Embracing Discomfort

If you've spent any significant amount of time on the mat, you've probably heard the mantra "learn to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations".  While this statement is definitely very true, it is often much easier said than practiced.  The reality is, we spend most of our time on the mat, as well as in life, trying to avoid situations that cause us pain and discomfort.  Now, you shouldn't be regularly experiencing "pain" in Jiu-jitsu training.  Obviously, make sure that you protect yourself and tap in plenty of time to avoid injury.  However, if you've spent any time at all sparring in Jiu-jitsu class, you have certainly experienced discomfort.  It goes with the territory.  We've all had that feeling, when you're underneath a larger, stronger, or more skilled opponent, where you feel the crushing pressure as if someone parked a truck on your chest, you feel like you can't breathe, and all of your efforts to try to move and escape are in vain.  This can be not only frustrating, but downright terrifying!  If you are one of the people who experience a sense of claustrophobia in this type of situation, you are not alone!  This is actually very common.  However, it is something that can be overcome.

Ironically, the best way to inoculate yourself to this type of panic sensation is through continued exposure to being put in these types of positions.  The good news is, a large part of the stress that you feel in these positions is mental.  Of course, there is some physical discomfort, and there are certainly technical things that you can learn to do to reduce the physical toll of having someone's weight on top of you.  But one of the biggest things you can train yourself to do is to learn to relax, breathe, and think your way out of the situation.  Avoid the temptation to panic.  After all, you're not dying.  You're just temporarily in an uncomfortable spot, but rest assured it won't last forever.  If you can learn to control the demons in your own mind, the voices telling you to quit, you will be better for it, and the next time won't be as bad.  First, slow down....try to slow both your breathing and your thought process.  Do your best to protect your neck and limbs to find a position that you can first survive.  You don't have to escape right away.  If you're not taking damage, meaning that your opponent can't strike you, or submit you, they are just on top.  You're simply dealing with gravity.  Try to have a mindset of survival first, before escaping.  Often times, in a panicked attempt to escape a bad situation, we make our situation worse, possibly even leading to a submission.  And remember, Jiu-jitsu is a two-way street.  As much as you may be on the worse end of certain positions, you will, at some point, find yourself back on top where you can begin to impose your will on your opponent.  That is the time to remember that feeling of helplessness on the bottom.  If you can use your superior position and pressure to cause your opponent to mentally break, it will be much easier for you to open them up to launch your own attacks.  Remember, in Jiu-jitsu as well as life, it is better to give than to receive!

The idea of learning to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations applies not only on the mat, but in life as well.  We all have times in our lives where we face adversity.  Sometimes it is a consequence of choices that we've made, other times, it's just about what life presents us with.  Pain, sorrow, loss, frustration-all of these are parts of life that, while we would rather avoid, we all must face at some point.  And, the reality is, if we just learn how to breathe and survive, and realize that we can get through it, it will make us better for it.  We've all heard the saying, "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger".  There is a lot of truth to that statement.  Because, both in Jiu-Jitsu and in life, it is often through discomfort that we develop the most and if we approach it with the right mindset, we will ultimately be better for it.  Life isn't always what you make it....sometimes it's about how you take it.  So next time you're stuck in that miserable position on the mat, or in life, try to focus on the big picture, survive in the moment, and be grateful for the experience, because  it is critical for your development!

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