‘Life will teach you how to live – if you live long enough’
These are stolen words from Tony Bennett, the Jazz singer and I think there is real truth to that. My quest however is to learn the lessons faster, so I have more of my life to enjoy, because I truly believe life is meant to be fun. I also believe it can be an awful lot easier than I have previously made it.
I have come to understand that difficulties are only lessons in disguise; the problem comes when you don’t learn the lesson. For me, conventional wisdom about how to live does not work and this trip is really about finding my own way.
A few weeks have passed now – I have arrived and left very competitive gyms both in San Diego (USA) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). It is normal on this trip to experience tremendous information overload and more often than not I can extract useful information. These last few weeks however have been difficult. Constantly moving, adapting, making and leaving friends and trying to integrate into JiuJitsu gyms as a beginner can be easy, it can also be really tough. As a rough rule of thumb, I have found the first couple of weeks integrating in any new gym is the hardest and I have experienced this initiation process back to back for a while now. It may not be the best way but it is certainly one way to learn JiuJitsu.
Contrary to expectation, training in San Diego was actually really tricky. I chose a large competitive gym to train in and this was an environment where people do not like to lose…ever! Generalising is both difficult and not very helpful but occasionally I have the desire to try. Independent of culture, most who participate in sport do not like to lose but I found the American way is a culture where people feel more free to demonstrate and express their dislike of losing. Where I was, the system for training beginners was undeniably good. If I wanted to train properly for competition, I can’t think of anywhere better. There are over 100 gyms in San Diego alone for jiu jitsu, most with 4+ classes a day for all levels and no shortage of technical help or good training partners. Despite all of this, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of unease in this environment. It was neutralised a bit by the Brazilians, but I felt like I was being pulled back to a mentality I have worked so hard to escape. I may walk slowly forward but I really don’t want to walk backwards. Just to put a bit of context to this – in the USA, it is common now in schools to give trophies to everybody that takes part in competitions regardless of winning or losing. I’m all in favour of encouragement but my issue with this is it creates and enables fear of failure.
Most people will know either failure itself, the fear of failure or both! Mine was a crippling fear which served no purpose whatsoever. It didn’t motivate me, it just gradually chipped away at my confidence, crippled my imagination and paralysed me into not wanting to try anything. The thing that changed my experience of sport completely was learning ‘how’ to fail. I learnt to do this with humour. Brazil and Brazilians have helped me tremendously in finding the ease and humour in my mistakes. It has taught me that there are many ways to be competitive, but for me finding joy and fun in challenge has been my saving grace.
This blog was never meant to be an instruction manual, I am far from qualified to do that but I have the freedom to try new ways of doing things because I have absolutely nothing to lose or prove! Sometimes I discover something that really enhances my life and sometimes I go very wrong, learning to never go in that direction again.
Slowly, I’m working out my particular method for thriving; this is to maintain a sense of fun and play throughout challenging situations.
The difficulty is maintaining that state in whatever situation I’m in. I’ve trained in two gyms back to back now both with a very competitive ethos of training. This is a great test for me to see how well I can keep my balance and calm. I am in one piece – not injured and I have learnt a lot but it takes a huge amount more energy and focus to keep smiling.
I have returned to my comfort zone once more in Florianopolis, Brazil to restore my energy, ground my feet, find my smile and breathe once again. Whilst the adage exists that we need to be beyond comfort to grow we also need moments of comfort to assimilate things. My first day back as I’m walking to the gym, I get passed by a run away horse that saunters straight into an English language school and stands in the doorway staring at the lady at reception… I thought to myself – yup I’m definitely home for a while!
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.