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Gracie News

Ultimate Endurance by Ryron

Feburary 9, 2010

When I was a child, I would walk off the
mat crying almost every time another kid made me tap. I felt that, just
because my name is Ryron Gracie, I had to be better at Gracie Jiu-jitsu
than all of the other kids at the Gracie Academy, and I was far from
the best. The pain I created by identifying with my family name
continued for years and even reached the point at which I would resist
going to class. My father would let me stay home under the condition
that I stayed in my bedroom for up to four hours. That was great! I
would do almost anything to avoid the self-imposed embarrassment, pain,
and the suffering.

Now that I'm one of the Gracie Academy head
instructors, I see the same thing happening to my students. They do not
walk off the mat crying, but their training behavior shows symptoms of
the same dilemma.

Most students seem to think they should
outperform their partner. Maybe it's just our competitive nature.
Commonly, I will see a 23 year-old find himself in an inferior position
when working with a 39 year-old. For some reason, the younger student
will see this as a huge problem simply because they identify themselves
as being younger and stronger and therefore, better than the older
student. So the younger student will go crazy trying to escape.
Students who train more frequently or have trained longer than their
partners will believe that the extra time on the mat means that they
must be better than the other student.

My favorite source of identity-based stress is that
associated with rank. It seems that every purple belt in a blue belt's
guard MUST pass the guard simply because the partner is a blue belt -
or else they feel that they're unworthy of their rank. Of course,
that's not true! In fact, it's kind of crazy. What's even crazier is
that if I asked the purple belt, "Why did you fight with that much
intensity and expend so much energy to pass the guard?" The response I
always get is, "I didn't use that much energy." This is because the
student is disconnected from the moment. Identification with a belt is
what causes the disconnection. The fear of losing face or damaging
one's ego is powerful, but rarely acknowledged. If we asked the
student, "Do you think if you can not pass a blue belt's guard you will
lose your belt?" Most students will say "No"

As I teach Gracie
jiu-jitsu around the world, I'm often asked, "How do I improve my
endurance?" Almost everyone that does jiu-jitsu has one time or another
reached a point of complete exhaustion. This is when the student is
vulnerable to countless submissions and sometimes the exhaustion itself
is the submission. There are levels of exhaustion and they are all
undesirable. My goal is to show all students of Gracie jiu-jitsu they
can improve their endurance "NOW." The key is in the mind.

My
father has ten kids and seven of those are boys. My brothers; Rener,
Ralek and Reylan are the closest to me in age. Now that we are all over
21 years old, it is common for me to find myself under one of my
"little brothers." I just identified myself as the older brother and
that can be dangerous. Especially since that can cause me to feel that
because I am older nobody can hold me down or I have the most mat time
under my belt so I must escape. So, when one of my little brothers
achieves the mounted position how do I react? My first response is to
do whatever escape seems to be available, 50% of the time they will
neutralize my attempt. At this moment, my actions will determine
whether I will waste energy or not. If I attempt to defeat them under
the false assumption that I will escape just because I'm the older
brother, I risk exhaustion. The ideal first reaction is to appreciate
the technique that worked so well in controlling me. Next, is to be
very connected with the moment and be so present that any and every
movement is noticed - just like waiting. Reaching this level of
presence will allow the student to not only see but also understand
what is happening. When a student trains with this kind of focus, they
will conserve energy and thereby increase overall endurance.