Returning to the Mats

Returning to the Mats

You’ve been gone for a long time. Maybe you were injured, or work or school got really busy, but for whatever reason you haven’t been back to the mats in a while. Sometimes it’s hard to make that first step into the academy. Your mind starts giving excuses as to why you can’t go today, but tomorrow for sure. Before you psych yourself out yet again, keep these things in mind.

1. There is NEVER a perfect time to go back.

We tell ourselves that today was really busy, but tomorrow the work load will be lighter, or tonight’s class runs a little late, but tomorrow’s schedule is better. Unfortunately, the stars will rarely align and make the day perfect for you to get back into the gym, so stop looking for the perfect opportunity and make it happen. If you convince yourself that today between the hours of 6pm and 7pm you will be on the mats, you’ll find a way to schedule everything else around it. We always find time for the things that are important in life, and time for yourself is no exception.

2. Don’t build up unrealistic expectations.

Doing this can be detrimental to your overall goal of returning for good. You are not the same person you were when you stepped off the mats a few months ago, and that’s fine. Don’t expect to go and pick up exactly where you left off. Many people go back with this mentality, and are distraught when they learn this isn’t the case. Many leave for good after this, which is a shame because they walk away from something that may have brought them a lot of joy at one time. Go in with the mindset of getting back to your previous skill level, but allow yourself time to do so. Your timing will be off, your cardio may be shot, and you will make mistakes you haven’t made for a long time, but everything will come back to you, and once it does you will begin to evolve again.

3. Everyone is not out to kick your butt.

This is a problem especially for upper belt and seniors in the class. We think everyone has it in for us the second we step back on the mats. Nothing is father from the truth. If you were a good upper belt and helped everyone you could (and chances are good that you are if you made it that far), then almost everyone will see this as their chance to help you in return. Keep your mind open to their help. They may have perfected a submission or combination in the time that you were gone, and now you benefit from their experience as they once did from yours. If you go in the academy with the mindset of “everyone is going to tap me out,” or “everyone is going to knock me out,” you only create a hostile environment for yourself.

4. Give yourself time to fall back in love with your discipline.

The hardest lesson we all learned was to check our ego at the door. This will go double for when you return after a hiatus. You’ll probably get tapped by people who never tapped you before, you will have to take breaks and sit out when you used to go the whole class, and you won't remember positions or escapes like you used to. All of that is not only fine, but it should also be expected. If all you do is think about the negative of returning, then you’ll talk yourself out of ever going back again. Instead of reflecting on who tapped you or how many breaks you took, look back on the things that you loved. Maybe it was rolling, getting a sweep, or setting up for a favorite submission. Maybe it was a favorite combination, or the feeling you get when you’ve had a great day of training. Look for these achievements again and rediscover your passion for your art. Your academy was your sanctuary, it was where you could focus on the martial art you loved and the whole world melted away. Allow it to become that once again.

Joaquin Garay's picture

Joaquin Garay