Anatomy of a slump

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Ultimately what I believe, or don’t believe, doesn’t really matter. The only thing that beliefs do for me is close my mind to different possibilities. -Daniele Bolelli, On The Warrior’s Path

For the next little while we are going to be taking a detour through SlumpLand. I apologize for being more dull and depressive than usual. However, if you are new to your MA journey and have never had one of these before, please do stick around and watch the show. It’s important to understand that this is part of the MA journey, and that they suck, but they do go away. I see a lot of people put down by their first serious Slump to the point where they quit. Don’t let it get you.

So the worst one one of these that I’ve had thus far was in Kung Fu, and it lasted a full 7 months. Man, did that one bite. Most of them tend to last a few weeks. I can only speak to my own experience with them- maybe other people’s slumps are different. I haven’t figured out, as of yet, how to make them go away. Fighting harder as they descend seems to make them worse. The law of negative returns kicks in. It’s like the Universe has decided to tap me out, and the Universe is a 350lb black belt with PMS, so struggling against the inevitable seems to only prolong the process. Tap tap tap. There ya go, Universe. You win. Now let’s restart.

The last time I had one of these, I had finally figured out that part about “fighting harder only prolongs the process”, so instead of spending a long while denying what was happening, and then struggling in futility and frustration like a fly in a web, I simply acknowledged that I was having a slump and validated my emotions about it. Then I tried a fresh tactic. Instead of increasing my training hours, I cut out all sparring and just did drills for a few weeks. I think it’s critical to **NOT** stop going to class. Your conditioning goes to hell, if nothing else. TV and video games start to look attractive again. Your diet goes out the window and the weight starts coming on.

Positional training actually is worse than free sparring at this point…. unfortunately, while it’s fairly easy to avoid sparring for a few weeks (with the exception of the odd class where the teacher decides that’s all we’re doing for that day), it’s impossible to do just drills and opt out of positional sparring unless I want to fake an injury. Being a straightforward person with a low BS tolerance, I don’t want to go there. So there will have to be some positional training, but I’ll just have to deal with it as best I can.

Avoiding sparring and just doing drills minimizes the amount of failure that one has to deal with on a daily basis. It breaks you out of the Deadly Failure Spiral. It’s critical to be able to deal with failure- in MA, getting our asses kicked repeatedly is how we learn- but when you’re in SlumpLand, it’s difficult to keep this in perspective.

Tonight- after pummelling, keylocks, figure-4 armbars and the same takedown we did this morning- I had to do positional sparring with Dave and two medium-sized white belts. Now, Dave has been a prince to me lately, and he only wants to help, and I truly appreciate his efforts. But I’ve been doing BJJ long enough to be able to tell when you’re handing something to me. It doesn’t make this better. It was actually easier to cope with being smacked down soundly by two white belts than it was to cope with Dave dialling his performance to just a half notch above mine and then handing me a guard replacement at the end. But it’s the thought that counts, and I have enough presence of mind to will myself to accept it- if not with as much grace as I would wish, at least without openly snarling at him. I once got snippy with Ben during a Slump- this was like three years ago- and I immediately felt awful about it and still do to this day, so I try really hard to be mindful to not take out my frustrations on my teammates.

I’m hoping to come up with at least one new tactic to experiment with during this Slump. Still looking for a method to actually make it go away.

Izzy got her first stripe today, which is awesome.

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