Ben Golebiowski - Blue Belt Advice
What motivated you to start training BJJ?
A good friend of mine was doing BJJ for a number of years and it always sparked a bit of an interest. I enjoy technical problems and BJJ although very physical, has an extreme element of technicality to it. After a few years of watching him I finally decided to give it a go.
What advice would you give to beginners who are just starting their BJJ journey?
You're going to be humbled very quickly and for a long time. Don't let that deter you - accept that you need to be knocked down a few times to learn and gain experience. In life our greatest experience comes from our toughest challenges. Same goes for BJJ - this shit is tough, people will be better than you, you will get beat up, but with that comes experience.
You quickly realise that each session on the mats is an opportunity to learn and grow. You'll get your arse kicked over and over and it can be disheartening - the best thing about that though is every single person on that mat, regardless of current rank, was you at some point too - we get it, it's tough. But give it time, its worth the arse kickings. Trust me.
What motivated you to continue training BJJ, even when it was challenging or frustrating?
BJJ for me is an escape from everyday problems. For 60-90mins I can completely switch off. It forces you too due to the technical nature of it. You switch off, you'll get caught. There's also an element of safety to other people, so focus is a must. I don't starting things and leaving them half finished - that's the beauty of BJJ, you'll never finish it, always something to learn. The people keep you coming back too - some good souls on the mat!
Did you ever experience any significant injuries during your BJJ journey, and if so, how did you deal with them and continue to train?
Yeah I've had a few. In a nutshell, if I can still train I will - I'll alter what I need and if that means I can only do the drills classes, then I'll do just that. If it's more and I can't get on the mats at all, then see a physio and tell them what you're aiming to get back into.
Then do the damn work to get back on the mat. Once back, take your time. There's no rush to get back to where you were. Think longevity - a few weeks or months off the mats is nothing when you consider how long you may be doing this sport. Ideally 20+ years. Just a blip in the radar.
Were there any specific training partners who played a significant role in your development as a BJJ practitioner?
Everyone - they all have an important part to play. The good guys you want to base your game off and learn from. The munters you become determined to never be them. But, special shout out to a couple; Reece - my first drilling partner and great guy. Tony - has all the time in the world for everyone and has shown me some cool stuff, especially with the feet. And Wade - taught me my favourite back choke in the Gi.
How has BJJ impacted your life outside of the gym, and what benefits have you seen from your continued practice?
The biggest benefit I've seen is that tough times don't last. Regularly tested on the mat, but there's always an end in sight. You'll have ups, you'll have downs - BJJ is almost the perfect metaphor for life. It's taught me to be patient in tough times, focus on my breathing, not to panic under pressure and to remain calm. The added bonus of having some kind of self defence is always a bonus too.
How did you balance training BJJ with other commitments in your life, such as work or family?
Did what I could - if you enjoy something, you make time for it. I aimed for a minimum of 2 sessions a week, and a 3rd if my schedule allowed. Exercise is a non-negotiable for me and my general health, so I prioritised making it work.
Did you ever go through a period where you felt like you weren't improving or plateaued in your BJJ journey, and if so, how did you push through it?
Yeah most weeks. Frustration is all part of it, things take time. You can't expect to master something in a short amount of time. Reflection is my best tool here - understand what it was that was frustrating me, pin point where the issue is and work to make improvements as necessary. Often its just a matter of time and you need to suck it up, make it to class and keep trying. Take note when people are speaking, watch and listen to instruction and ask questions if you don't understand.
Were there any particular techniques or concepts that you struggled with as a white belt, and how did you overcome those challenges?
You can't out-strength good technical positions (I mean unless there's very obvious size differences). Learning to be calm, controlling your breathing and not spazzing everything is key. That's really hard as a white belt, your brain is hard wired to resist difficult moments.
The only way to overcome it is to keep turning up. You'll spazz for so long, then start to become familiar with certain positions and naturally be less panicked, even better when you start to predict the setups and avoid the sticky position all together. This can only be achieved with time - so keep turning up, it's all you need to do.
What role did competition play in your BJJ journey, and how did you approach preparing for and competing in tournaments?
I entered 2 comps as a white belt. It reminded me that I didn't start this sport for competition, I started it to learn something new. Competition is cool, but for me it wasn't something I wanted and have since just learnt to love being able to get on the mat. I have hard rolls and some days I have easy rolls. But either way I don't have the pressure of being at a certain level for competition and therefore I get far more personal satisfaction by going at my own pace.
Looking back on your journey, is there anything you wish you had done differently or advice you would give to your younger self starting out in BJJ?
Yup, don't wait to do it "some day". Sign up today, get to a trial class and get on with the journey. You'll either love it or hate, but at minimum just try it. Good luck.
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