It is challenging to train Jiu Jitsu. Those of us who have trained Jiu Jitsu for any amount of time know that training gives us a beating both physically and emotionally. It is important to understand, especially for those who are just beginning their Jiu Jitsu journey, that training does not get any easier. And this is the beauty of the art of Jiu Jitsu.
Often, we think if we train a little longer, learn a little more, or overcome an obstacle Jiu Jitsu will become less challenging. This could not be further from the truth. It becomes more challenging. Let me explain. The more we train, the better we become. As our knowledge and ability increases, the art of Jiu Jitsu demands more from us. There should not be a time that we plateau. Our goal is to continually push past previous limits and not remain in our comfort zone. To expect Jiu Jitsu to become easier sets us up for discouragement and frustration. By embracing and overcoming each new challenge we continually progress which becomes a source of encouragement.
Jiu Jitsu is a complex art. There is more to it than may initially be apparent. Much goes on under the surface and behind the scenes. Time and experience will reveal these undercurrents and give you the ability to see the details and complexity of a match. One of the fascinating aspects of Jiu Jitsu is the more you progress through training the more you appreciate the art.
When you attend class and train consistently you will progress and improve. Your training partners will also be improving. In this environment the margin of error becomes smaller so you must become more precise. The smallest opening can give your opponent the advantage. Simply a grip misplacement could cost you the position. As both you and your opponent improve you are required to think and act faster. As you grow you will recognize and react to small mistakes made by your opponent. You are able to focus on the details of each position and have a deeper understanding of the art. While it does not get easier you will appreciate and enjoy the training even more.
The misaligned expectation that Jiu Jitsu will get easier leads to disillusionment when it does not become a reality. This is usually when people quit in their Jiu Jitsu journey. They give up on their training and forfeit their own development process. Too often I hear students second guessing themselves and their abilities. They think that they should have attained a certain level of expertise within a predetermined timeline and become frustrated. They compare themselves to others, put pressure on themselves to perform a certain way or burden themselves with unrealistic expectations.
Again, it is not easy to train Jiu Jitsu. Easy should never be the goal of our training. It is about improving, growing, learning and having fun. It is about living a lifestyle that is fit and prepared mentally, physically and emotionally. It keeps you engaged in your own development and progression. One of the incredible aspects of Jiu Jitsu is that there is always more to learn. And this brings new challenges that further our growth and keeps the journey exciting. The need to continually learn and improve should not discourage you. Rather, it should excite and encourage you. This is what personally excites me the most. Why? Because it pushes me to higher levels. I can see a correlation between my Jiu Jitsu growth and my personal growth.
Understanding the challenges of Jiu Jitsu, let’s be gracious toward ourselves and take off the pressure to perform. Jiu Jitsu has so much to offer. It is a rich source of personal transformation. Jiu Jitsu can build our confidence, strengthen our character and keep us in shape. It is an opportunity to be part of a caring community. It is such a beautiful and fun art. Let’s enjoy the journey.
The most important responsibility we, as Coaches, assume while instructing our kids in the art of Jiu Jitsu, is not providing technical tips to promote flawless performances. The most important mission for us is to help our kids attain a level of emotional maturity and strength of character that will serve as a foundation that lead to a healthy and successful life. We believe the sport of Jiu Jitsu promotes mind, body, and emotional health. And at the academy, we provide a place for that in a safe and supportive environment. Our Kids’ Zoo-Jitsu program is intentionally designed to facilitate the growth of emotional and physical fitness and strong values. Working alongside our students, we help them grow from within and develop the abilities necessary to excel. Life promises to present challenges. So our program exposes students to constructive challenges, teaching them how to overcome them with the help and support of our coaches. This prepares the children for the time they when they must confront problems on their own.
