By Nick Mavrick
It’s good to be bad at stuff sometimes.
I think that it is important to try new things; to be embarrassed about your lack of skill in some new pursuit; to be humbled by a difficult task. I think that it is important to question yourself and your motivations and intentions. You have to dip your toe outside of your own carefully constructed comfort zone once in a while, or you aren’t really living! You’re just existing.
This week, I stepped outside of my comfort zone a bit.
I have been saying for years that I was going to add some stand-up back into my training. Every time I have been injured over the last few years, I have had a series of downtrodden-toned conversations with Coach Sean or Coach Garrin or Coach Tyler about possibly splitting my time between the jiu jitsu mat and the kickboxing mat. Then…my injuries start to heal and I have to “make up for lost time.”
Does this sound familiar?
Even though I believe and have been advised that cross-training a little bit might help me to stay balanced (and less likely to get hurt as my body gets older while my brain stays 25), I charge full-bore back into jiu jitsu as many times a week as I can manage, and forget all about those conversations with my friends from the other side of the chain-link.
The thing is…my love for jiu jitsu and my greed for time on that side of the fence is only part of that story. The other part is that I am afraid I’m going to embarrass myself. I’m going to be white belt. AGAIN. I have fear. I have anxiety.
“Am I too old to start a new thing?”
“Am I going to look stupid?”
“Will I have enough time to dedicate to this?”
…and so on…and so on…
I decided to stop being a baby.
I thought back to the fear of trying something new that kept me out of jiu jitsu for many years before I started. I studied traditional styles: hap ki do, hwa rang do, tae kwon do. That was my comfort and familiarity, and this new thing seemed weird, and I didn’t want to devote any time to something new and strange. It wasn’t until probably 6 years later that I finally took my first jiu jitsu class at the old Easton BJJ on Broadway. As you know, I have never looked back.
I sucked it up and faced my anxiety and my chronic shyness and dived face-first into a whole new community–one that would become something so much greater than the sum of its appreciable parts. This kind of growth cannot happen without something unpleasant taking place on the front end.
So, while we shadow boxed in my first ever Easton Kickboxing Fundamentals class, Coach George approached me on the end (where I could hide a little bit) of the mat.
“Ah…tae kwon do,” he said as I extended out front push kicks to the solar plexis of an invisible adversary.
I was inexplicably embarrassed. I have years of training and practice with those styles of kicks, and yet I knew that in this context, that technique was wrong and that I was going to have eventually un-teach myself some things that I have practiced thousands of times.
Then I thought: “So?”
Coach George and I had a laugh. He showed me some of the subtle differences between what I was doing and what I should have been doing and we moved on. Nobody looked. Nobody cared. Nobody laughed at me.
So now, I intend to step out of my martial comfort zone until I become comfortable out there in that new zone. Then, I’m going to find something else that I suck at-and I’m going to work on that.
Another of life’s incredible and confounding paradoxes is that it takes you half of your life to come to important realizations like-a life without challenges and without pain and growth isn’t really a life fully-lived.
Find a thing to suck at. Then suck at it until you don’t suck anymore.