I’ve been back at BJJ twice, after being gone for nearly 6 months due to my herniated disc. On Saturday I made it to the huge, teamwide training and had the opportunity to roll with the purple belt from my academy. On Tuesday I made it to my own personal BJJ gym. There were only 5 students plus the instructor, including a big MMA guy who had recently gotten his blue belt.

During class I took some videos during class, and the notes I wrote were mistakes I saw myself making, or new insights. I think valuable things can be learned from mistakes. For example, on what I call the “Marcelo leg grab” I wrote that I kept forgetting which hand to grab with. This is quite different to the notes I was taking while observing.

During sparring, I was paired with the big MMA guy, and I didn’t get flattened or armbarred or trapped under him. I was in the weaker position for about 85% of the match, but only had to tap once due to a choke. However, I was quite happy because, though having been off the mats for so long, I didn’t get manhandled nor did I get stuck during the match.

It’s so easy to get caught up in positive achievements that we can overlook the negative ones. Instead of focusing on “I did XYZ” we can also focus on “ABC did not happen to me.” Even if it’s a small thing – like “I only got caught in knee on belly 3 times rather than 5” or some smaller gain “It took 20 seconds for me to tap out due to claustrophobia instead of 5 seconds.” These are things to celebrate – to be happy about. These are gains.

In language learning as in BJJ, it’s very easy to see gains in the beginning. Hooray – I got home successfully in a taxi! Hooray – I ordered something and got what I wanted. Hooray – learned how to shrimp. Hooray – I was able to get full mount! However, in both BJJ and language learning, seeing gains in the intermediate or advanced levels is harder. You start to realize how much you can’t do, and you often stop looking backward to see how much you have accomplished and get caught in a negative spiral – “I can’t do XYZ after 2 or 3 years” or “Why can everyone else do ABC and I still can’t?” It can be very defeating, and I’ve seen my language students be flat out embarrassed about things they still couldn’t do.

Celebrate your accomplishments. Tell what you’ve achieved this week, even if it’s negative. Do you generally rejoice in these, or do you only celebrate positive ones? If you have only achieved negative victories, do you still feel as proud of yourself?