BJJ is a journey of highs, lows and plateaus. For me, the lows and plateaus seem to be the more natural state – which is not at all to say I don’t enjoy my training. On the contrary, my BJJ experience – and the instructors and fellow students that have made it possible – have been a tremendous blessing in my life and a source of great joy. But the joy comes from the challenge, and my point about “lows and plateaus” is simply a statement about the sense of struggle and uphill climbing in trying to overcome the challenge. It is never easy, and I am never content with my performance or my progress, but I can be equally self-critical in other areas of life as well. It is characteristic of trying to be the best you can be, never feeling satisfied or complacent.

It is only on the rare occasion that I will actually feel like I am gaining some momentum, and having the opportunity to fit in at least three sessions per week for a few consecutive weeks is a prerequisite for me to feel like I am getting into any kind of groove. But then something comes along to stop the momentum, such as an injury or a scheduling constraint that keeps me out of the academy for a week or so.

Such was the case last week, where a combination of work and family commitments resulted in 11 days of no BJJ training (although I did make sure to get to the gym in the mornings before work to at least keep up my fitness and conditioning). Whenever I miss a week or so of BJJ, it takes me a few classes to feel like I am back in the routine, and I don’t feel like I am rolling very well during those first few classes.

Does a week off really make a difference? Or am I just psyching myself out with a self-fulfilling prophecy by worrying too much about the effect of the week off? The answer is probably yes to both. I think at my level of inexperience, a week off is certainly enough time to accumulate some rust. But I am surely amplifying the effect by thinking too much about how it will manifest itself in my rolls. As in any sparring session, I think the goal has to be to clear your mind, just get in there and let your body do what it is going to do.

I have seen plenty of blog posts about getting “back on the mats” after a long layoff (I liked this one by Georgette Oden). But this was just a week, and there will of course be other weeks off, even if just for vacation. I know everyone hates to miss even a week of training, but I am curious as to others’ thoughts on whether it affects your performance, and if so whether you think it is a physical or mental matter.