A good number of coaches I’ve worked with repeated this message: anytime you skip training you give your opponents a chance to become better than you. That day is wasted because you didn’t get any further in your path and you are no better than yesterday. I have a very different view on this.
The truth of the matter is, it is not only your physical condition that you bring with you when you’re training or competing. Every one of us that steps onto the mat, steps out as a full person bringing our personality, current life circumstances, all past history. Physical training is just one component, and from the perspective of overall progress, not even the most impactful one.
Invisible training #1 – cleaning up the path
As is true for most rookies, I was out of training due to injury quite often at the start of my BJJ journey. Sometimes I was out because life got difficult outside of the dojo and with the combination of both, it happened that I was out for almost a year. I did not do any training on the mat nor at home.
I did something else, I built up my master plan. I reorganised my view on what matters most to me, what I want from my training and how I will get it. I was collecting information on the physical an mental requirements and started to look into how to adapt them to my case. I was progressing in a less obvious way. Should I have spent that time actively practicing, I would have half of the knowledge that I have now.
Building a game plan was still about being in the game at least mentally. But sometimes, I’ve put even that aside. During my practice-free year, I was reorganising family photos and reconnecting with family members with whom I had not been in contact with for decades. I was cleaning the skeletons out of my closet. Absolutely unrelated to BJJ. But with that, I was cleaning up the path in front of me, identifying and removed the emotional blockers and those life circumstances that made it hard for me to make my own choices.
When the time came for me to finally return to the dojo, my performance didn’t show fall back; in fact, after catching up with the drills, I was noticeably improved. I was faster, more creative in my responses and got a new belt in a couple of months. I was asked a lot what did I do, if it was some online class or coaching.
What I did during that time without going to the club in fact, was building up the emotional foundation for myself, releasing a lot of very old tension that locked up a huge amount of energy. Having those released made me able to put more of myself into my fights which greatly improved my game.
Invisible training #2 – incubation time
Let’s look at the lazy Sundays, when I just sit in my recliner, enjoying the sun coming in from the terrace, seemingly idle for hours. Seemingly, because I’m charging up. From the outside, it might look nothing, but that self-time is absolutely needed after all those push and pull with co-workers, mates and relatives. Some of these games I won some I lost, and I know how much these interactions cost me only after letting the dust settle.
Things fall into their place when letting the mind be quiet, and the battles of the week gets into the right folders in the head. It’s a regular mental maintenance I need to do, and prioritise it over physical training when I have to chose one of them. I would have much less energy for training and competing otherwise.
To summarise, everything I do for myself improves my performance, because I step out onto the mat as a whole human, using the same exact energy pool to fight as I use to live.
If you listen to the voices telling you that your recharge days are a ‘waste’, you may find yourself truly wasting the day by suppressing the anxiety they cause. Basically, the self-questioning that message triggers, do more harm than help.