Taking Stock of Progress


I’m part of one of the most accomplished and talented Jiu Jitsu teams in the world.  It’s a blessing.  It means I’m surrounded by people who are better than me.  This is a great thing, because iron sharpens iron, and a rising tide lifts all boats.

When a room full of talented, motivated people are consistently and feverishly pushing each other, everyone improves.  But it can also be a curse, if you let it.  A rising tide can be overwhelming.

We’re so often blind to our own improvement, and hyper-aware of the improvement of those around us.  I see it with white belts all the time, they tend to focus solely on how much they don’t know.

What they ignore is that just a few short weeks ago they couldn’t finish the warmup or tie their belt properly, and today they’re walking the newest student through a hip toss.

Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”       -Chinese Proverb

Here’s a cliche for you: Jiu Jitsu is a marathon and not a sprint.  You’ll be challenged, and you’ll be frustrated.  But there are unbelievable peaks that will greatly outweigh the valleys, and your relationship to frustration will change over time.

Let this serve as a reminder to take stock of the incremental improvements you make along the way.  Your ability to do this will keep you motivated, patient, and confident through the inevitable plateaus in your training.

From my perspective, the small improvements my students make are clear as day, but they never seem to notice it themselves.  The thing is this: as we get better, so do our teammates.  And this happens at different rates, so it’s easy to feel like a bum when your peers seem to jump light-years ahead of you.

Relax, you’re improving too!

Should you shout from the mountaintops in jubilation every time you pass a classmate’s guard?  Of course not.  But as you drag yourself to the car after managing to push through your first ten minute round, stop and smile in acknowledgment of your achievement.  The journey will be a much more fulfilling one if you allow yourself these small victories.

author: Peter McHugh

Professor Pete McHugh is the owner and Lead Instructor of McHugh BJJ in Mt. laurel NJ. He is a black belt under BJJ & MMA legend Ricardo Almeida.


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