, but like most things of that nature, they take a while to sink in to my dense noggin.
Anyhoo, like the conceited jerk I am, I've decided to share the lot with you. This is going to be long
Over 4+ years, I've trained with a lot of people. I've had the chance to observe two disparate large groups of people from two different academies and see how they have or haven't developed through training.
Here's the revelatory part: Every single case of permanent stagnation I have ever seen has involved one common factor: Fear of losing in training.
This, in my experience, has manifested itself in a number of different ways, including but not necessarily limited to:
- Fear of losing to people lower in an imagined 'hierarchy' of skill
- Fear of losing to a lower belt
- Fear of trying something new if it involves risk
- The belief that 'not tapping' is always equivalent to a good performance/increase in skill
The irony is that all of these fears actually are the root cause of permanent skill plateau. This vicious cycle, after a while, seems to almost paralyze development.
Recently, I've been working with a blue belt who has become stuck in this kind of rut primarily for the first three reasons. He received his blue about six months after I did. The only difference between where he is and where I am is that I realized just what I needed to work on, and came up with a training plan after my disastrous final competition as a white belt.
He, on the other hand, has consistently been surpassed by white belts and the newer blues because of his fears precluding his development as a BJJer. He uses copious amounts of strength to compensate for technical deficiency. The worst thing is, he realizes it, but still can't overcome his fears of losing to a lower belt, fears likely reinforced over time, as I've seen him choked unconscious more than once on the mat by more talented white belts.
In the past, I've rolled with higher belts who only deign to train with known quantities; i.e. people they know they can absolutely tool, when there are higher quality training partners available. This being yet another manifestation in the vicious cycle, as they build the fear of going against someone of equal or better skill up in their minds, which could potentially destroy the self-image they have built of their own superiority.
It behooves us to notice that the two previous examples are generally self-destructive and unhealthy approaches to training. In order to train to your full potential, I believe that there comes a point in everyone's training experience where all of these fears have to be confronted. For myself, it was as a relatively new blue belt, with a game seriously unbalanced towards passing, after getting smashed by more experienced people on the mats of Gracie Barra. There, I came to a number of conclusions that affect me to this day.
Firstly: The 'hierarchy' of one's own academy is meaningless. Who gives a flying **** if you are a big fish in a small pond? Once you step out of that small pond into a larger, deeper body of water, suddenly everything begins to change. I had that experience when I left the now-defunct Monash University BJJ club for the larger Peter de Been academy, and when I travelled to Brazil to train. Being afraid of being tapped by someone lower on an imaginary chart is just fucking stupid
Secondly: Losing to a lower belt happens. This is a fact of life, especially when the lower belt begins to approach your own rank or has perfected a few money moves guaranteed to work on just about anyone. Worrying about it leads to the vicious cycle of fear already discussed
Thirdly: 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained' A pithy phrase to chew on for the last two fears.
Well, that was fucking long, even by my standards. I'll come back to tapping a bit later