So we decided to take the leap into BJJ! Like trying any endeavor we knew it wouldn’t be easy and acknowledged the possible setbacks that might tangle us, especially in the beginning. Muscle soreness, unexpected scheduling conflicts that pop up, an exhausting day at work etc. Intellectually we knew these obstacles would present themselves and no one is the exception. But how we handle each obstacle determines how each will affect our training. Or more specifically how we handle them before they occur.

We can try to set up our plan to avoid many obstacles, and we should. But knowing they will somehow occur anyway requires our plan to include the inevitables. The weak plans focus only on avoiding obstacles or assuming best case scenarios. The properly prepared plans accept and include likely obstacles as part of the plan. They remove the “surprises” that knock us on our heels and derail our training. It only takes a couple “unexpected” derailments to knock us off for good, and sometimes it’s just one that turns us from practitioner to tourist. This is especially true for the beginning.  Instead of going in blind, assuming our initial motivation and planning will carry us, we have to also plan for the most likely obstacles that disrupt both.

What if our work schedule got switched last minute so we can’t make class? Is there a fallback make-up day or an instructor/teammate reachout we can make to explain and help keep us accountable?

What if we’re super sore from the last training session and don’t want to risk further injury? Do we plan to come in anyway to keep that attendance rhythm going, stay social, take notes, learn by watching? Should we just do warmups and techniques that day? Leave our gi at home so we’re not tempted to jump in?

What if we’re super annoyed with a training partner’s politics? Pity the poor fool for being so misguided? Understand they’re not the only one that thinks that way, how can we understand their ideas more, if even to solidify our own? Maybe we politely ignore them this week, taking the opportunity to practice restraint?

What if we have a low energy day? Is there a healthy snack bar to keep in our gym bag for just this reason? Or a pre-planned mantra to get us to class, knowing you’ll feel great after?

What if we’re not progressing like i we thought we would? Is our progress fully up to us? Did we hit a plateau? Will i stay the course and get back to work? Ask for guidance? Take a break with a pre-set return day?

How will our pre-planned butterfly guard passing strategy change when our partner keeps playing spider guard? How will we keep our twice/week training schedule consistent when i never know if work is going to hold me over on my training days?

Our plan should be to turn all these “what if” scenarios into, “when this happens, we’ll do this!” Removing the surprise of these common obstacles takes the bite out of them. We’ve planned for this, and each obstacle is all a part of the plan, as opposed to jolting diversions from it. Potential excuses to slack or to quit become exercises in proper planning because they are part of the planning. When one of these obstacles presents themselves to us we can say “good, we’ve been expecting you. Things are going as planned”, instead of “awe f#ck!”

Even with all this planning, and backup planning, it’s certain that you’ll still get derailed, and that is when you want to dig down for the willpower needed for pivotal thinking. And when it does inevitably happen, those mental muscles required to adjust will be strong through the premeditions and executions of each of the plannable obstacles that came before, as each previous obstacle was a planned training opportunity. And these will lessen the blow of any surprise.

Take the bite out of probable future obstacles to our training by predicting them and having a plan for them when they strike.