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.
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.
Have a purpose for your training (and your life) so that you can know where you are going and how to get there. Always know what your reason is for training. What is driving you? Know your bigger mission and set goals to achieve it. Without a purpose, we are directionless. Without goals we will eventually wander off, become lost, and make no progress.
In this season, I would like to encourage you to reflect on your reason for training and to set goals. Think of three specific and measurable things you would like to accomplish. I and the other Coaches are available upon request to help you work through this. Our goal is to offer each of you support in improving your Jiu Jitsu game and growing personally. Use the academy as a platform for your own development.
Below are examples and thoughts on some mat-specific goals you could set for yourself in this next season.
Develop your own game. Begin by first focusing on learning the positions being taught in class and following the curriculum (a goal in and of itself). Then, focus on linking positions. Identify a position you would like to improve on and work on transitioning to and from it from a position you are already strong in. For example: if the Coach is working the mount position and you are very good at the back, try to link this new mount position with taking the back (which you are already strong in). This will enable you to widen your repertoire and strengthen your ability to play the game.
Improve your game. Confining your training to just the official class time would be limiting the potential of your Jiu Jitsu. Spend time gaining feedback from not just your Coaches but also your training partners on what is and is not working on your game. They are great resources. Take a few minutes before or after class to talk with each other. Ask things like: “How did you feel about that last position I tried?”
Train consistently. Consistency is key. It is the foundation for us to reach the other training goals. Try to commit to the amount of days per week you have determined to train. Set a specific schedule of how often you would realistically like to train and if possible, which days you will be training. It is irrelevant how often you are training, whether it is 5 days a week, two days a week or one day every other week. I recommend setting a schedule of which days you train. It will help you to stay on track.
Promotion. The goal to earn a strip or belt is excellent. It is a materialization of our work. However, promotion should not be the end goal. The goal behind the belt or stripe should be growing in your understanding of the art of Jiu Jitsu. If the goal is limited to just the belt it becomes a trap. The belt becomes a “thing” to achieve while not representing growth. This particular goal of promotion, when it represents growth to the student, should be measured by the ability to understand what is being taught by the instructor: insights into why the technique works and why your execution of that technique did or did not work when implemented. In understanding the art of Jiu Jitsu, a student should be able to explain in words to someone how and why a technique works.
Competition. Challenge yourself by training for and competing in a competition
Speak with your Coach on the side to gain feedback on what you can specifically work on with your game in connection with your goals. What are the things you would like to add into your game personally?
As we repeatedly say: it is not about Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu has the ability to change lives. Allow your training to spark ideas and look at things from a different angle. Begin brainstorming areas for adjustments and to come up with a strategy on how to build upon your successes and achieve your goals.
Develop friendships. Enjoy the supportive community the academy offers and develop friendships. This is best developed before and after class. Whenever possible arrive 20 minutes before class and stay 20 minutes after class to connect with others. For those who are shy or have social anxiety, the academy is a safe place to interact with new people and to develop confidence. Make a point to talk with teammates whom you do not know yet and keep up with the connections you already have. Remember: iron sharpens iron.
Take risks. If you have a tendency to play it safe in life or have anxiety in taking risks, use your training to allow you to practice taking trying new positions during rolling. This approach will allow you to progressing in your training and is also a great way of overcoming fear of success or failure.
Improve physical conditioning. If we are doing the 30 jumping jacks, 20 squats, 10 pushups in 5 minutes try to go a little faster, get a little lower. Improve on what you have been able to do in the past to increase your endurance and strength.
Lose weight. Weight loss is great goal. Though simply stating: “I want to lose weight” is not enough. Having a target weight or identifying the amount of pounds to lose by a specific date is a measurable and time-bound goal. This will allow you to aim toward something concrete and know when it has been accomplished. Then, once the weight has been achieved, this goal will evolve to become the goal and journey of living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle should include eating well and getting an adequate amount of rest. The mindset of a healthy lifestyle combats the discouragement we may be faced with when, for example we go on vacation for two weeks and re-gained the weight we worked so hard to lose.
Strengthen your relationship with family and friends by practicing Jiu Jitsu as a shared hobby. Training with spouse, children and friends have proven invaluable for many in our BJJ family.
Our reasons for training can evolve and change over time. Taking a previous example, your goal can start as weight loss. Then, once the desired weight is achieved, the goal can evolve to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Or, our reason for training can remain consistent over our entire Jiu-Jitsu journey (i.e. to grow in our conceptual knowledge of the art of Jiu Jitsu). Either is acceptable. The point is to know your reason for training at any given moment. It will enrich your training and help to ensure you reach and even surpass the bar you have set for yourself.
Three Key Components to Achieving Goals
In addition to the goals being S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound) below are three critical components for achieving training goals:
Accountability. Going beyond goal setting, as teammates we are to hold one another accountable to each other’s stated goals. Check in on each other periodically to ask how they are progressing. Offer encouragement, provide feedback, or help to identify anything that may be inhibiting from reaching the goal.
Responsible for own journey. No other teammate or Instructor can make you achieve your training goals. We each must be motivated to learn and progress or we will remain stagnant. We will use every tool we have to teach and coach world-class Jiu Jitsu and create an atmosphere conducive to learning the art, but at the end of the day, we each are responsibility for our own journey.
Power of momentum. Achieving small wins builds confidence that creates a momentum that spurs better performance. It is this momentum that helps to change our perspective: gaining assurance in our abilities, optimism about the future, positive perspective on ourselves and others, anticipation of future wins, etc. Set yourself up to gain momentum that will inspire, motivate and energize you.