Resolve to Make Your Jiu-jitsu Better!

Friday, January 12, 2018

Resolve to Make Your Jiu-jitsu Better!

Well, here we's a new year!  This is the time that we traditionally look back on the past year and resolve to be better.  The stereotypical New Years Resolutions, most of which typically don't last more than a couple of weeks.  This is a great time to rededicate yourself and really make a commitment to training again!  That's a great start, but what can you do to make sure that you actually follow through?

Unfortunately, in Jiu-jitsu, the statistics are not in your favor.  Those who have spent any significant amount of time on the mat can attest to the many, many people that they have seen come and go over the years.  I remember distinctly, and am somewhat embarrassed to admit, that, prior to being a school owner, when I was just another student training, I got to a point where I wouldn't even bother learning someone's name until they made it to blue belt, because chances are, once I got to know them, they would disappear.  I'm not proud of it, but it's true.  I don't recommend this practice by the way.  I was just continually disappointed by teammates that didn't share the same commitment level I did.  Unfortunately, many of you....even some of you who consider yourselves extremely motivated and dedicated right now, will eventually fade away.  I sincerely hope that this is not the case....but my past experience says otherwise.  This doesn't have to be the case for you though, and I hope that it's not! So how can you make sure that you live up to the goals that you set for yourself and make sure you don't fall through the cracks?

Make Training a Priority
Everyone will miss class from time to time.  Sometimes, life just gets in the way.  Illness, injuries, or unexpected situations may come up once in a while and keep you off the mat.  Just try not to make it a habit.  Showing up for training is a habit....not showing up is also.  Make it a priority to get to class consistently.  If you want to be serious about your training and make real progress, consistency over time is the key.  If training is just something you do when nothing else is going on, invariably, something will come up.  Make it a regular and important part of your schedule.  Block out your training times on the days you plan to train so that other things don't interfere.

Don't Take Extended "Breaks"
Sometimes, you need to take a week off that mat.  Sometimes, you need to let your body recover, you need to reset mentally, maybe you're taking a short vacation (although often you can take your gi with you and find a way to train).  This is perfectly normal and OK.  However, I don't recommend taking extended breaks from training.  In my experience, it is very rare for a student to take a break for a month or more and ever return to the mat.  Even with the best of intentions, other things begin to take up that time that you previously dedicated to training and take priority.  And, the longer you are off the mat, the harder it is to come back, both physically, and mentally.

Hold Each Other Accountable
Jiu-jitsu is hard.  We all struggle from time to time, and everyone has days where they would rather just stay home on the couch than go to class.  Often, what keeps us coming back in is our training partners.  Hold yourself and your training partners accountable!  Call up that teammate that you like to train with and make sure that they're planning on showing up, and they will return the favor for you.

Participate in Team Events
This goes along the lines with the previous point.  The social aspect of Jiu-jitsu is very important.  It keeps us engaged and keeps training fun, because we're among friends.  So, cultivate this!  As much as possible, participate in team get togethers and events off the mat.  Engage with your training partners outside of class.  The bond that we share on the mat through sweat and blood is very valuable, and this is a good way to make that even stronger.  And it is very important because, again, these are the people that you're going to show up for.

Keep a Notebook/Journal
This is a great way to not only recall details of technique, but also to keep track of your progress.  I recommend writing your notes immediately after class while it is fresh in your mind, and then reviewing your notes before the next class.  Remember to write down any questions you have to, so that you can remember them the next time your instructor asks for questions.

Keep Jiu-jitsu Fun
What keeps us coming back to Jiu-jitsu is that we have a lot of fun doing it! Sure, it's hard work, there's frustration and sometimes confusion.  But, you should leave training with a smile on your face.  A lot of this is about having the right attitude.  Don't take it too seriously.  Of course, you want to pay attention to detail and always work on improving, but try not to get to frustrated when you screw up.  All of us do, and it's the process by which we learn.  So, maintain emotional balance.  Don't get too emotionally attached to your mistakes, just learn from them and move on.  But keep smiling and stay positive, because as long as you're on the mat, you're getting better whether you realize it or not!

Set Short Term Goals
Sure, ultimately your goal may be to receive your black belt in Jiu-jitsu, and that's of course a very admirable goal.  However, it's a very long road to get there.  So, it helps if you break that off into more manageable chunks, so you can better track your progress.  Maybe it's your next belt, or even your next stripe.  But, it doesn't have to be tied to rank at all.  Maybe it's trying to figure out that sweep from the guard that you're struggling with. So, spend the extra 5-10 minutes before or after class with a partner getting some reps in with that move until you feel comfortable.  Then, maybe your goal is to hit that move on all of your training partners at your level.  Start with the smaller ones first, then work your way up.  When you can successfully pull it off at will on all of them, start trying it on the people who are a little ahead of your level, and so on.  No, chances are, as a white belt, you're probably not going to pull off your new move on one of the brown or black belts.  But go for it anyway!  It will show you the vulnerability of the position and give you some insight on where it fails and where to go from there.  And, you will definitely get much better at the position than you were previously.  Keep your long term goals in mind, but focus on more reasonable, more attainable smaller goals along the way, and before you know it, you will be knocking on the door of that long term goal!

Always be Working on Something
Technique wise, you should always have something specific in mind that you are focusing on.  It's a good idea to focus on what you feel are weak areas-positions you struggle with-and really dive into those.  Drilling and reps are your best friend, but specific positional sparring is also a great tool to help you master these positions.  The point is, have a specific focus every time you show up, particularly in sparring.  If you're working on, for example, escaping side control, you have to put yourself in that position so that you can work on your escapes.  So, if that is your focus, when you're sparring don't spend a lot of time trying to take down your partner and maintaining top position.  Whatever it is that you choose to work on, it helps you to maintain a little more focus and purpose to your training sessions.

Listen to Your Body
While it's good to push your limitations, sometimes you need to listen when your body is telling you it's had enough.  It's great to work hard, but allowing your body to recover is just as important.  It's OK to take a day off.  Sometimes you may need to take a week of.  That's fine.  Just don't let it turn into multiple weeks, and try not to make it a consistent habit.  But, it's better to rest a few days, then to keep pushing too hard and get injured and potentially miss more mat time.  Sometimes this means staying off the mat, but often you can come in and just watch class and take notes or just do some light drilling.  You don't have to spar every time you train, and every time you spar doesn't have to be a fight to the death!    It's a long road, so pace yourself.

Remember Why You Started
Why did you first walk through the doors of the academy?  Maybe it was because you wanted to get in better shape, to find a new fun activity, to learn to defend yourself, to improve your focus or self-confidence?  Whatever your personal reason, I would be willing to wager that you are closer to achieving that now than you were when you first started.  Keep that in mind when you feel like you want to give up.  You've invested a lot of time, money, and sweat to get to where you are now.  But you still have room to continue to get better.  And you will....if you stick with it.  Everyone has times where they feel like just quitting.  It's definitely the easier way.  There are plenty of excuses you can make for why you didn't achieve what you set out to do.  However, there are many more reasons to stick with it!  I promise you, if you dedicate yourself to consistent practice, the rewards will be well worth all the effort!  I don't know too many people who have quit Jiu-jitsu that look back on that decision in a positive light.  Most of the time, what I hear from these people is, "man, I wish I had never let myself quit".  But don't worry....if you are in that situation, it's never to late to come back to the mat.  Your instructor and training partners will be very happy to welcome you back!  You are going to be somewhere ten years from might as well be a black belt in Jiu-jitsu!

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