I want to talk about something not fun. Some would label it whining, others complaining, but it’s something real and should be discussed: frustration in our sport.

This week I had a bad class. Bad.

Edited to add: This article is NOT complaining about my gym. Period. It’s about my own personal reaction to some things that generally I can deal with but for whatever reason just didn’t. Rest assured that a) I know how to take care of myself b) I am treated very well by my coaches and my teammates. But that jiu jitsu is a frustrating sport and sometimes your inner frustrations just get the best of you!

It started out great. I did a 6:30 class followed by a 7:30 class. In it, I hit a personal new achievement! We do these sort of frog jumps. You are on your knees and you jump to your feet. I’ve not been able to do these, ever, and it’s sort of embarrassing and silly to see every single person around me doing them successfully, even the white belts, and here I am falling over every time. But I did it today. A teammate said to thrust my hips forward, and that was the magic solution!

But then we partnered for the technique. I asked one of the guys to be my partner, but was put with the only other woman instead. One of the older Korean men made this sort of joking chastising look/motion to me for trying to partner with a man and I said “Because I am a woman??” and he said yes. >_<

Now, normally I have no problem partnering with the women, but in the first class I partnered with an absolute beginner, and I’m trying to prepare for a tournament and I wanted someone who was around my level. Then I realized we were doing takedowns, and the frustration grew.

I don’t think beginners should work together. I don’t think they should partner together during a technique. They can’t help one another effectively, they may forget the steps or remember it wrong, and they don’t have the benefit of having someone with experience who can help guide them as well as do the move correctly on them.

Honestly, I’m a beginner when it comes to takedowns. I’m a zero stripe white belt. I can’t do them effectively, I remember steps wrong, and I can’t help anyone. My partner was a beginner too. This meant that our practice time together was inefficient, and frankly wrong.

I know this because once we started doing positional sparring against everyone in class, I couldn’t do it, and Good Guy Brown Belt pointed out that my technique – that we had JUST been practicing – was wrong. This frustration mounted as person after person I was unable to do ANYTHING against, and they were taking me down like I was a child.

It’s very possible that my hormones are out of whack, but I could feel my mental energy give, and I kept thinking back to this gem I found on reddit:


I recognized that I had mentally defeated myself, and I tried to empty my mind and trust the technique, except that I didn’t – I couldn’t, because I didn’t know how to do it correctly.

By the time I got to the last person, I was fighting back tears. That frustration was choking me and threatening to come out, but I kept breathing, ready to excuse myself if needed. Thankful that if I DID cry, my sweat would mask them. It’s okay to cry, just not on the mats. I rolled, able to keep things cool, then after class I went in the changing room.

Yeah – that was basically me.

I crawled under the shelf in the changing room, leaned against the wall and cried. It was as though a fist was around my throat, squeezing the tears slowly out. I had a few minutes to myself before the other gal came in, and I talked to her a little bit. Told her I loved being her partner, but for takedowns I need to work with someone else and I hoped she would not be offended. She said she understood.

The thing is – I understand the tricks to keeping myself “up.” I’m generally a chipper, happy person who is very encouraging to others. But every so often that frustration just hits you unexpectedly like a surprise punch to the face. I think part of it is that my emotional strategy of dealing with not-being-able-to-do-shit was to just be happy I was there, to be fine with being the worst person. This time I was actually trying hard. I wanted to get better for this tournament, and although it was TRY TRY TRY, nothing worked, and that sucker punched me.

Hello, I am a feeling. Is now a convenient time to be experiencing me? No? Too bad.

Turns out I need a new strategy for when I’m preparing for a tournament, and I don’t quite know what that emotional strategy will be. I’m toying around with a few ideas, but so far nothing has resonated.

I would love to hear ideas from you guys: When you are TRYING TO WIN and PREPARING FOR SOMETHING IMPORTANT, how do you emotionally deal with not being able to do something? How do you cushion the emotional impact of failure and frustration? How do you not mentally defeat yourself?