In Western society we are taught that failure isn’t an option. Often times our value is measured by the level of our success. We must succeed at everything we do and accept nothing less. The pressure to succeed can often times be catastrophic. In cultures like Japan where failure is considered a disgrace and unforgivable, it is common for children to commit suicide over low test scores and grades. We have to ask ourselves why are our values so heavily measured off our accomplishments? Isn’t it our failures that lead to our greatest success?
Purple belt Susie Lynn of Integração Jiu-Jitsu Austin has learned first hand that failure is an important and sometimes necessary tool for learning. Susie began her Jiu Jitsu journey five years ago. Susie’s boyfriend started training a few months before her and was persistent in his quest to convince her to try it. She says at first she was super intimidated, to the point that she felt nauseous before going and almost backed out. However, the gym turned out to be a very welcoming place and she made many friends that she still has to this day. Although hesitant at first she says she was really glad she went.
Throughout Susie’s Jiu Jitsu career she says she wishes that she had more women to train with. Although she says she has always had at least one other woman on her team, it was more common for her to be the only woman in class. She says having other women on your team makes for great friends and training partners, Although Susie would recommend Jiu Jitsu to women she says she has mixed feelings about martial arts as self defense. She thinks that if a stranger attacked a woman who trains Jiu Jitsu, she would be more likely to be able to fight him off than a woman who doesn’t train. However most attacks against women aren’t committed by strangers; they’re committed by someone the woman knows.
“I think that defending yourself from attacks by someone you know requires a different set of skills, like recognizing red flags early in a relationship, trusting yourself, vocalizing clear boundaries, and reaching out for help from others. I think that these skills are important for everyone to learn and practice, and I think it’s important to remember that abuse and assault can happen to anyone, regardless of how strong or smart she is.”
Much of Susie’s Jiu Jitsu journey has been spent training with partners stronger and bigger than her. She says the most memorable moment for her that stands out is when she hit an upa mount escape on a blue belt guy who outweighed her, after 3-4 months of training. She says her first few months of training she assumed that whenever she was successful with a technique it was because her training partner let her have it. However this time, he made a sound when he hit the mat like he was winded so she knew it was for real. They talked about it after, and he assured her that he did not let her have that escape. It was the first time she realized that she was executing a technique well enough during a roll, and it worked.
Susie has had much success in her life. Last August she graduated with her Masters in Occupational Therapy from UTMB and now works as a pediatric occupational therapist. She is active in community service and was class president in grad school. Susie says that she has a hard time with failure and sometimes it has restricted her from venturing outside of her comfort zone. However, Jiu Jitsu has made her more comfortable with failure.
“I used to hate the idea of failure, and I was somewhat wary of trying new things for fear of failing. Jiu jitsu has taught me that failure is an important and sometimes necessary tool for learning. You forgot to trap the arm when going for a sweep and they passed your guard? You’ll remember next time. You got the answer wrong when your anatomy professor called on you in front of your entire class? You’ll remember it for the exam. Similarly, it has really helped me with accepting and even seeking out constructive feedback. It has helped me understand that when someone critiques my performance, they are trying to help me grow. This has been a very helpful outlook and skill in other areas of my life.”
Girls in Gis staff writer
Shama Ko is a brown belt with Gracie Humaita out of Austin, TX. She has been a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner since November of 2003. She is a photographer, writer, community organizer and activist. She heads the Girls in Gis organization or as she calls it the “movement”. She describes herself as both a lover and a fighter. She loves to laugh and not take life too seriously.