When You're Tired of Being The Nail

7:38 AM Editor 1 Comments



There's a saying "somedays you're the hammer and somedays you're the nail." I hear this constantly in the Jiu Jitsu community. Loosely translating to: somedays you do the beating and some days you get beat up. What happens when you spend most of your time being the nail? I was talking to a fellow practitioner the other day who said "I'm not getting better, I'm always getting beat up, it's frustrating.I just don't see the point anymore." Other than time commitments this is one of the main reasons people quit. Does anyone like being the nail?

I do. I am usually the nail. Somedays I'm the hammer, but I spend a lot of time getting my ass kicked. I am one of a few girls at my local gym. Most of the men are bigger, if not bigger than way stronger and many even faster than I am. I get smashed all the time, I get beat up daily...and I love it.

When you're the nail, there are less expectations, this can be either great or very demotivating. You may spend your days perpetually frustrated but you don't have the added pressure of being expected to dominate all the time. Sometimes this makes my victories even sweeter. Sometimes this motivates me. What do I mean by victories? What keeps me going? When I am able to escape mount and fully re-guard on someone way bigger and stronger, protecting my neck for 6 minutes during a roll with someone who only wants to punch me in the face and refuses to use technique, getting up and going to class when all I want to do is roll over and die and proving to myself that I survived. Again.  Because that really is the point of Martial Arts, after all, survival.


When you spend time being the nail, often you stop counting your small victories and that's a huge mistake! You have to focus on what you do well in addition to what you need to improve. If you don't know your strengths, how can you possibly play to them? If I didn't spend a little time getting crushed, getting my ass kicked and ending up in even worse positions, I would never know what my leg lock game could be like. I would never know that I can survive, hold my own against someone larger than me and come out on the other end unscathed. So much of Jiu Jitsu is mental. So much of your journey is dependent on not just staying physically sharp, but mentally too. Not buckling under pressure, learning to control your breathing and your roll, positive self talk and most importantly reminding yourself of why you started in the first place. When you have a goal to work towards, the path becomes much clearer.

So in regards to this quote I'd like to offer another "if you think your only tool is a hammer, everything starts looking like a nail." There is more than one way to be victorious in Jiu Jitsu and so much of it just depends on your perspective, your ability to stay positive and your willingness to let go of EGO. With it? You'll never be the hammer. Without it? The possibilities are endless.

1 comment:

  1. "I get smashed all the time, I get beat up daily...and I love it."

    This cracked me up because YES :D lol! As a woman in this sport if you don't have this perspective, I don't know why you'd stay cause it's always going to be 90% guys, wherever you go. (I am realizing, however, that when I do roll with a woman my calibrations are all wrong - butterfly guard sweep turns into butterfly guard fling! 'oh well, in a triangle, I have time' turns into 'crap there's no SPACE in here!' etc.)

    I do get why people get frustrated by all you've written in this post, but it just doesn't hit me the same way. I look at my current daily point-of-view stuck in side control and go...welp, that strategy didn't work. try try again! It's *feedback*, it's data, it's information - being stuck there being the nail isn't personal, it's just telling me my current approach isn't working. You know?

    Besides - I, too, am rolling with the best guys ever :)

    I totally agree on the 'don't start discounting the small victories' strategy of mental perspective. The moment you can't find satisfaction in your small daily progressions, is the moment you've lost focus on improvement, abandoned belief in your *ability* to improve and instead moved into some desperation frame of mind.

    Thoroughly enjoying reading your back catalog - glad to have found your blog :)

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