On practicing while hurt

I woke up Wednesday morning with an ornery elbow and without my partner.

The previous night, I attended my second advanced BJJ class. While sparring, I worked my first tap (rear collar choke from back mount) and enjoyed some difficult rolls with other white belts. I tapped to a kimura and an arm-lock, both as quickly as I could register the joint manipulation. Went to bed thinking, “this left elbow will probably be pretty angry tomorrow.” Correct.

My partner left for California early Tuesday morning, to visit family and to attend the funeral services for her deceased maternal grandfather. Due to the extenuating circumstances, she received permission to delay her final exams for Course Six by a few days. She’ll return on Saturday.

I looked forward to the time apart more than I had anticipated. I knew it would be a chance to enter the study cave, to be entirely selfish with my time and energies, and to have the entire sleeping mat to myself. The month of November demanded much of our partnership and I felt that we stepped up and mounted an appropriate response. Like the soreness after difficult exertion, a bit of rest and massage will do wonders.

As of writing on Thursday, I’m already looking forward to picking her up and our reunion. Our small apartment feels smaller without someone around to bother or to be bothered by. A pot of coffee that would normally be split in half and consumed quickly, suddenly becomes an all-day affair for one.

The solitude allows me to enter strong study-mode. A necessity because of the do-or-die tag attached to my Course Six finals week. A bonus because it’s a dry-run for dedicated Step Prep, the dozen or so weeks between the end of medical school classes and the board exam. I spent my mornings reviewing material and building up some beneficial daily study habits, my afternoons on a treadmill while reading my lecture notes aloud, and my evenings winding down and decompressing to prepare for the next day.

On Wednesday evening, after waking up with that sore elbow, I attended a fundamentals BJJ class. I told my instructor ahead of time that I’ll be going easy, and he paired me up with experienced grapplers who helped me work on my positioning and counters, rather than speed and strength. The slow and methodical rolls allowed me to understand when my positions and movements were weak on a fundamental level and when I would normally use my strength and conditioning to hide these holes against inexperienced training partners.

In the future, I do not plan on seeking out angry joints or demanding emotional circumstances, but I do thank these opportunities for learning and growth. It is easy to practice when the stars have aligned and the motivation arrives on demand. When the practice is difficult and the body groans while the mind excuses, then you are truly practicing a practice.


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