When I was a child, I would walk off the mat crying almost every time another kid made me tap. I felt that, just because my name is Ryron Gracie, I had to be better at Gracie Jiu-jitsu than all of the other kids at the Gracie Academy, and I was far from the best. The pain I created by identifying with my family name continued for years and even reached the point at which I would resist going to class. My father would let me stay home under the condition that I stayed in my bedroom for up to four hours. That was great! I would do almost anything to avoid the self-imposed embarrassment, pain, and the suffering.
Now that I’m one of the Gracie Academy head instructors, I see the same thing happening to my students. They do not walk off the mat crying, but their training behavior shows symptoms of the same dilemma.
Most students seem to think they should outperform their partner. Maybe it’s just our competitive nature. Commonly, I will see a 23 year-old find himself in an inferior position when working with a 39 year-old. For some reason, the younger student will see this as a huge problem simply because they identify themselves as being younger and stronger and therefore, better than the older student. So the younger student will go crazy trying to escape. Students who train more frequently or have trained longer than their partners will believe that the extra time on the mat means that they must be better than the other student.
My favorite source of identity-based stress is that associated with rank. It seems that every purple belt in a blue belt’s guard MUST pass the guard simply because the partner is a blue belt – or else they feel that they’re unworthy of their rank. Of course, that’s not true! In fact, it’s kind of crazy. What’s even crazier is that if I asked the purple belt, “Why did you fight with that much intensity and expend so much energy to pass the guard?” The response I always get is, “I didn’t use that much energy.” This is because the student is disconnected from the moment. Identification with a belt is what causes the disconnection. The fear of losing face or damaging one’s ego is powerful, but rarely acknowledged. If we asked the student, “Do you think if you can not pass a blue belt’s guard you will lose your belt?” Most students will say “No”
As I teach Gracie jiu-jitsu around the world, I’m often asked, “How do I improve my endurance?” Almost everyone that does jiu-jitsu has one time or another reached a point of complete exhaustion. This is when the student is vulnerable to countless submissions and sometimes the exhaustion itself is the submission. There are levels of exhaustion and they are all undesirable. My goal is to show all students of Gracie jiu-jitsu they can improve their endurance “NOW.” The key is in the mind.
My father has ten kids and seven of those are boys. My brothers; Rener, Ralek and Reylan are the closest to me in age. Now that we are all over 21 years old, it is common for me to find myself under one of my “little brothers.” I just identified myself as the older brother and that can be dangerous. Especially since that can cause me to feel that because I am older nobody can hold me down or I have the most mat time under my belt so I must escape. So, when one of my little brothers achieves the mounted position how do I react? My first response is to do whatever escape seems to be available, 50% of the time they will neutralize my attempt. At this moment, my actions will determine whether I will waste energy or not. If I attempt to defeat them under the false assumption that I will escape just because I’m the older brother, I risk exhaustion. The ideal first reaction is to appreciate the technique that worked so well in controlling me. Next, is to be very connected with the moment and be so present that any and every movement is noticed – just like waiting. Reaching this level of presence will allow the student to not only see but also understand what is happening. When a student trains with this kind of focus, they will conserve energy and thereby increase overall endurance.
NOTE FROM FELIPE: “Special thanks to Ryron Gracie for sharing his knowledge and being such a great ambassador for Gracie Jiu jitsu. If you wish to learn more from Ryron, please drop by the Gracie Academy ( www.gracieacademy.com ). If you can’t make it out to the Gracie Academy then you can check out his(and his family’s) excellent online instruction program at www.gracieuniversity.com .
Good luck with your training and Happy rolling!
Jiu jitsu Kingdom