I had been training for a solid 8 months, an average of 3 times a week. I trained through going to college 1 ½ hours away, through classwork and writing, through raising a son and tending to my husband. Usually the mats were a release for me, but at this time, training was becoming something I was just slogging through, and I began dreading going to class. Those of us who train Jiu Jitsu are like minded. We are staunchly dedicated and similarly addicted to this complicated, raw sport. On the mats, we let out our frustrations of the day. We form friendships and embrace the camaraderie. Sometimes, though, we need a break, even though every ounce of our mind and body says that taking a break is for quitters. We have to prove to ourselves, our coaches and our teammates that we are 100% committed to this sport, even to our own detriment.
I called my coach and told him how I was feeling. Being a compassionate man, he supported my decision to take a break. “Darisse, Jiu Jitsu is always going to be there. It will be waiting for you when you get back.” Unlike other sports, Jiu Jitsu is always in season, and that can be both a blessing and a curse. We want to think that, if we didn’t have other obligations, we would train 7 days a week, even multiple times a day. But even something we enjoy can become a burden, given the right circumstances. Taking a break can be controversial on the message boards, but I think you should take breaks when you feel burned out. For me, I was so tired, I could feel it in my bones. Even with a good night’s sleep, I was exhausted. While usually going to Jiu Jitsu was the highlight of my day, I was regularly coming up with reasons not to go. Of course, when I didn’t go, I felt guilty, like I was letting my coach and teammates down. Every moment in my life became drudgery. I was just going through the motions: Wake up. Eat breakfast. Drive to school. Sit in traffic. Go to class. Finish homework. Drive home. Sit in traffic. Kiss my husband and son. Go to sleep. And so on.
Finally, I gave myself permission to take a break—a minimum of 1 week. In giving myself permission, I didn’t feel guilty anymore, because no one was expecting me to be there, including me. Of course, the danger of taking a break is that you won’t return, so I set myself a deadline for my break, which was two weeks. I thought that two weeks would give my body a sufficient break, would allow me to finish my college classes, and allow me to give my family more attention.
After about 10 days, I went back, re-energized and excited to start again. The mats became my refuge once again, and class became the highlight of my day. I think there is a misconception that taking a break means that we are less dedicated to the sport, but for goodness’ sake, even professional athletes take breaks, and have an off season. Taking a break is an individual’s decision, so don’t let outside pressure influence you. Give yourself permission to take a break, and keep Jiu Jitsu fun.
About the Author:
Darisse Smith is a four stripe white belt and trains at Aloisio Silva Academy in Yucaipa, California. She is married with a 6 year old son who also trains in Jiu Jitsu. Darisse spent 7 years in the U.S. Army as a reconnaissance and attack helicopter pilot. She is a full-time student at UC-Irvine, earning her 2nd Bachelor’s Degree in Literary Journalism. Her favorite move is the kimura from closed guard.