When starting to learn something new, it's exciting. You sign up for your first class, buy your first gi, a rashguard, a mouthguard, and other items. While many things to supplement your training can be bought off the shelves - or custom ordered - one thing that can't be bought but is essential to have is patience.
There are hundreds and hundreds of jiu-jitsu techniques to learn. When you embark on your study, it's important to keep in mind that it's going to take time to learn them all (if that's even possible) and even longer to perfect them. While this may seem like common sense, it's easy to forget. No matter how passionate and enthusiastic you are about your training, it is sometimes easy to get lost in the belt ranking/promotion system, overwhelmed by the details of the various techniques, and frustrated by the lack of immediate success.
When you have a belt ranking system, it's easy to get caught up in the desire to reach the final goal. While in some martial arts it does not take too long to achieve a black belt, for jiu-jitsu it takes years (decades) of commitment. Seriously, when you start training, it really is important to develop the mindset that it's not about the belt. When you embark on a journey that's that long, you better have packed a lot of patience along with your gear.
The idea of patience, however, does not just apply to the long-term learning of jiu-jitsu. It is a practice that has to be implemented any time you sit down to learn. Whether you're in class trying to absorb the details of the day's technique or you're watching an instructional video online and trying to figure out the mechanics of the move, chances are you're not going to get it right away. Don't let that dissuade you. You must persevere. You must persist. You must be patient.
It is so easy to get disheartened when a move you learned does not work. While it is understandable if it doesn't work for you the first time you try it, what bout the 2nd? 3rd? 20th? Suppose after 50 tries you're still not getting it right? Do you just give up? This is where patience is necessary. You have to give yourself the chance to succeed and that means sticking to your practice even when you want to give up. Again, more than anything, you have to learn how to dig deep and be patient. With hundreds and hundreds of jiu-jitsu techniques to learn, to have the desire to know each one proficiently requires patience.
Aside from learning techniques, you also need patience when you're sparring. The beauty of jiu-jitsu lies in the perfect balance of timing and leverage. While my first instinct when put in an oppressive situation used to be to fight to get out, I have now learned the value of being patient, calm, and just breathing. For me, it's not about winning or losing, it's about survival. Fighting to survive requires intelligence, awareness, and patience. This has been the place where my patience has been tested the most - when I feel like I'm drowning in a sea of limbs and there is no sight of a safe shore. It is at that time that I dig deep and stay calm and patient. It's at that time that I realize I hold my own life preserver.
Another time you really need to practice patience is when you're dealing with being injured. It's tempting to step back on the mats when you're 'well enough' or to 'roll light' or test yourself 'just this once' ... more often than not, it doesn't work in your favor. This is one of those points that I've always known but has taken me a long time to implement. I have rushed back on the mats before being 100% - whether it is recovering from the flu or recovering from an injury. Regardless of the situation, rushing back always backfired. This is once again where you need to practice patience. Allow yourself to be the best you can be on the mats. Give yourself the opportunity to be at perfect health so you are able to practice for your whole life and not just once in a while. Be patient with your recovery.
Finally, be patient with your progress. Comparison is the thief of joy - that definitely rings true on the mats. Whether you get submitted during a sparring session, are struggling to get the flow of a technique, or are not promoted when you had hoped - be patient. Not everybody progresses at the same speed; more importantly, remember that this is a lifelong journey. Keep at it. The only way you'll improve is by putting in mat time, so don't get swayed or dismayed by what's happening with other teammates. Be happy for their progress and be happy with yours. Think back to your first day of jiu-jitsu and to where you are now ... and if you're just starting out, look forward to the amazing journey that lies ahead. Celebrate what you've learned and be patient for all that you have to learn ahead of you.