Coach Ben asked the question “What motivates you?” and like many of you, it got me thinking. I know what motivates me personally, and why I train, but watching Red River BJJ over the last few years I’ve seen people come and go. Many of them not even reaching a third stripe on their white belt. I’ve seen many posts on social media explaining the BJJ pyramid and why the amount of people that start (white belts) don’t reach the top (black belt). We all have different goals in life, some of us would like to be a black belt one day, others would like to be very important business people, others want to make sure their kids have good role models, lose weight, get healthy, live a longer life, win at tournaments, and so on and so on. So take a minute and think about what it is in your life that motivates you. This is what Coach Ben wrote to students on what motivates him:
There are a few things that motivate me… On a professional level, I can pinpoint an experience I had in Basic Training at Lackland, Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. It was January 1998, graduation day and we were all prepared to move onto the next phase of our Air Force careers. Our Technical Instructor sat us all down for our final briefing of Basic Training. He gave us advice, most of which I already forgot. The one thing he said that sticks to me to this day was something along these lines, “Some of you have made it through Basic Training, and we got rid of some. Those we got rid of, they didn’t belong, and some of you still don’t belong. I know we couldn’t get to some of you, but I know the Air Force will get rid of you in due time.” These words have stuck with me through the years and have motivated me to continue serving for you. Let’s get something straight, I love the United States and what the US Flag stands for but as silly as it sounds, I am motivated to serve until I can retire from the Air Force on my terms. This experience was a motivating factor in my professional career much like an experience I had the first time I went to a BJJ gym.
In the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I remember one of my first experiences with my first Professor Ted Stickel at Gracie Barra in Anchorage, Alaska. It was July 2005 and I took my son Leo who was five and a half years old for his first BJJ class. After my son’s first class, I got up and told Professor Ted, “I want to join this class as well and I want to learn BJJ.” He looked at me, laughed a loud laugh and walked away saying, “Okay…” as he shook his head. It took me years to understand why he responded that way, but after I opened Red River BJJ, I realized it was probably because he had heard it hundreds of times. I’ve heard it hundreds of times from people who don’t understand what real commitment means. I stood there looking at Professor Ted with a “What just happened?” look on my face. I vowed to myself, I will show him. That motivated me to start and continue my journey in BJJ. Since then, I have had many other experiences with friends on the mats that continue to motivate me. These days, what motivates me the most is helping others grow in the art of BJJ. I enjoy watching them go from not understanding what a shrimp or basic arm bar from the guard is to being on the mats with them when I visit and having them put me in danger of submitting me. That motivates me to continue providing the best instruction for you at the best training facility in Wichita Falls, TX. I enjoy looking back like I do with your Coaches Carlos “D” Avila and Coach Meese and tell them, “I remember your first day on the mats with me. I used to play with you like a baby. Now I have to be careful you don’t hurt me!” Training with the very team that started with me motivates me to raise the bar in my own training.
On an intimate, personal level, I am motivated to set a good example for my two sons, Leo and Edy. I have to show them commitment to my job, to my training, and to their mother. If I quit in either of these, what kind of message would I be sending them? How could I push them to try their best and never quit if I can’t show that commitment of myself? Once they are both grown up and on their own, perhaps I’ll consider quitting BJJ. Then again, that will go against my goals of being scraped off the mats at 97 years old.
So, did you think about what motivates you? If you are still having trouble I found a few areas on where people get motivation and they are not necessarily solely based on jiu-jitsu.
