There is no denying the smile on my face when I’m on the mat.

A higher belt once told me that there would be periods along my jiu jitsu journey where my motivation and love for the game would be lacking.  As an eager blue belt, I laughed this off and swore it would never happen to me. But that’s just where I found myself for the last 18 months.  I trained less frequently, lost my hunger for learning and competition, and stopped attending open mats.  And it showed in my jiu jitsu.

There were a lot of contributing factors to this slump – and over the last few months, I took a deep hard look to identify and address many of them. With some major changes – some circumstantial, some of my choosing, and some that should have happened a long time ago – my hunger is back.  Slowly but surely I started to once again feel the love and passion for the gentle art of jiu jitsu.

Being part of the jiu jitsu community is so special.  It’s a diverse group of individuals, many of whom would likely never cross paths if it were not for this sport. But the warmth of the mat, the comfort of the gi, and the brother/sisterhood keeps them speaking the same language. A language that is rarely understood by those outside of the jiu jitsu realm.

Lifelong friends are made within the jiu jitsu community.

There’s so much to love about this sport-

The vulnerability in stepping on that mat that very first time, visiting a new school, competing in a tournament, or even sometimes in trying a new move during a roll.

Being fully present during a roll.

Humility in being open to learning from everyone, regardless of belt color.

The energy of a tournament, and the ability to hear only your coach while competing in the noisy venue.

Knowing your professor believes in you even when you may not believe in yourself.

Those fun rolls with your favorite training partner, and the pure exhaustion after a tough roll.

The belief that results in a successfully executed new move.

The tenacity to keep going after a night of nonstop tapping

The competition loss that stings, but teaches you some valuable lessons.

Learning that one little detail that makes all the difference.

The positive impact it has on every area of your life – personally, physically and professionally.

Being a part of the increasing number of women in this male-dominated sport.

Pride in watching your teammates succeed.

The feeling of achievement that comes with a stripe and the milestone reached with a new belt….

…and those nerves that come with your first roll with your new belt.

Lastly, realizing that the journey never ever ends, despite your belt color.

I now know that these little slumps are a normal part of this long journey.  If you’re going through one, don’t be hard on yourself.  Don’t force yourself to feel the hunger, and take a break when you need it.  Take a step outside of your life to see if you can identify the contributing factors – is your job giving you extra stress, are you scheduled too thin, are family pressures mounting up, or do you just need to make some changes in your training?  Morning meditation proved to be invaluable to me in this process.  Through it all, if a hint of the love is still there, keep showing up even if only once a week and hopefully you too will rediscover the passion.