Taking Accountability

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Taking Accountability

One of the biggest transitions that a Jiu-jitsu student will make along their journey is when they take make the step to take ownership and accountability for their own training and progress.  This is a huge landmark moment in a student's development, and it generally signals the beginning of a rapid period of growth.  And this moment comes sooner along the process for some than it does for others. In the beginning, a new student doesn't even have a concept of what Jiu-jitsu is.  They show up for class each day, expecting to be fed new information and do their best to absorb it.  They go through the motions, trying to replicate to the best of their ability what the instructor is showing.  At this stage, even though the student may be very enthusiastic about learning the art, they often don't have the capability to know what they can do to help to expedite the learning process.  But one of the best ways to see progress in your training is to really take your development into your own hands.  Here are a couple of ways that you can help to take accountability for your own training.

Show Up-This one is probably the MOST important.  Unfortunately, you can't get better at Jiu-jitsu sitting at home on the couch.  You have to come to class.  The people who come in and get on the mat consistently get better.  The ones who don't, won't.  And while your instructor and teammates may and should check on you from time to time if you haven't been in for a while, ultimately it is up to you.  Everyone has a life outside of the academy and things that sometime will get in the way of making it to class.  But those should be an exception.  Make training a priority and you will find a way to make it happen.  The best way to do this is to put it on your calendar on your regular training days, and to hold yourself accountable.  Even when you're tired, you've had a long day, just show up. If you can get through the door and step on the mat, the rest will take care of itself.  And I promise, you will feel better after and be glad that you showed up.  The key to your development is consistency, so try to avoid taking extended breaks off the mat.

Trust your Instructor-This one is huge.  While you may not understand why your instructor is telling you to do things a certain way, and you may think that there is a better way, you have to trust your instructor and have faith in the system.  They have spent many, many more years on the mat than you have, and have likely gone through the same processes, struggles, and questions that you are currently.  They are showing you to do it that way for a reason.  If it doesn't make sense to you know, it probably will down the road.

Take it Slow-You can't develop a high level of skill in Jiu-jitsu overnight, no matter how much you desire to.  Everyone wants to be better, no matter what level.  Just show up.  If you're in class, you will get better.  You may not notice immediate results, as it takes time, but be patient and trust in the system.  It is better to try to understand Jiu-jitsu in smaller pieces.  Don't worry if you don't get the whole big picture right away.  Just focus on one thing at a time.  Eventually, it will come together.

Take Notes-I encourage all of my students to keep a notebook and bring it with you to class.  Right after training, go make your notes about that days class, in a way that you can understand them.  Then, as you have time, review your notes throughout the week.  You won't remember all of the details the first time you see a move, but each time you review it, you can go back and update your notes.  Take notes AFTER class.  Don't take notes DURING class. Otherwise, you will likely miss important information while you are focusing on writing your notes.  Another strategy that I have seen some students employ is to take "video notes".  Many instructors may not want you to videotape techniques during class, but you may be able to grab a training partner after class and videotape yourself going through the technique you just learned so that you can help to remember it later.  Just be sure to check with your instructor and make sure these things are for your use and don't end up on YouTube!

Ask Questions-Instructors LOVE questions!  Please don't be hesitant to ask, or think that your question is dumb.  Don't be embarrassed if you don't understand something.  Chances are, other people have the same question as you do.  Even if it seems too simple, ASK!  Your instructor is not going to berate you for asking a question.  A good instructor looks forward to students questions.  Sometimes, you may think of a question later, after class, while lying in bed or driving to work.  Try to take a moment to write it down so you remember later when your instructor asks for questions.

Get in Extra Training-It doesn't take a whole lot of time, but you would be amazed at what 10 minutes of extra drilling before or after class will do for you!  Grab one of your training partners and go over positions and techniques that you are having trouble with.  The best way to improve positions that you are struggling with is to get your reps in.  Often, the technique will start to clean itself up just through repetition.  The guys who get good are typically the first ones on the mat and the last ones to leave!

Watch Video/Read Books-There is a huge amount of access to information about Jiu-jitsu available online, in books, dvds, apps, etc.  While these should never be a substitute for showing up and training at your academy, they can be a great supplement!  You have to be careful, because while there is a lot of great material out there, there is also a lot that is very suspect.  Ask your instructor if they have any recommendations on additional resources you can access outside of class.  This is also a great way to stay engaged and focus on training on those (hopefully) rare occasions that you can't physically make it into the academy.

Traveling? Take your Gi!-I always recommend that my students take advantage of any opportunity to travel at other Jiu-jitsu academies while they are traveling.  It keeps you active and on the mat during those times that you are away from home, and is a great way to get other perspectives and to meet and train with a lot of awesome people!  Please make sure that you check with your instructor first and make sure that they are ok with you training elsewhere while out of town.  They may also be able to recommend good places for you to train.  This is NOT the same thing as regularly showing up to another academy down the street from your academy or in the same town.  While some instructors may be ok with this, chances are most are not, so always maintain an open line of communication.

Attend Seminars-These are great ways to supplement your training.  Seminars can be expensive, but if you walk away with even one new technique or concept that you can use for the rest of your Jiu-jitsu career, it is well worth it!  Ask your instructor for their recommendation on seminars that would be good for you to attend.

Train with a Specific Focus-You should always be working on something.  Pick one area that you feel needs improvement and really try to focus your training around that.  Of course, you need to focus on what is being shown in class at any given time and train that during class.  Don't be the guy that is working on some other move on the side during class that is completely different than what your instructor just showed.  But during your open mat time, before/after class, in sparring, try to have a specific idea in mind that you are working on.  If you're working on escaping the mount for example, you have to let yourself be mounted in sparring so you can focus on it.  Put yourself in positions to be able to focus on what you're working on at the time.

Show up for Sparring-Sparring is one of the most important and fun elements in Jiu-jitsu.  Don't avoid it.  It is essential for developing your timing, reflex, and sensitivity.  It is the laboratory where we have the opportunity to experiment with our techniques.  Your techniques WILL fail, and you should embrace that and see it as an opportunity to learn and fix your mistakes.  Also, don't avoid the "tough" opponents.  The ones who challenge you the most are some of your best training partners for your development.  They will not only help you develop your toughness and mental fortitude, but will also help you refine your techniques.  You don't have to go all out every single round either.  Pace yourself, take a round off when you need to rest, and sometimes back off the intensity and just focus on flowing.  But the live component of training is one of the keys that makes Jiu-jitsu as effective as it is.

Work on your Weaknesses-It is easy to avoid the things that give you the most trouble and just use your "go-to" techniques that you know you usually have success with.  However, this is not the best way to improve.  Strive to be well rounded in all aspects of your training.  If you spend more time focusing on your weak areas, before you know it, they will also be strengths!

These are just a few simple things that anyone can do to help be responsible for your own learning and if you can implement some of these ideas, you should begin to see incremental improvements in your progress in developing your Jiu-jitsu.

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