Going Uphill

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We have to go uphill every day, at least a little bit. We may have flat days where our equilibrium is never upset and we’re right in balance, or we may have downhill days where everything goes easily. In either case, we still have to find a challenge to engage with, in order to build and maintain strength.

Experienced people know that in the martial arts, the external battles we wage are only one piece; we have the internal terrain to navigate as well. 

This is conditioning for the mind, a sort of exposure therapy to keep us used to exerting ourselves so that it becomes a habit. And usually we don’t have to look too far to find a something to meet up with. It can be mental, physical or emotional, but for the sake of our conditioning there must be some place where we exert effort against resistance during the course of the day. Otherwise we soften quickly. 

Now, going uphill doesn’t mean that everything has to be hard. It also doesn’t mean that the things that you’re already doing don’t require effort. But to be effective as practitioners over the long term, we have to be able to head into the hard work we have to do with a well-prepared mind. We need to be ready to go uphill.

And even if external circumstances don’t give us any resistance, and we find ourselves on a straightaway or a downhill, we can still deliberately choose a place and a time and a way to make ourselves step outside of the comfort zone. It’s called training.

We can’t rely on the hope that it’s going to be an easy one – as in, “I hope this conversation is going to be easy”. We assemble to tools we need on an ongoing basis. Sometimes we find that we have to accept that part of the day, even the whole day, is an uphill, in which case we learn to buckle down and ride through it.

In the short run it’s easier not to go uphill when you don’t have to. In fact, it’s very efficient to only put out the energy necessary to complete a given task (and the martial arts tend to prize efficiency). But in the long run it’s a liability to put it off. Being well-prepared is better, so that we have the habit of climbing a little bit every day rather than finding ourselves suddenly needing traits like perseverance, stoicism, positive thinking and goal-management.

Again, if you’re a runner you can’t only run downhill or on flat surfaces. You’ve got to climb a little. The recommendation here is that you deliberately choose some way to put an uphill in your day. Believe it or not, with time and experience you can get a little bit tougher and you find yourself used to those harder climbs. It’s great insurance policy, because you never suddenly find you’re without resources to draw on.

So don’t worry so much when you end up with a difficult day; it’s just preparation for an even harder one.

If we’re surrounded by people who are encouraging us to stay in a comfort zone, we need to go find some other people. We need this work. The world needs you, the class needs you, people need you and it’s important as part of the practice. Good jiu-jitsu training is built on a willingness to work on something difficult every day.  When we embrace this project, we grow stronger, more powerful and more able to manage whatever comes our way.

For more about our larger project of collaborative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.

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