Finding middle ground
FCN Ambassador Bianca Thomas is on a global journey competing and training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) and Bikini Fitness Bodybuilding. With a strong academic background in Molecular Biology (MSc) and Strength and conditioning (MSc), Bianca is currently writing her first book called ‘Life Lessons From Sport’ which will be finished in September 2016. The theme is how emotional and mental wellness ‘can’ and ‘should’ go together with competitive sport.
Originally from the UK, Bianca is currently travelling the USA, Brazil, Lebanon, Abu Dhabi, Belarus and Mongolia aiming to train and compete in Jiu Jitsu in each Country. She is a big believer that sport should be used to improve lives and wants to share the knowledge she is learning along the way to mentor and support others.
Brazil chapter 1 taught me many things but it also left me exhausted. After a month of not training over Christmas in the U.K, I am back to Brazil, determined to put what I have learnt so far into practice.
1. Identify quickly the line between being tested and being punished, which leads straight into….
2. Find a learning environment conducive to the above.
3. Stand my ground on things I can not compromise on. For me, this journey is about finding wellness. Staying injury free is therefore a big part of that.
So I did….and the outcome I think is this elusive thing called the ‘middle ground’ which I didn’t know existed because balance is a concept I know nothing about.
Familiarity for me, is to knock at the doors of limitations, break mentally and physically and then recover, which is a balance of sorts but it often leaves a long lasting taste of fragility!
I’m on an adventure of mind and body, so I’m looking for new ways to do difficult things. This can be practical things but often it is just changing my thinking. My journey, I would say is more ‘inside out’ than anything else.
Can I learn from the middle ground? Is it necessary to be always stretched to ones limits to learn? Can I learn in the comfort zone? Failure, hardship and adversity are no doubt good teachers but can we learn from its opposite too?
The first couple of weeks back in Brazil, I struggled… a lot. Making the decision to change gym and integrating into a new gym can often be tricky. I was determined to avoid the usual initiation process which just ends up being a war of attrition to no particular benefit. Ego had to be put to one side and I started to say ‘no’ – more to myself than anybody else. The manifestation of this was saying ‘no’ to using force when technique and quiet focus was a better option and saying no to extra training sessions that don’t serve any role in making me better. Removing strength and force for me is like taking away my breathe because it’s the one thing I can rely on. It’s unnerving and really unsettling because it often means taking a few steps back to go forward.
Whilst I can endure a daily dose of being ‘smashed’ on the mat, it is not ideal for learning, retaining information or building confidence. You learn survival skills but that’s about it and I want to learn jiu jitsu which is a technical sport. Technique that works is often a reversal of instinct. It turns out this is a great analogy for life and for this trip. In jiu jitsu, the path of least resistance works and I think this works too in life. Sometimes unlearning our survival and social conditioning is really necessary because it doesn’t always serve us well.
My instinct is undoubtably to push back harder when pushed and I’m trying to unlearn this in all aspects of sport and life. When I’m tired in training, I try to relax. When I don’t know how to solve a communication problem, I walk away until I do. When doors close, I find another that’s open. I hate to generalise a culture because this is littered with problems but the Brazilians I have met know how to relax! My choices are therefore limited here because my determined, stubborn British mannerisms simply are not going to work. This is therefore one of the advantages of training in different cultures; it forces you to change strategy.
I have stumbled across finding a daily life of balance these last few weeks by trial and error. It’s a product of being tired, finding a compatible gym, wanting to conserve some energy and above all stay well. Middle ground is a place where I can absorb far more information. It makes me think about what other good things come from having a little bit of balance in my day to day life: fitness, happiness, motivation, curiosity, intrigue, consistency in training, lack of injury, humour and retention of information.
This second chapter of Brazil has certainly opened my eyes to the possibility that we can learn inside the comfort zone too, contrary to what I believed and this is good to know! It’s a strategy that is working well for my goals of learning jiu jitsu and wellbeing. Whilst I’m never ‘comfortable’ on the jiu jitsu tatami I’m also not stretched to my mental, emotional and physical limits at the moment. I find other things at the cusp of my limitations but it’s a place I’m cautious to visit too frequently.
As I go through this trip, I find I know less and less about everything because my pre-formed ideas and hypothesises of life get broken down constantly but one thing is for sure, we change every day – moods, energy, vitality etc. What feels like balance will therefore also change from day to day. We need all experience; the comfort and the uncomfortable, the sad and the happy, the hot and the cold. Thinking of things as good or bad isn’t very helpful as it all plays an important role in creating the bigger picture.