Donald lectured us last night and I really took it to heart.
He's the kind of instructor and leader that you count yourself blessed to have exposure to. If this were the military, I'd walk through machine gun fire for him. (Shit, if I thought it would make me a better jits fighter, I'd do it anyway, military or not.) He doesn't shout or denigrate with cutting words, but his quiet patience and (sometimes) disappointment are far more moving, inspiring, motivating.
I didn't feel like class was particularly sloppy, chatty or lazy, but I guess he perceived some of these qualities in our movement and sat us down twice (TWICE!) for a talking-to. He emphasized the importance of quality drilling with attention to detail, urging us to demand the very best effort from ourselves. I don't recall his exact words, but I'll use quotes anyway, for effect:
"This is competition class, people. You're here because you want to be competitors, or because you want to get something more out of your training than you did in another class. So don't just put in your two minutes of whatever the drill is and then expect to get better by osmosis. You don't get better by training with better people-- you get better by training better. Make your last rep your best one. Escaping something in finals of a big tournament might depend on you putting in ten quality reps, not three and then jacking around. And you can't just come here, do it here, and forget about it for another week. You have to be drilling this outside of class. These situations don't just spontaneously come up in regular rolling. Make them happen, and practice with devotion.
Jiu jitsu should bring joy to your life. If you're having personal issues, if you feel you're not improving, then train differently or don't train at all. You are spending money to come here and learn and if you're unhappy here, don't come. And if you're here, be fully here. Get mad at yourself or do whatever it takes if you keep making the same mistakes over again-- but really make quality and technicality your goals."
He could have been speaking straight to me. I don't think I could have listened to that lecture without weeping a week ago, but I've been doing better the last couple days and so I was able to hear what he said and take it constructively. I felt guilty for apparently wasting his time (though I didn't think I'd been too talkative or lazy, I did realize I wasn't always fully present or trying my hardest to maximize the number of reps, the quality of my movement etc.) I know he's super busy with work and rarely has time to train himself, much less give to us all... so I was warmed by the thought of his generosity to us and motivated to go out and do battle in his name. (Geez, crusade much anyone? It's the Catholic in me coming out!)
After class, a couple of us were standing around and we all individually thought he had been speaking straight to each of us. Me because I know I've been down in the dumps a bit lately; one person because they had been texting Donald with their self-criticisms and doubts, another because of their drag-tail demeanor when they started class. In a way it was maybe like the horoscope-- appropriate in a general way at all times, and useful regardless of timing-- but I do think Donald has that rare gift of sensitivity that avoids maudlin sentimentality. He knows when to push and when to pull.
Oh, and one other thing he said that I liked... when you're in a tough spot-- tell yourself "I am the best in the world at escaping this, and when I get out, I'm going to f*ck you up."
And yeah-- I want to be head and shoulders better than everyone I fight. Sure, I started late in life, I'm short and less than naturally gifted, I don't have the right mindset all the time... but I can devote myself to this art and chase it with everything I've got. I don't mind. It's worth it.
Lastly... happy birthday Daddy. You'd be 91 today.