What Does it Take to Succeed in Jiu-jitsu?

Everyone who signs up at a Jiu-jitsu academy has their own reasons for starting down the path.  Many want to learn how to defend themselves, some are looking for improved health & fitness, some may be interested in competition, some may just be looking for a new hobby.  No matter their reason for starting, I'm guessing that everyone who steps on the mat for the first time does so with the idea of being successful in their new venture.  Now, what defines "success" may vary from person to person, as each student has their own individual short term and long term goals.  But anyone who has spent any amount of time on the mat can tell you that you getting good at Jiu-jitsu is something that takes a LONG time!  At most academies, many students come and go, and the sad reality is that most will not stay long enough to ever see their very first belt promotion.  The ones who stick it out long enough to achieve black belt level are a fraction of a percent!  Jiu-jitsu is hard.  But as with most hard things, if you can stick with it, the rewards are infinite!  Anyone CAN do Jiu-jitsu....but what does it take to truly be successful? 

1.  Patience-As previously stated, getting good at Jiu-jitsu takes a very long time.  Some students show up to their first class expecting to be good right away.  Realistically, that is not going to happen.  Of course, some people will pick things up more quickly than others, but everyone is terrible at Jiu-jitsu when they first start.  Even if you have been a natural athlete all your life, the reality is that most peoples natural instincts of what to do in a fight are just wrong.  Don't expect to be good right away.  Many people quit Jiu-jitsu because they aren't able to "succeed" right away.  Their expectations don't meet with reality.  But the truth is, if you just keep showing up and keep training, you WILL get better.  Set small attainable goals and try to just get a little better every day.

2.  Humility-Ego can be your worst enemy in training.  Of course, we all have an ego, but keep it in check when you step into the academy.  If you come in thinking you already know how to fight, and thinking you are going to easily dispatch your training partners in sparring....well, good luck with that!  For many people, it is a harsh realization that they can easily be physically dominated by someone much smaller than them.  But, that is the beauty of Jiu-jitsu.  Most people have this reality check very quickly in their first live sparring session.  There are two ways to react.  Either you recognize the awesome power that you too can one day attain with consistent practice....or, you walk out (usually making some excuse) never to return because your ego was too fragile to accept reality.  The choice is up to you!

3.  Grit-Also known as "toughness".  This includes not only physical toughness, but more importantly, mental toughness.  There will come a time, probably many times, in the course of your training that you will want to quit.  Having the ability to keep going when it gets hard, and keep pushing your limits will serve you very well, not only in training, but also in life!  This means, not tapping just because you are in an uncomfortable position and its hard to breathe; getting out of bed when you're too tired to go train; showing up the next day after a hard training session when you're sore and feeling beat up.  Recognize that your body will do much more than your mind wants to allow it to. 

4.  Discipline-Everyone is excited when they first start training.  Every class you are learning new things for the very first time.  However,  after a while, training will become routine, and sometimes even boring.  You need discipline to get to class when you don't feel like going.  The hardest part sometimes is just getting through the door.  But, most of the time, if you just make yourself show up and get on the mat, you will feel much better after, and each time you are able to overcome your own mental weakness, discipline becomes easier.  Develop good habits and make training a regular part of your routine.  Don't allow yourself to give into your moments of weakness.  This extends to every aspect of life!

5.  Persistence-There will be things that you don't understand right away.  Sometimes, a particular technique won't make sense to you.  No matter how hard you try, you just can't wrap your head around it, or you can't make your body do what you want it to.  Just stick with it.  Give it your best effort, and ask questions if you need to, but don't give up on it.  Most techniques in Jiu-jitsu require many, many repetitions just to start to understand it, and beyond that, countless more repetitions to develop the necessary timing and reflex to apply in a live situation with a resisting opponent.  It is easy to just give up, but if you can just put the time in and keep plugging away, it will get easier and it will eventually make sense.

6.  Trust-There are several important factors involving trust.  First, trust your instructor.  What they are telling you may not make sense to you.  Even if you don't say it, you may be thinking you have a better way.  However, if you are training at a legitimate academy with a reputable instructor, they have put in countless hours to master the art that they are teaching.  Chances are, they have gone through all of the same questions and struggles that you are currently having.  Trust in their experience.  Even if you don't yet understand why, just do it the way that they are asking you to, to the best of your ability.  Second, trust your training partners.  In sparring, you are applying techniques on each other that have potentially devastating physical consequences.  It is very important that training partners are able to establish a mutual trust, understanding that each has a responsibility to take care of the other, and apply these techniques in a controlled manner.

7.  Open Mindedness-Throughout your Jiu-jitsu journey, you will encounter many ideas, and concepts.  Some will make sense to you, some may not.  Don't be too quick to judge that something won't work for you.  In the beginning, it is easy because, for the most part, you don't know anything (if you think otherwise, go back and review #2).  You are a blank canvas, full of potential, but like a child with very little life experience.  After a few years of training, you will have developed some ideas about what Jiu-jitsu is and what works well for you.  It is important that you go through this process and make Jiu-jitsu your own.  However, always try to maintain a beginner's mindset-always willing to take in new ideas, or see old things from a new perspective.  If you do this, you will "rediscover" techniques that you may have thought you already knew well, and see them in a totally different light.  These revelations will be some of the most valuable things in your Jiu-jitsu journey, but if you close your mind to new ideas because you already think you know it, you will miss out on these opportunities.

If you have these seven attributes above, your chances of being successful (in whatever capacity that means to you) in Jiu-jitsu will be greatly improved.  If you're honest with yourself however, you may be thinking that you are somewhat lacking in one or more of these areas.  That's ok.  Because, the more you train Jiu-jitsu, the more you will develop ALL of these traits!  You develop the tools you need to be successful through training.  So, just be aware of where your weaknesses are and work on them.  If you just strive to get a little better every day, recognize and learn from failure, and strive to develop your weak areas, you will get better....not just on the mat, but also in life!

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