On Friday we were extremely fortunate to have a guest instructor for our jiu-jitsu seminar, my instructor, Mr. Lee Synkowski. It was a lot of fun, with countless rounds of sparring, and everyone (including me) learned a lot that will help us to take our training to even higher levels.
At the seminar, I was reminded of the importance of maintaining a “beginner’s mindset.” I first began studying under Mr. Lee almost 4 years ago. At that time, I had already been training in different styles of martial arts for almost 15 years, but I had never had the opportunity to formally study Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. I knew that this was an art I had to study diligently to become a complete martial artist, as it places heavy emphasis on defending one’s self on the ground, an area in which I had little knowledge.
In my first class, it was clear that my prior experience meant little in a jiu-jitsu match. I was routinely taken down, swept, controlled, and otherwise dominated by students with as little as 1 year of experience in jiu-jitsu. I experienced a range of emotions at this time. One the one hand, it was very exciting to be learning this art that was clearly very effective and a lot of fun. On the other hand, I kept thinking to myself, “I already went through this process of being the new guy and getting beaten by everyone like 3 times (when I studied Ninjutsu, Kung Fu, and San Shou), it’s not fair that I should have to pay my dues again!” It was a frustrating and humbling experience.
Thankfully, I continued my training and started working my way through the ranks, attaining my Blue Belt over 2 years ago. I wish I could tell you that I was able to gracefully drop my ego and learn to be a beginner again, and certainly I was forced to swallow my pride somewhat, but I think that the main thing that got me through those first couple years of feeling like a fish out of water was the fact that the classes were just so much fun. As humbling as it was, I couldn’t wait to get back on the mats again.
I have been studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu for about 4 years, about as long as it takes to get Black Belt in many styles, and am currently working towards my Purple Belt. However, I still train with Purple, Blue, and even some White Belts that give me serious trouble in sparring, and I am constantly reminded that there is always more to learn.
That’s the wonderful thing about martial arts; we can always get better through hard work, and because the techniques are based on leverage and positioning, our skills don’t have to decline once we reach a certain age; we are always learning, and growing.
This also helps instill a sense of modesty in the students. The students that make the most progress are the ones that enter each class ready to learn, not simply looking to show how much they already know. My goal for our students is for them to remember that any person that they meet knows more about them (the student) in some area(s).
Simply because we have more experience in the martial arts (or any other field) does not mean that we should not treat others with respect. Even if we have more experience than someone in the martial arts (or any other field) we should treat that person with respect. As a Blue Belt in Jiu-jitsu, I should try to treat the White Belts the way I would like for the Purple and Brown belts to treat me.
I am reminded of the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every man (or woman) I meet is in some way my superior, in that, I can learn from him (or her).”
I believe that maintaining this “Beginner’s Mindset,” is one of the keys to making progress and friends in our training. Take a look at our students and see if you agree.