If you aren’t in over your head…

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?”
-TS Elliott

Though I’ve fought in a cage, I’m no gladiator.  I’ve never run a marathon, or swam miles in the open ocean.  I don’t wear a sleeveless “tough mudder” T-shirt to the gym, but that’s partly because I don’t own one.

This doesn’t mean I don’t love a good challenge.  In fact, I truly believe that I thrive on and derive purpose from challenges, that obstacles are an integral part of my life.

And yours too.  Which is a major reason so many spend their weekends diving into freezing mud and crawling over towering walls in adventure obstacle courses.  And why it’s so easy to become enthralled by the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle.  Yes it’s fun and interesting, it’s a great workout, and you get to eat acai bowls.  But if you’re taking it seriously it’s extremely challenging, both physically and mentally.

And it’s hard to get good at.  Really hard.  But that’s the point!  It takes a lot of focus and effort and dedication.  It takes a lot of putting yourself in deep water to find out how well you swim.  What you’ll find is that the more often you do this, the deeper the water you can venture into.

I don’t entirely agree with the notion that nothing worth having comes easy, but I do believe the most rewarding and worthwhile victories are those on the other side of a steep challenge.  There no doubt exists somewhere a graph depicting the direct correlation between effort and reward.

The value of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu lies in its difficulty.  It presents us with the opportunity to consistently face and overcome challenges, to set and achieve goals, and to make and keep promises to ourselves and our peers.  This is the stuff that personal growth is made of.  If you manage to fool your instructors and peers and cut corners, you still have the insurmountable task of fooling yourself.  Jiu Jitsu is a phenomenal enforcer of personal accountability.

I frequently tell the youngest of my students that it’s not supposed to be easy, and if it was, then everyone would do it.  And I wouldn’t.  I don’t tell them this to be a hard nosed authoritarian.  It’s not meant to impress them.  It’s meant to impress upon them that when they’re frustrated, or defeated, or fatigued, it’s normal.  Not only is it OK to experience those things, it’s expected.  Even Professor Pete has been there, it’s part of the process.

My job is to teach them to embrace the obstacles, because the reward awaits them on the other side.  If the students go unchallenged, I should lose my job.  Because if it doesn’t challenge them, it won’t change them.

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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