In a society where we have access to everything we could ever imagine at the touch of a button, patience has become an increasingly finite skill. Whether it’s 1-click next-day shipping from Amazon or a drive-through fast food restaurant, we’ve become accustomed to not only getting what we want but getting it now.
I’ll admit, I’d rather have these modern conveniences than not, and I am certainly not immune to using them just like everyone else. However, I recognize that certain things in life you can’t buy or acquire with the snap of a finger.
One such thing that comes to mind in my life (and probably yours since you’re reading this) is developing proficiency in nearly all physical activities, more specifically the challenging martial arts of Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. For most, it takes several years before they can even begin defending themselves much less compete against highly skilled practitioners, and even then, they’ll still get humbled every week.
Most of the first several months in your BJJ or Muay Thai journey leave you feeling like a fish out of water. It can feel nearly impossible to reconcile with the fact that you’re no good at this thing, nor will you be for quite some time, but it’s so liberating when you do. Because guess what? That’s ok!
Trust the Process
Some martial arts, like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, stand uniquely in that we can train it from a very young to very old age, depending on how approach it. The first time you ever step on those mats and tie that crisp white belt with the creases still intact around your waist, you’re starting what’s known as your BJJ journey. (Same goes for those wrapping their hands for the first time and stepping into an Easton Kickboxing class — you’re beginning your Muay Thai journey.)
What you might not know or consider though, is that to get the most from it you must be in it for the long haul from day 1 onward.
Nearly every white belt or white shirt sees the mythical creature walking around the gym (aka blackbelt) and immediately sets their sites on earning one of their own as soon as possible. They start inquiring with their coaches, doing simple YouTube searches, and perhaps even guesstimating how long it may take them to get there themselves.
They’re typically shocked to find out it takes an average of 10 years or more to achieve this milestone. A far cry from the next shipping option to buy your dog food online, right?
Sure, there are outliers (e.g., BJ Penn) but for most busy people who work a full-time job, have a family, and pick up BJJ or Muay Thai as a hobby, skill development will take some time. And that’s perfectly ok.
Often in these martial arts, beginners — and even more advanced students who feel they’re not developing fast enough — tend to get impatient.
They may even push harder and dedicate more time to training, but then when they’ve plateaued or gotten injured, they lose faith in the process. To ensure that this doesn’t happen to you, consider these three key principles.
Get in it for the long haul
I am by no means a financial guru, but I do appreciate several principles I’ve learned over the years to strategically save money and see progress over time. A major key to saving — particularly in something like a retirement fund — requires you to take your emotions out of it and get on a consistent plan.
You set up automatic withdrawals from your paycheck to a company 401K each month if that’s something your company does, or perhaps you set aside a certain amount each week from your personal funds to contribute to an IRA.
Regardless, you understand that you won’t get to retire tomorrow, next week, or even next year, but depending on your path and consistency, you can get there around age 65.
You go about this by being consistent, trusting the process, and having patient — all things we must incorporate into your Muay Thai or BJJ journey!
Your training looks a lot like your retirement account in a way. Just like the stock market, you’ll have some good days, you’ll have some bad days, and you’ll have a lot of in-between days, but what matters most is that you’ve “deposited” your training sessions each week. Over time, these consistent efforts will pay off, and you will begin to see growth.
Do not compare yourself
Remember, nobody’s path looks the same.
Comparison just might be the biggest thief of joy in all of life. It’s why you see millionaires looking to become billionaires, and billionaires chasing the trillionaire title. Enough will sometimes never be enough, especially when we begin to compare ourselves to others.
While honestly assessing your skill set against those of a similar age and rank can serve as an important barometer of progress, you should focus on yourself more than anything.
I’ve seen many training partners come and go over the years simply because they let their frustrations or egos get in the way. They either saw their peers winning gold medals, were getting smashed in training, or just felt inadequate when compared to those of similar rank.
What they didn’t realize was that nobody cared except for them.
If you’re at a healthy academy with a healthy culture, then you shouldn’t worry about comparing yourself. Your coaches and teammates only care that you show up to train, you treat others with respect, and you wear a smile from time to time while doing it.
Focus on learning
This might come as a surprise, but something most people never consider about martial arts is that you’re never “done,” nor do you ever reach any such milestone which grants you 100% proficiency in the martial art.
Masters Helio and Carlos Gracie trained and lived the BJJ lifestyle nearly until the days they passed, and they’re considered the pioneers of the sport. One of the biggest favors you can do yourself from the jump is to accept the fact that you will never be done in BJJ, and you will always have room to grow.
This can help us reframe impatience because it’s quite literally impossible to just “get there.”
Rather, it’s better to take a step back, enjoy the journey and focus on continuous growth. If you’re struggling with a particular position or lack confidence in any area of your game, inquire about it with your coaches/training partners, watch some high-level matches online, or take notes on an instructional.
When we occupy our minds with doing instead of overthinking, we get out of our own way and clear the path for real improvement.
While patience might feel difficult to maintain in martial arts as challenging as the arts of Muay Thai and BJJ, it becomes of utmost necessity to ensure you live and breathe a long, happy, grappler career.
The frustrations and lack of patience most of us have felt at one point or another when it comes to training do us more harm than good. We would instead be far better channeling our energy towards long-lasting improvement.
Next time you find yourself a little fed up or impatient with your martial arts journey, remember that you’re in it for the long haul and — oh yeah, maybe have a little fun too.