The Jiu Jitsu Imposter. Are you One of Them?

All I know is that I know nothing
— Socrates

Hi, I'm John...

I help the every day people of Sydney build quality of life with Gracie Jiu Jitsu. 

Higher Jiu Jitsu is where you come to learn. Just as our students commit to learning, so do I aim to improve in all that I do.

From the Professor Pedro Sauer I learn how to teach jiu jitsu as a vehicle toward quality of life. And I practice the art of coaching and living healthy with Precision Nutrition. 

Sometimes I can't comprehend that this awesome story is unfolding right before my eyes. Who am I to show people how to defend themselves? What do I know about submissions, and movement, and being healthy, and living a great life? Do these amazing people really trust me as their coach?


It's all Work in Progress


I have questions about techniques. I have weaknesses to go with my strengths, and I have challenges that require diligent, consistent practice. 

The other day I tapped to a student. We’d been learning how to choke throughout the class. He found the position, he worked those mechanics, and he locked it in. It was the work of beauty, and I was delighted to submit to it. 

Some would say that shouldn't happen. To some, the coach is be the indestructible leader who does no wrong. Maybe I'm just not cut out for this coaching thing after all. I have terrible jiu jitsu and I should just give it all up because it's no use anymore.


See what happened there? One submission quickly ensued into a life time identity crisis.


You've been there before too. All it takes is one minuscule thought, you add lots of internal dialogue to it, and it becomes infinitely more significant.  

You don't think you do this. But often you don't know what you're thinking. And if you were to know, you would see the comparisons, the judgements, and the overly high expectations you place on yourself. 

Sometimes you just want them to go away. This is your first problem. Like good jiu jitsu, use them to your advantage instead. 

Imposter Syndrome is Self Awareness


Being critical is a strength when you seek out what to improve on, and look to refine the parts and benefit the whole.  In this way there is no limit to how good you can be. With the right effort in the right areas you can do anything you like. 

But there is a fine balance to be had here. Issues arise when you expect too much too soon. When you aren't patient with the learning process, you set yourself up to fail. On the one hand is a deep motivation to improve and grow, and on the other is the gratitude for where you currently find yourself. 


Focus on Others 


Your ego enjoys painting you as the focal point of everything. You’re really not. You’re an integral part of class, but you're not the only part of class. Those people you fear looking bad to also really need your help. And you need to be ready to offer your guidance.  

As much as this is an art practiced individually, the process demands your attention to the community. You've been at it for a while. You know more than others. Those others are relying on you to show them the way. You’re the example of how to be a jiu jitsu practitioner. And when you’re nervous within yourself, everyone feels it around you. In turn it makes them nervous. 

Give yourself a break from the internal talk - divert it toward others around you, look to be of service, and show them the way instead of picking out all of your flaws. 


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Seek Out the Positives 


Life is beautiful. You have amazing people around you. You’re mostly healthy and free of any serious ailments. You have a couple injuries but things could always be worse. 

It’s a shame then that you always focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. 

Sometimes it isn’t even your doing. Your genetics and socialisation made you like this too. You don't mean to do it, but it just happens. It’s your pattern, so you’ll need to make an effort to re-wire your brain. Be nice, it's not easy to focus on the bright spots of your day when you've had so much fun picking out the bad. 

There will always be things that don’t go to plan, and at the same time there are small joys that can be found in every part of your day too. Seek them out. Write them down if you like. Let it be a journal - have it with you, and throughout your day note 1 or 2 things you’re grateful for. 

You tapped early to an oncoming submission. Good for you, note it down. You helped a beginner learn something. Write it down. You prepared a delicious meal for lunch at work? Note it down. Revel in the joys of your good work. These are what you can seek out and learn from and take satisfaction in. 

Take Action


Slowly you begin to incorporate the above strategies in your day and things start to change. You and Imposter Syndrome are starting to be cool with each other. You’re willing to talk about it more and you find that the more you do the more it goes away. 

Imposter Syndrome is like a witch lurking within you - when you let it fester, and if you don’t expose it to the outside world, it develops and evolves into every part of your life. Suddenly you’re an imposter at the gym, at work, in the kitchen, and everywhere. 

But when you start talking about it, and dealing with those thoughts, and sharing them within a community that you trust, it can’t help but go away. It’s because the more you talk about it the more you realise you’re not alone. The witch slowly starts to dissipate into nothingness because it can’t hide within the shackles of your brain. When the guise of anonymity fall away, there’s nothing left for it to feast on. 

This is the benefit of having great people around you. Those who understand and empathise and know where you’re coming from. These people will help you overcome the stench of the witch we call Imposter Syndrome.  

Enjoy Jiu Jitsu

Jiu jitsu is an amazing journey, if you let it be. And if you’re not careful, Imposter Syndrome can creep up on you and snatch all the fun away. Like all habits, it's taken you a long time to form, and you won’t be done with it immediately. 

The one thing that is for sure is that your jiu jitsu journey becomes so much better off when you are able to enjoy the good times, grateful that you have the chance to learn, nurture friendships, and enjoy good health with jiu jitsu for a lifetime.