Jiu Jitsu is both a strategic thinking game and a physical sport, which requires students to exert themselves both physically and mentally, mind and body working together in tandem, to succeed. Students must constantly learn and push themselves past their limits to achieve the desired outcome. At times, a child may be trying his or her best and is emotionally invested in the activity, but the efforts just aren’t yielding the results for which they are aiming. This can be emotionally frustrating for the student. But if he or she is able to persevere and crack the barrier that is holding him or her back through more intense learning and hard work, the result will be an unmatched satisfaction that builds confidence.
Now don’t get me wrong, our objective here at the academy is still to help kids learn how to effectively execute world-class Jiu Jitsu. This standard of excellence remains. But it is the child’s emotional development that is key to his or her success in Jiu Jitsu, and in life. If kids are unable to deal with their emotions on the mat, their progress will be stunted. People are perpetually faced with new challenges in life, and these challenges will become more complex and more competitive, just as they will as one progresses on the mats in Jiu Jitsu. Our children will need to be prepared to face them head on. The question, then, is: “Are we giving our young people opportunities to take part in activities that will prepare them physically and emotionally for life?”
This question is addressed by Clayton Christenson in his book (which I highly recommend, and which is available on Amazon here) How Will You Measure Your Life? He speaks about the value of allowing our kids, and ourselves, to engage in activities that present us with challenging experiences, to position us to be able to navigate and solve them before we are forced to face them in life. The author goes on to suggest that putting our kids in tight situations is like offering them a “course in life” where they will have the opportunity to hone their abilities to perform under pressure and develop leadership skills and accountability.
One of several ways we work with our students to help them develop emotionally is to give them room to explore escaping from a vulnerable position or to implement a technique. We don’t always immediately jump in to fix a technical error unless they are in a dangerous position. This allows the students to learn from their own mistakes and to face and overcome momentary defeat and the disappointment of not performing as well as they would have liked. This is not an easy approach in the moment as it often entails children dealing with hurt feelings and discouragement, where they may even cry. But it is part of the learning process and will help to make them stronger. Further, to immediately intervene and coach a child on what they need to do technically to win a match can reinforce a performance-based mindset. It is not helpful to the students if we communicate to them that the most valued component of the game is to come out on top, rather than to embrace the learning process.
This is a difficult route to take as a coach or parent because it is hard to see someone we love struggling as they wrestle through challenges. Our initial reaction may be that we become so focused on how the child is rolling and on what they need to do immediately to win the match, that we jump in and offer solutions the instant they are struggling, with the intent to be helpful or avoid hard feelings. However, we are not protecting our children by doing this. Instead, we may be forfeiting an opportunity to build their confidence and to increase their technical ability through leaning to deal with tough emotions. When we focus on the development of their emotions, integrity, and character, by default the techniques will come. We view this as an opportunity to teach them not only the mechanics of the sport of Jiu Jitsu but also to gain confidence and self-esteem through learning and hard work.
In speaking with students after defeats or poor performances, we praise them for trying their best, teach them that losing is part of the learning process and part of the game, encourage respect for their teammates and their coaches and encourage continued hard work and perseverence. From there we address the technical aspect. Christensen also mentions in his book that “when you aim to achieve great things, it is inevitable that sometimes you are not going to make it.” He councils us to urge our children to pick themselves up and try again, telling them that if they are not occasionally failing, then they are not aiming high enough. Christensen goes on to say that we should be celebrating failure just as much as we celebrate success, if it is the result of striving for an out-of-reach goal. Bouncing back from temporary setbacks is one of the biggest motivators I have seen to make students rise above themselves.
We measure the success of our Jiu Jitsu program by observing the degree of improvement from when the child first entered our academy. Some students have an abundance of knowledge about Jiu Jitsu and are more athletically endowed; therefore, they tend to be better at Jiu Jitsu. But the true measure of success is how willing they are to learn and put in the work to improve. I have seen many students overcome and become the top in the class through persistence on the mat.
