No One is Coming to Save You

6 min read
A short guide to becoming your own superhero

No One is Coming to Save You

A short guide to becoming your own superhero 

Location: Tampa, FL

Every kid dreams at one point or another about becoming a superhero. We all watched and read enough comics to fantasize as to what it would be like to become a defender. But as we begin to gain consciousness and realize the grim reality the world offers; those dreams begin to dissipate. As a child, I remember watching the Olympic games and thinking—those folks must not be human— As a teenager, I would watch martial arts movies and assume that you had to be born with a special aptitude to perform those sequences. I would sit there upset at myself for being ORDINARY. But what if I told you that the key to becoming our own superhero lies in our response to the struggles we face?

At the young age of 7, my mother informed me that I would be attending tennis lessons. Naturally, my hyperactive brain created a false narrative in which I would “WOW” all the instructors with my innate abilities. The reality was a far cry from that narrative. In fact, I was awful. I felt like quitting after a few failed attempts to return a serve. However, my coach found ways to engage my interest and allowed me to see even the smallest of improvements.

As Tim Notke put it, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” When we struggle to assimilate a technique or sequence, we impel neuroplasticity. Medicinenet.com defines neuroplasticity as the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections throughout life. Neuroplasticity allows the neurons (nerve cells) in the brain to compensate for injury and disease and to adjust their activities in response to new situations or to changes in their environment. The repetitive drilling of the difficult techniques we engage in allows our brain to form new pathways, which, in return, convert them from challenging tasks into more manageable tasks.

Here are a few tips to becoming your own superhero:

Remember that the process is not easy. To become your own superhero, you must be willing to dedicate endless hours not just practicing but also studying, analyzing, and learning. It is easy for us to get wrapped up in the magic of rolling. Sometimes, however, sitting back and observing other people train can be the key to progress. Hindsight is 20/20, but so is the view from the coach’s corner. Take the time to break down moves. Enjoy the process of seeing the art develop in front of your eyes. Place yourself in the coach’s chair and see how you would direct the match.

Never downplay your impact. You do not have to be a black belt to be influential. In fact, many of those who inspire me daily to train harder are lower ranked than I. Do not wait until you become a professor to help your community. In his book “The Talent Code,” Daniel Coyle digs deep into the concept of ignition. Ignition occurs when we see normal individuals like ourselves achieving extraordinary goals through hard work. “If she can do it, so can I.” Ignition is the fuel we need to practice harder and smarter. Through ignition, the goal becomes reachable; thus, our confidence becomes more solid. At times in your Jiu-Jitsu career, you will be the igniter, and many others, you will be the “ignitee” (Coyle, 2010 ).

Get ready to sacrifice a lot. If you want to succeed, you must be prepared to give a lot up. Many days you will feel like quitting. Frustration will have you doubting your commitment. Becoming your very own Jiu-Jitsu hero means you will miss plenty of family functions. If you are dedicated to be the best you can be, that will mean more mat time and less party time. Many friends will lack understanding of your passion. Joints will become inflamed, pain will follow. Plateaus will make you doubtful; exhaustion will take its toll. But the reality is, none of those feel like sacrifices because the journey is so rewarding.

Be proud of your accomplishments but don’t let those accomplishments become your identity. Every single one of the professors and masters I have met and learned from have one particular thing in common: They are all humble. They have an undying passion for the art and still hunger for knowledge. None of them have ever felt the need to divulge their accolades. They don’t have to. When you talk to them, their passion and commitment speak higher volumes than any prize could.

Be coachable. Flexibility is more than the ability to perform a split. Become moldable. Strive to be a better learner. Don’t get married to one way or the highway. Be open-minded enough to see the world through other people’s perspectives. Every person who shares the mats with us has the ability and power to teach us something new. Don’t entirely discard techniques when they feel difficult or do not match your game. Learn to say: “We’ll revisit this later” instead of “this is not for me.”

Timing is of the essence. Don’t fully write things off. In 2010, wrestling was definitely not for me. Today, I couldn’t imagine my life without weekly wrestling practices. Why is that? Through neuroplasticity, I have built new neuropathways that I didn’t possess in 2010. Time will inevitably pass, but if you play your cards right, you can make that passing time work for you.

If you told me when I first stepped on the mats in 2010 that I would be in the position I am today, I would laugh in disbelief with the knowledge, experience, and accomplishments I now have. Yet here I am to prove that it is possible. The past 10 years have not been an easy ride, but I can wholeheartedly say that they have been the most ameliorating years of my life.

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