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When You Hit a Jiu Jitsu Plateau

There’s a joke that goes around Jiu Jitsu, it’s called the Blue Belt flu. What happens is that you get your blue belt (about 2 years training) and then you get the blue belt flu and stop training.

I’m actually not sure the phenomenon is real. People probably quit at all stages of training, but we are more conditioned to notice when they get a blue belt. But it does seem to be a common theme. As a teacher of Jiu Jitsu, it is frustrating. To quote Sean Connery in The Last Crusade, “You left just when you were getting interesting!”

But I can understand why people do leave. At White belt, your first couple of years are filled with new ideas and techniques. Almost everything you see is brand new to you. When you get to a couple of years of training, it can seem like the material repeats itself. Those quantum leaps of understanding are fewer. Couple that with the sense of completion of receiving your first belt, and you’ve two very powerful come downs.

So if that’s you, I’ll share with you something I told someone a few weeks back. They were feeling that sense of having reached the plateau. Not learning anything new, not getting any better, not feeling like they were improving. There are 2 main reasons for this, in my experience, depending on what your training is currently like.

The first is that you’re experiencing the above scenario. You’ve built yourself up to get the blue belt (or maybe purple or brown, or even just in a training funk), and now you’re wondering what’s next. In this case, sometimes you just need to accept that this is what training is like. You’re not here to get belts and hit targets. You’re here to enjoy the art, and learning isn’t always about finding out a new armlock, it’s more about improving the things you already know and getting better and better at making them happen against others.

The second is that you have just hit a plateau, and this is what I was talking to this person about. I always ask people to be honest with themselves in this case- are you really doing this right? Is something holding you back from getting better? Are you choosing easy rounds to train? Could you be eating better? Drinking less? Are you really coming regularly? Or putting in effort when you’re here? Are you trying new things or just sticking to what you know? Are you trying too many new things instead of focusing on the fundamentals?

Everyone has a factor they can improve on, and changing that one thing, big or small, can be the difference between a plateau and a peak.

Of course a lot of people don’t like that sort of accountability, so what they mean when they ask is “can you fix this for me”, which I can’t do, or more properly phrased, won’t do. Others yet are pretty happy with their plateau. They like coming training, having a bit of craic and going home. That’s grand.

But for me, the greatest improvements I made where when I hit plateaus. I’ve come to learn that when that happens, it’s a great sign. It means you’ve climbed high enough to have one!

Enjoy your week of training.

See you on the mat,


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