on the mat -- it's time to focus
As I walk into jiu-jitsu class, I take a look around at the other students on the mat and think -- hmmm, there are no other women here today ... and before I let my mind wander any further, I shake my head and say to myself -- never mind, focus.
I partner up with someone and I find myself starting to wonder -- Will they mind that they are training with a girl? Will this person be too gentle because I'm a female or will they be too aggressive for me to handle?
Will I be able to manage? Will ... will ... will -- never mind, focus.
As we start to train, I suddenly start to panic -- did I remember to take off my makeup? Is my hair getting in the way? Did I take off my earrings? Are my gi pants falling off? -- never mind, focus.
It is so easy to get distracted by thoughts, doubts, and hesitations in our minds. The 'what-if' and the 'will it/won't it' questions are endless. The constant internal monologue can be exhausting. The worst part is that the longer these thoughts crowd my mind, the less I am able to focus on the one thing I am here for -- jiu-jitsu.
In the beginning, I really did worry about all these things and more. However, as time went by and I kept training, I came to improve my skills not just on the mats but off the mats as well, and that included the practice of focusing.
It's not that the thoughts have stopped, it's just that I've learned to either shut them out or to capitalize on them. Now, when I'm the only woman on the mat (more often than not), I see it as a challenge. Moreover, all those thoughts and questions I had about my training partners, well they actually have nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.
I know that if I focus on being the best training partner I could be - one who is encouraging, supportive, with just the right balance of keeping it real and keeping it playful - then it will be a good training experience for us both. As for the other stuff, it's become second-nature - yes, my make-up has been taken off; I don't wear my earrings or other jewelry; my hair is tied back to the best of my ability ... and only once in a while do my gi pants start to fall off - so I just tie them tighter.
While these issues are ones that may not be inhibiting your focus, the idea behind the mental distractions is the same - shake them off; focus on everything you can do and try your best.
Starting to train jiu-jitsu was accompanied by a whole host of doubts and apprehensions for me. While it has been an incredibly exciting adventure so far, what has really been fascinating for me is how much the lessons I learn on the mats go beyond the techniques that are being taught.
When I go to class, it is a given that I have to focus on the techniques that are being presented in class that day. However, actually honing the skill of focusing - from concentrating on the details of the technique to ignoring the distracting doubts/hesitations/thoughts in my mind - has been something that I have been able to carry on once I step off the mats.
I am getting better at not second guessing myself. I do not allow distracting thoughts to persist. I keep the bigger picture in mind. I focus on the task at hand. All of these new habits have allowed me to not only be more productive but also be more committed and attentive to what I am doing - which leads to an overall much more enjoyable and fulfilling experience, no matter what the task.