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March 5, 2023

Resistance: Defining What Stands In Our Way (Usually Us)

Ben Williamsen

Resistance: Defining What Stands In Our Way (Usually Us)

If you’ve read best-selling book The War of Art – not to be confused with The Art of War – then you know its author, Steven Pressfield, hopes to inspire and guide creative people. 

He aims to show readers how to get to that next level in their passion, whether writing a novel, starting a business, or running a marathon.  I have personally found this book invaluable, having initially purchased it with writing in mind.  However, as I was reading, I found many of the topics helpful for my journey in Jiu Jitsu.  

In the introductory pages of the book, Pressfield states:

“Most of us have two lives.  The life we live, and the unlived life within us.  Between the two stands Resistance”. 

Pressfield always capitalizes the word Resistance and defines it as the enemy.  He says that Resistance is invisible, infallible, universal, and impersonal. 

Overcoming Resistance

Most of us that train in the gentle art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu dream of overcoming our weaknesses and achieving that next belt, hopefully eventually getting to the highest ranks and skill levels.  Some of us have obstacles more challenging than others.  All of us have Resistance.  In War of Art, Pressfield breaks things down in three subsections

  1. Defining The Enemy
  2. Combating Resistance
  3. Beyond Resistance

We don’t always know when Resistance is in our way, being “invisible and impersonal.” After all, we all have legitimate obstacles and situations sometimes where we can’t make it to class.  We have responsibilities off the mats, injuries, and family emergencies.

I personally believe that Resistance takes advantage of these situations.  For example, a meeting ran late at work and you couldn’t get to the academy on time.  So, you go home and get your Netflix on.  Out of your control, right?  There is always tomorrow, right?

Is that 100 percent true?  It’s what you tell yourself, and you can easily justify it.  However, is there anything wrong with showing up 15 minutes late?  How many of us have seen that dedicated Jiujiteiro run in 10 or 15 minutes late, work clothes still on, gi in hand. 

When I see that individual, I don’t see someone who has a problem with punctuality.  I see a dedicated person overcoming his or her Resistance to train another day.

“I have an injury, so I’ll stay home and rest tonight.” 

“Tonight” can easily turn into two weeks.  We’re not recommending training despite a glaring injury, but perhaps we can ask ourselves, “Can I still come to class with injury X?  Is it safe to isolate said injury and only do static moves?” This way, once the recommended doctor’s-orders training break has passed, we’re not tempted to extend it.

Resistance doesn’t discriminate: it comes after us at any age.

Let the challenge strengthen us

At a previous academy, a black belt told me a story from his earlier Jiu Jitsu days during a severe shoulder injury he had. He needed surgery, and his doctor told him that he was likely going to be off the mats for several months.  To him, this was an impossible situation.  He negotiated with his doctor to allow the shoulder to be wrapped and isolated while training Jiu Jitsu. 

While he healed, he literally trained with one arm.  His injured arm he wrapped, isolated to his ribs.  Best part of this story was that it was his strong arm that was isolated, making things even more difficult. 

Those several months training with only his weak arm strengthened him in ways he couldn’t predict.  His “weak” side was now just as good as his strong side.  He not only found a way to continue his training, he was able to find strength in more ways than one. 

Since I heard that story, I continue to ask myself: “Would I have the strength to do the same in that situation?”  The honest answer is probably a “no.”  However, I can continue to define my own Resistance, and attempt to overcome it.  It is very possible with this daily work that I can change that answer to a confident yes.

We’ve have had, and will continue to have, legitimate reasons to miss our training.  We just also need to have the foresight to catch Resistance in its nefarious ways. If we can do this, then we can separate legitimate responsibilities and obstacles from that inner voice that tells us to procrastinate. 


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