Others doubt in you? When Prof Ted laughed at Coach Ben after he told him he wanted to train, Coach Ben got this motivation in him. He felt the need to show him that he was serious so he showed up to class and continued to show up. He said there were days where he wanted to give up, but he kept it up with that goal in mind (“I’ll show him I can”). Most of us have had some episode in our lives where somebody laughed at us or thought we were crazy. For example, when I was a junior in high school, an Air Force recruiter called me and he talked about the Air Force and what it would be like if I joined. We talked for hours! I was very interested and so excited about my new plans that I decided to share the news with my friends. I think subconsciously I was looking for their approval or their encouragement before I broke the news to my parents. All of them said “You’re crazy!” “They’re going to send you to war!” “You can’t go out on your own!” That was my motivation because two days later I convinced my parents and they signed me up (I wasn’t 18 yet). It’s been over 18 years, I’m still active duty and I wouldn’t have changed a thing. In BJJ we have tournaments and guess what? Some of them you win, some of them you lose, and those tournaments that you lose can give you the motivation to work on your weak areas and come back stronger.
Mastery? We all want to be masters at a skill right? The problem is that most of us don’t want to put the work that goes into it or we don’t have time. In order to master a skill (no matter what it is), there has to be some kind of effort and time put into it. It’s hard, but in due time, it will arrive. Coach Ben once told me that he didn’t really think about getting his black belt, he just showed up to class week after week, month after month and years later he got his black belt. Well, easy right? Not really, but you get the point? Show up and keep showing up.
Sense of belonging? Face it, we all want to feel a sense of belonging. It can be anywhere from church, to a band or simply by being the fan of a football team. What happens when you wear your team’s jersey and you’re walking down the street and see somebody else wearing your team’s jersey? You might not know each other but you can start a conversation about tonight’s game right off the bat as if you two knew each other! Well, same goes with BJJ. Every time you put that Gi on, you feel that sense of belonging. When you see somebody wearing a BJJ T-shirt you can’t help but talk to them or give them a nod of approval. At Red River BJJ all the students are considered part of the family, you feel like you’re part of the family and you are treated like family.
What derails people from BJJ? Why do they quit?
Loss/defeat At the beginning we all tap constantly. We are the rag dolls of the more advanced students and it might seem as though we aren’t learning anything. It’s frustrating. But, soon you realize that your defense is getting good! You start to finally learn some submissions and apply them. Then you make blue belt and you are the brand new blue belt that all other blue belts are tapping easily. Bummer! “Maybe I’ll skip class today.” Next day, “I don’t feel very well, so I’ll skip class today too.” Next thing you know, it’s been weeks and you haven’t stepped on the mat. Now you are far behind your peers so the easy thing to do is quit.
People getting promoted faster than you: Yes, it happens, it sucks, but why quit? This is when you should put your faith in your coach. When you watch a UFC fight, I’m pretty sure those contenders put their full faith in their coaches to let them know if they are ready or not. Coach knows best, it would be a disservice to you if you get promoted before you are truly ready. Everybody learns at different speeds. If you put two people side by side, same age, same weight class, same body build and teach them the same technique. Person #1 drills it every day for 2 months. Person #2 drilled the move only the day it was taught, and might have pulled it off during a couple live rolls. Person #1 can set it up anytime he baits his opponent and is successful 85% of the time with that move. Person #1 also drills every move he is taught the same way. Who do you think will get promoted faster?
Life We all know very well, plans and goals get derailed due to other priorities in life. We all prioritize our lives, our families, our finances and our goals. Many times our goals get thrown out the window in order to take care of what we consider are more important things. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, we all have our priorities, but in order to take care of those priorities, we need to take care of ourselves first. In the book The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson stated “People who feel good about themselves produce good results.” I don’t believe that is only in a business setting, that can be applied to everyday life, whether you are a successful business executive, a stay at home parent, or a college student. For me, Jiu-jitsu makes me feel good about myself because it helps me stay in shape, allows me to relieve stress while learning self-defense. I believe that jiu-jitsu has helped me be a better person on and off the mats. I feel ready to tackle a day with my stress, health and weight in check (according to my own expectations).
How do I stay on track?
There is one very simple answer to that question: show up and train
Regardless of what motivates you, I personally believe that we all have to set aside a few minutes to take care of ourselves. If we can’t take care of ourselves how are we expected to take care of others? Training Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in a family friendly place where my kids can train too is my motivation. Continuing to show up to class no matter what life brings has kept me on track. What is your motivation?