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.
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.
Team Passos Jiu Jitsu has an affiliation made up of different academies and Professors in various locations. We recently held our latest adults’ affiliate training and our kids affiliate training is coming up soon. During these events the team gets together to train at one of our affiliate academies. The point is to provide the opportunity for our students to train with new people, in a different environment that will expand their comfort zone, strengthen them mentally and emotionally while improving their game.
The energy in the academy is high with anticipation and excitement during our affiliate training sessions. It is run in a structured format and our affiliate Instructors monitor all rolls for safety and provide feedback and encouragement to the students so they can improve their game. These events are always such a great time. And there are many benefits to participating in the training:
Our affiliate training is really a BJJ family reunion. Everyone is welcome. New friends are made and old friends reconnect. We are able to get to know one another better. It is a time of coming together to celebrate the art of Jiu Jitsu together. And it is an opportunity for affiliate instructors to introduce their students to the roots of the team, seeing firsthand where we come from.
Many of the affiliate academies take turns in hosting the events. For those traveling, the shared moments of carpooling and even going out to eat together after training connects us with one another that transcends just the mat.
Expand Your Support Network
Through attending the affiliate events, you are able to expand your network and gain an extended family. When you are traveling near affiliate academies you are welcome to visit and train with them. By attending an affiliate training, you will make friends in the other academies; which makes stepping on a new mat a little easier.
Further, if you ever decide to compete, teammates from our affiliate academies are usually in attendance. Once at the competition, you will already know each other and can support and cheer one another on. This enhances your competition experience.
Improve Your Game By Rolling Your Affiliate Teammates
During the affiliate trainings, we make sure that you have the opportunity to roll with a teammate from another academy with whose game you are unfamiliar with. This is a tremendous benefit. To roll with someone you do not know forces you to try new things. It will challenge you. This allows you to process and explore Jiu Jitsu in new ways. You will need to impose your game without knowing what the other person is going to do. In order to impose your game effectively, you must have an understanding of what your game is. And these situations have a way of revealing that to you.
Gain Emotional Fortitude
Jiu Jitsu as a sport is already emotionally challenging. By the nature of the art, you constantly find yourself in uncomfortable positions yet are required to stay calm in order to perform. These situations put a mirror in your face. You will gain a better understanding of how you react outside of your comfort zone. Jiu Jitsu teaches us the tools to deal with this pressure. And the affiliate training enhances this. It allows you to practice performing under pressure in a safe environment and promises to expand the boundaries of your comfort zone.
Affiliate training sessions are even more emotionally demanding due to rolling in a different environment (for some) with different partners. The anticipation of the unknown, anxiety over how we may perform, the wondering of how we will compare to others, and the excitement of entire experience is even higher than a typical day on the mat. It can be emotionally draining but it is rewarding.
Some people may say that learning to perform under pressure can be equally accomplished through competition. While I believe competition has many benefits, including learning how to perform under pressure, it will not accomplish equal results as something like the affiliate training. The reason being is that during a competition you have one match with each opponent. And when you lose a match, you are finished with the competition. The experience is short lived and before you know it the match is over. In the team training however, you will have multiple rolls with the same person, and then roll again with others. Even if you lose a particular match, you are going to roll again and again. Through this, you will be able to better process and work through your emotions. You can identify your weaknesses to improve upon as well your strengths to leverage.
Exposure to Another Style of Jiu Jitsu
Our affiliate instructors are present on the mat to coach the students during the affiliate training sessions. They are there to manage the mat to ensure safety and will also give you tips and coach you during rolls. To be coached by an instructor of one of our other affiliate academies provides you the opportunity to learn from a different style of Jiu Jitsu. Additionally, you will be able to learn and experience this differently style of Jiu Jitsu through their students. By rolling with a student from an affiliate academy, you will be exposed to their game, which is often a reflection of their instructor’s style of Jiu Jitsu.
While we are all under the same Team Passos flag, each instructor brings their own unique strengths, talents and knowledge to the mat. Putting yourself in the position to be exposed to our instructors’ different styles expands your repertoire.
Coaches Receive Insight in Students’ Progress
The affiliate training is also beneficial to the instructors. The instructors are able to see their students’ and how they perform in the group training setting. These insights help the instructors tailor training and coaching to an individual student once they are back to regular training at their home academy.
Further, by observing the structure of the training and how the other instructors teach, they can gain insights in how to improve their classes and instruction at their own academy. The mark of a great instructor is one who always learning and improving in their own Jiu Jitsu, their teaching, and seeking how they can pass along their knowledge to their students.
Everything we do at Team Passos is with the benefit our students in mind. Each of our decisions and the structure in place on the mat is for the purpose of creating the ultimate Jiu Jitsu experience. We are always looking to improve and build upon our success. These affiliate training events are just one of the ways that we can offer an experience that will enhance each student’s game and grow individually and as a team. I hope you will have the opportunity to attend our next team training.
As I have touched on in a previous post, Jiu Jitsu is the art of controlling your opponent. To do this you must stay ahead of your opponent. Often we confuse staying ahead with speed. Being ahead does not always signify going fast or faster that the other person. The end goal is not a matter of speed. Your aim is to secure and establish a dominate position. Many times you will need speed in order to establish a dominate position. However, focusing solely on speed may not be your advantage to achieve a dominate position.
The fight for a position is not a marathon but rather several small sprints. During that transition moment from position A to position B, when we feel our opponent is getting ahead of us, the mistake many people make is to try to catch up using their speed to go faster than the other person. Trying to catch up in a short race where you are already behind is not the best strategy.
You may already be too behind in this race toward this specific position to gain an advantage. Under these circumstances, the solution is to use all your skills and ability to go after and lock your opponent in. Even if you are not particularly strong in that particular position, lock your opponent in so that you do not get into an even worse position. From there, after your opponent is locked in and you have slowed him down, adjust your grips, catch your breath and begin to impose your game again. Start a new “race” for a better position.
It will take experience through training to build your discernment for when it is time to catch up to your opponent in speed or slow down your opponent. Jiu Jitsu is a beautiful balance between the pressure game and your ability to move at a high speed. One is not superior to the other. It is the combination and knowing which to emphasize at each moment that will help you in your game.
Understanding these concepts will allow you to analyze where you are in relation to your opponent and adjust your game accordingly. For example, if I am rolling with someone larger than myself, I will be the faster one and should leverage that advantage. If I am rolling with someone lighter, they will naturally be faster. So I will keep my game tight and the pressure on. Knowing where your advantages are in relation to others will help you to develop your game and allow you to become more creative and adapt to all circumstances on the mat.
Do not confuse getting ahead of your opponent with meaning just using speed. Speed does not necessarily equate to competency. Team Passos’ structured curriculum is designed to enable our students to adapt and establish a stronger position where they can control their opponent. At our academy we work with each student to help them analyze their giftings and challenges. We then tailor a game that will best suit them individually. If you have not had a chance to train with us, I invite you to come try class and take your game to the next level.