That is why we say: “it’s not about Jiu Jitsu”. It is about the personal development and transformation of each student. Equipping our students with the experiences they need to learn to persevere through challenges, to have the ability to deal with pressure, and to be prepared to navigate tough moments in life is our mission. One of the most important jobs we have is how we raise our children, and by ours, I mean the entire generation that is coming up behind us. To miss investing in our children, our future, is to fail.
Choose to put yourself in a situation that you know you are not yet competent in. Try a technique that you are not use to. Focus on just one. It will be uncomfortable initially You may “fail” at first. But in the end, sooner than you think, you will have gained a new competence and build a new habit .
There is a misconception about doing our best. It is often associated with performing as intensely as we can while utilizing our top strengths. However, instead of pushing as hard as we can and relying on what has been effective in the past, doing our best will also require that we slow down and develop new skills.
As we enter this new training season, I encourage you to take time to go beyond what has been your personal best by learning new things and trying new positions that will truly challenge you. Only then will you be able to achieve new goals and move beyond your limitations.
Too often I see training being prioritized over learning new tools. Both training and learning must go hand in hand. I am a huge proponent of being consistent in your training. But it is possible to be consistent and work hard in your training while continuing to do the same things over and over without learning anything new.
Let me give you an example. The way we teach Jiu Jitsu at Team Passos is a system of positions that strategically build upon one another. During instruction, these positions are broken down into steps so that the students can most effectively learn and execute them. If I were to show step one of a position and a student thinks that they will either never use it or does not prefer that position the student may disengage during the instruction and put in minimal effort when it comes time to drill the position. Or, at times, when a student does not think they will be good at the position, they shut down from the start and do not give it their best.
Then, when the class progresses and I teach the next position, which is the second step, that same student who did not focus on the first may love the second position but they are unprepared to implement it since they did not take the time to learn step one correctly. A comes before B. The student did not develop the foundational skills with the first position. Now, being ill-equipped to progress on to step two he subsequently finds himself behind the other students. What I’ve seen play out next is that the student will try to bridge the learning gap by cutting corners, usually compensating with a previously accomplished skill or strength. But what too often ends up happening is that the student develops bad habits. Ultimately this ends up stunting their growth in the medium and long-term.
There is wisdom in capitalizing on your strengths and refining your current skills. We will push you to accomplish this in class. But not at the expense of developing new skills and grasping the concepts taught on a more profound level. This is what will allow you to truly understand the art of Jiu Jitsu and fully develop your game.
Our human nature tends to focus on what we are good at while relying on the tried and true. However, what we are actually dealing with in these scenarios is typically pride and the fear of either failure or not performing that new skill with excellence. If all you do is continue to sharpen your current tools over and over, eventually those tools will disappear. People will figure out your game and shut it down. While you still may be good at a particular position, people will be able to anticipate and counter it if you have not developed a wider funnel of techniques and positions.
I often tell my students, even if you do not initially understand, or are not able to implement a particular technique, continue to work on what is being taught to the best of your ability. While you may not use a particular position in the exact way at the given moment, it can lead to another position that will fit on your game beautifully. Are you willing to drill a position 100 times, even if it is not your favorite? Sooner or later you will find that you are seamlessly executing that technique that was once so challenging for you.
Do not compromise your vision and standard for your training by cutting corners. Do not let fear dominate you and keep you from trying new tools. Risk your pride on the mat by putting yourself in vulnerable positions that allow you to strengthen the holes in your game. The humility to learn over the desire to win is what your game is built on and what will sustain your success.
I encourage you to do your best this year. Resolve to learn and develop new skills by leaving the bubble of your comfort zone. Do your best by not just working hard and relying on your strengths, but be willing to engage in new experiences that will challenge you and strengthen your game. You will not need to come up with a program on your own that forces this. Our Team Passos Instructors have taken the time to develop a strong curriculum that will expose you to new tools. The Instructors are dedicated to working with you individually to develop your game.
