The bones in my nose were beginning to splinter under the weight of my larger training partner, his sternum cranking my face and neck toward my left shoulder. I could feel my neck popping, but couldn’t hear it over the music. As I prepared to escape, I remembered the first time I found myself in this position -- the panic that set in, the frantic bench-press attempt to push my training partner off of me. This time, I waited and took stock of the situation. As I did, I felt my partner’s weight shift, and I bridged my hips and escaped.
Physical and emotional pain can be terrifying. Our instinct, hammered into our DNA through evolution, is either to run from what we fear, or to fight it. But what about standing our ground? What about just experiencing it? This, I’m learning, is certainly more difficult than running, but it’s also much harder than fighting.
In the scenario I described above, the common error for the rookie Jiu Jitsu player is to attempt to shove their training partner off of them, freeing themselves from the crushing weight. But this shove only creates more trouble. It either causes their opponent to come crashing back onto them, or it sets them up for an armbar or other submission.
I’m discovering that the same is true off the Jiu Jitsu mat. Running from an unpleasant feeling or situation defers the discomfort. Shoving it back escalates it. But why is doing nothing except observing so much more difficult?
I think it’s because observation -- being present with the physical or mental discomfort -- forces a reckoning. It forces us to accept the present, not seek the convenient escape hatch of later or tomorrow. While it’s far more difficult at first, eventually, by waiting out the discomfort, it loses its power over us. It breaks itself over our patience and resolve. There is no need to try and break it.
By observing, fear and discomfort become our teachers.