There are a lot of really, really talented athletes out there. I am not one of them. In fact, to say that I'm athletically challenged would be an understatement.
I train anywhere between 2 and 3 times a week for up to two hours at a time. I roll with people lighter, heavier, faster and stronger than I am. For several years now I've practiced and practiced in an attempt to make perfect... or at least something resembling it. It's tough to see that people naturally gifted at Jiu-Jitsu without all that work. Easily tapping out blue belts and even purple belts before they've even gotten the last stripe on their white belt. If your not one of them that doesn't mean you should give up. If anything it's even more of a reason to keep going.
When your not "good" at Jiu-Jitsu, your time on the mat will be twice as frustrating as it is for people who naturally excel at it. You will struggle to comprehend techniques that they seem to get bored with.
When it comes time to roll, you're going to be tapping more than they are. I don't recall getting my first tap until a year into Jiu-Jitsu. You might go to a couple tournaments and feel like an outsider, like you don't belong with these people who are "real" athletes. All of that can be extremely discouraging, but it's not without it's benefits.
Just like a home cooked meal has the magic of tasting so much better than takeout, achievements (even the little ones) in Jiu-Jitsu tend to feel so much better when you know how hard you've worked for them.
It may be as simple as finally nailing that anaconda choke when rolling in class. Those of us who have to work hard at perfecting the technique over and over though drilling value those moments because we understand the struggle and strife involved to make it happen. Having to be constantly corrected for minute details leads to better memory retention in the heat of a roll.
Sharper techniques under pressure I believe is due partly to the demolition of ego that occurs when you get your butt whooped on the mats every time you show up to class. It's almost impossible for those of us who aren't good at Jiu-Jitsu to get cocky because, well, we have no reason to be. Jiu-Jitsu has a beautiful way of leveling the playing field, even if it takes time for you to see it happen.
The key to progressing when your not good at Jiu-jitsu is goals. Set weekly, monthly and yearly goals for where you want to be. Tell yourself this week I'm not going to be submitted (at the beginning start with for x minutes). Then focus on defending position and keeping a good frame. Tell yourself this month I'm going to pass guard x number of times or I'm going to stay in 1 then 2 then 3 times during positional drilling. Do this and at some point you wake up one day, go to class and the aimless cloud of techniques begin to coalesce into a game. That game start to work on the new white belts then blue and so on. You start hitting things you never thought you would be able to.
Take your time. Stop an smell the armbars. Working hard and bettering yourself is Jiu-Jitsu. Stripes and belt colors are not your goals. There is no rush, Jiu-Jitsu is an journey filled with ups and downs, opportunity and frustrations. Remember when we were kids on a long trip, my parents always said we'll get there when we get there. It's the struggle to overcome difficult times and setting goals that makes you "good" at Jiu-Jitsu. It’s okay to be frustrated when that really, really good lower belt starts regularly tapping you out, but if you want to keep moving forward, you have to use that frustration to drive yourself to work even harder. Once you achieve the goals you set out to conquer, you’ll realize just how far hard work can take you regardless of how much talent you have.
Blue Belt - Blake Hanley