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How to Know You're Getting Better at Jiu Jitsu

How do you know if you’re getting better at Jiu Jitsu?

It is pretty easy to know if you’re getting better at running. If your route is 5k long, and you ran it in 35 minutes the first time you did it, then running it any time faster than that means you’re improving. If you’re lifting weights, and you used to bench press 40kg, and can now bench press 45kg, you’re getting stronger. If you’re trying to lose weight and you weighed 80kgs and now weigh 78kgs, you’re making progress.

But if you’re doing Jiu Jitsu, it’s more challenging. How do you know if you’re improving? Of course, knowing more than before is one way to think about it. If you knew how to do 2 escapes from mount position but now know 3, then technically your knowledge has increased. You could chart it that way, but that doesn’t really measure up unless you can actually DO those escapes when it matters. And since the variable in the situation is your training partner, how do you know if you’re doing well, or he’s doing terribly? Or vice versa on a bad day?

Or you could pit yourself against your training partners. If you used to get tapped a lot by someone, but can now tap them or even just hang with them for a round, that can give you a rough idea. But that can be a road to personal hell also. What if they’re also improving at a rapid rate? Or, what if they’re barely training, recovering from injury, or just taking their foot off the pedal? You might get a false positive.

Trust the Jiu Jitsu Training Process

The truth is that there’s no really reliable method. And, in my experience, the people who just “trust the process” tend to get on better and improve more than people who are rating themselves. They enjoy training more and let go of the idea of external results as an indicator of progress.

We’re conditioned to think of progress as a results business. How many points did you get in your Leaving Cert? Is your kid level 3 in piano yet? Did you get that cert for your work training? How many followers do you have? The rubber stamps that say “Approved” are the thing, rather than the process of how we got there. Of course, Jiu Jitsu has belts, but there’s so many years between each one that if you’re worried about them then you’ll spend a lot of time worrying and very little time enjoying.

Okay so here’s a fact. A FACT. I don’t know of anyone who has trained reasonably consistently and with good focus who didn’t get really good at Jiu Jitsu. I know people who moved faster than others, but I don’t know of anyone who I’d look at after 2 years of consistent training and say “Wow, he’s still terrible. How did that happen?” It never happens. It never will happen. The road to improvement is bumpy, but everyone gets there in the end. I mean everyone. But if you don’t just come in and enjoy, you’ll never get there because you’ll quit out of frustration. Or you’ll get there, and when you do, you’ll realise it’s not the big achievement you thought it would be.

Enjoy Your Jiu Jitsu

Listen, it’s cruel mistress. There are times you’ll feel you’re plateauing or even backsliding. There are times you will be plateauing or backsliding. You might need some coaching or some adjustments when that happens, but actually the thing that will keep you coming back in those times is your community. You’ll keep going because that’s where you hang out and you’ve got mates there. You might be having a plateau moment in your training, but you’ll still be with the crew.

You can take your training seriously but still enjoy it. I’ve met all sorts in my time coaching, and the one thing that the people who get far along have in common is that they train with a smile on their face. They might take their training seriously, but they enjoy the people around them and the process of showing up, putting in the work, and learning new things.

See you on the mat,


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