Progress is Incremental

I had a hard night at MMA sparring tonight. At the end of it I leaned against the wall in the women’s bathroom (yes, there is one of those, awesome) and looked up at the shower-head (wow, we have all the amenities!) and wondered if I could “do this.”

Wondering if one can “do this” is almost always counter-productive, because doing “this” usually means succeeding 200% of the time and being the Best In The Whole World Ever Of All Time. In other words, it represents an all-or-nothing, be-all-and-end-all definition of succeeding.

Luckily the same sparring partners who took me down and smacked me in the face from top half-guard reminded me of the incremental improvements that I had made. It’s hard to view one’s own progress objectively, so this kind of feedback can be valuable.

I was still angry at myself – angry because I was “unimpressed with my performance” and angry about the fact that I had allowed it to unbalance me emotionally. I didn’t feel like staying for the second training session (No Gi jiu jitsu), but I did because I knew that that was what I needed to do. (After all, discipline consists of doing what you need to do, not what you feel like doing.) I’m glad that I did. I exhausted myself with good, controlled rolling, and the success that I achieved ameliorated my frustrations about the sparring session.

Jiu jitsu has allowed me to learn a lot about what it takes to make progress in all areas of life. It’s important to allow yourself to enjoy what you do, and to be willing to make mistakes and get countered hundreds of times while you’re working on perfecting something.

Tonight I tapped someone for the first time with a submission that I’d been taught in 2011. You can imagine how many failed attempts there have been in the three years that have passed since that time.

It was a fitting reminder of the importance of persisting, of relinquishing unrealistic expectations when it comes to progression, and of striving for that 1% improvement every time I train. It’s not an all-or-nothing process, it’s a 1% improvement, one day at a time.

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