I’ve actually never told anybody this story because I’m not so proud of it. But I believe there’s a lesson in here for those of us who do Jiu-Jitsu and strive for a better practice.
Growing up I was very, very poor. There were times when there wasn’t a lot of food – that kind of poor. And as a child I was wrought with jealousy towards other kids. I was keenly aware of what they had and what I didn’t have.
I remember once waking up in the middle of the night, creeping over to my mother’s purse and actually stealing money in order to go and get some nonsense toy that all the other kids had.
During that time, I remember being filled with anger and envy. I just could not wrap my head around the haves and the have-nots, how it was that I was born into this and other people weren’t.
I have gone through my lifetime thinking about that night and being ashamed of it. Only now can I understand how hard my mother was working back then – this immigrant woman without an education was doing eighty, ninety hours a week at a job paying little more than minimum wage.
But instead of being very grateful for the effort that she put in, I was like an poorly-behaved cat – I was angrily “peeing on the bed”. I was sometimes literally peeing in the bed because I felt so wronged by my situation.
This feeling of being entitled to something more, of being owed something, can appear among students in Jiu-Jitsu also. We don’t like getting a correction or we think things should be a certain way to accommodate us.
So rather than looking at a difficult situation with a grateful heart, a grateful spirit, and asking “what does this have to teach me?”, sometimes when we don’t get what we want, we act like an angry cat and “pee the bed”.
I have to remind myself that my mother worked her ass off. My repayment to her was stealing from her. I have to live with that.
After a lifetime of regret, now my other repayment to her is that now I too am working my ass off. I’m in a deep, deep study with my teachers who not only pushing my buttons but are ringing my bell.
That’s what it means to behave well in the classroom – not just to simply do what the teacher says, but to stop protecting your ego at the cost of your evolution.
We’re sharing this because you don’t need to have a lifetime of regret about bad decisions you made during a moment of entitlement. You can adjust and reduce the pain.
But for all of us, this is a lifelong project: being grateful and shrinking the ego. As instructors we are engaged in it, too. We’re not asking you to do something that we are not doing ourselves.
So watch it. Be aware of your tendency towards entitlement, or expectation, or whatever it is that stands in the way of growth and progress and gratitude. Course-correct and your regrets will be fewer. Who knows, you might even become a more complete Jiu-Jitsu practitioner because of it.
For more about our larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.
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