By following this year’s program, you will progress in the art of Jiu Jitsu. You will come across positions that you are great at. Some positions will be your favorite and others you will not find as comfortable. All of the positions build upon one another into a larger system, equipping you to develop your gram. You will develop you even further physically, mentally, and emotionally. Your Jiu Jitsu will take on an entirely deeper meaning and you will experience unprecedented growth both on and off the mat.
Sharpen your strengths WHILE adding new tools.
Drill properly. No cutting corners or holding back. Give it all you have and soon you will find you have surpassed your previous limitations.
Go outside of the box. Do not limit yourself to just working hard by drilling the same techniques you are already strong at. Take a chance and apply the new position you were taught in class. Trying new things expands your understanding and abilities.
Be patient with yourself. Give yourself the grace to make mistakes and not meet the high bar you set for yourself every time.
Reach out and connect with your teammates and coaches. Leverage our BJJ family to help you reach your goals rather than try to accomplish it all on your own.
Be deliberate in your training. Attend class with intentionality and engage in what the coach is teaching. There are no throw away classes. Every class we teach fits into a larger strategy. Nothing here is done by chance.
Prepare your body for training. Focus on adequate water intake and the food you are eating. Fuel your body to perform at its peak so that you can maximize your class time. Remember: the water you drink today is the water you use on the mat tomorrow.
Goal setting is important. Have an overall vision for your training. Then set measurable and achievable goals that align. Celebrate small wins to create momentum. This will increase your confidence and fulfillment that will engage you to make even more progress.
Matches are won in the weeks, months and years leading up to the Jiu-Jitsu competition. The matches are won when giving it all you’ve got during conditioning, drilling, and rolling in class. It is all about preparation. And it is something that we can never accomplish on our own.
A common question about competitions is: “how do you measure success when competing?” There are several measurements of success. The most common one is how well a competitor performs during the competition and if they win their matches. A better measurement, I believe, is if the competitor prepared well in their training leading up to the competition.
However, at the end of the day, the more substantial question is: have you inspired others, and even yourself, through your vision, hard work, and dedication leading up to the competition? Inspiring others to believe for higher and achieve their own goals is one of the ultimate rewards and achievements of competing. More than just individual accomplishments, it is about working together as a community, supporting each other toward common goals, and achieving something larger and more powerful than anything any of us could have ever accomplished in our own strength.
When a student prepares for a competition, it is a team process. The entire academy participates. Our teammates play a critical role in helping the competitor prepare for the competition through drilling, rolling, and encouragement. Likewise, the coaches put in hours of studying the competitors’ game, what motivates them, adjusting the training, and tweaking the details so that the competitor can perform at his or her best. Significant others and family members forgo quality time at home as the competitor puts in the required mat time. We are all invested. We have put our heart, sweat and, at times, even blood on the mat for our teammate’s dream of competition, for the passion of the sport, and for the love of our team.
Further, the competition itself is then a collective experience shared by the entire team. As the name of the competitor is called, the one who we have been helping to prepare throughout the weeks leading up to this day, we become nervous. More anxious than when we ourselves compete. This is because we are invested. We want the best for our teammate. As the competitor steps to the edge of the mat, seconds before the match begins, with their backs facing the bleachers, the Team Passos patch can be clearly seen on the back of their gi. You can’t help but to notice it. What is being displayed is more than just a patch or a logo. It is a representation of the dreams conceived, limitations overcome, strength gained, a shared community that has fought and won battles together, and ultimately experienced lives changed.
As the team flag is symbolically raised, a collective pride rises up in all of us who are at the other side of the mat cheering them on. We know, first hand, what has gone into this moment. The moments of preparation that has taken place behind the scenes as a BJJ family. How our teammates have put himself/herself on the line, facing their fears, and pushed past what was once holding them back to go after their goals.
Each of our students have played a part in each another achievements. No one has made it on their own. Jiu-Jitsu is a team sport. And by just preparing well and then showing up to compete, regardless of the outcome, is a victory in and of itself.
To all of our students who have demonstrated a high work ethic and commitment to this vision, you have inspired all of us. This is how you measure success. Well done!