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The WHOOSH Effect in Jiu Jitsu

Fast progress is great, but slow progress is more sustainable.

Among the more frequent questions I get is the one where people ask me a variation of “How do I get good at Jiu Jitsu fast?”

It’s a reasonable question. I think everyone would like to improve quickly. But everyone improves at different rates depending on a number of factors. I’ll list them, and then I’ll tell you about the WHOOSH effect of improvement that I see among everyone who stays the course long term.

How to get good really fast-

1)      Already be fit and strong and conditioned for Jiu Jitsu.

If you’re like this, as soon as you step into class, you’ll be able to get work done and won’t get tired. How many people are fit and strong and conditioned for Jiu Jitsu when they start? About 1 out of every 20. Even the fittest people have to adapt to the specific requirements of what we do.

In other words, this rarely occurs.

2)      Attend about 5-6 sessions per week.

Well, of course, right? If you train more, you’ll get better. So if you do higher than average classes, you’ll get higher than average results.

Or will you?

Unless you’ve no other commitments, you’re unlikely to be able to do this in the long term. You might find it fizzles out. Something I say is that “The bright flames burn out faster”. I definitely prefer to see slow and consistent progress. A rare few can sustain it, maybe 1 in 20 again. For most people though, 3 classes is great work, and sustainable in the long term.

In other words, this also rarely occurs.

3)      Learn when you’re not training.

Studying technique off the mat has benefits on it. Of course, it’s no replacement for actual training, but studies show that time spent thinking about a physical act helps improve performance. My own strategy (which I always did naturally) is that I think about mistakes as I am driving home. Then I either understand my error, or research a technique to fix it.

This, everyone can do, but how many do it is hard to say.

Nothing replaces experience and time though. So even when you’re doing this, you’ll still need the hours on the mat, and the understanding of fighting that only a long term commitment will bring.

You’ll find it very hard to tick all of the above boxes. And even if you can temporarily do 1 or 2 of them, you’ll find it hard to sustain that in the long term.

I prefer to see people improve slightly over time, and then one day, you’ll get what I call the WHOOSH effect.

The WHOOSH effect in Jiu Jitsu

You might remember learning to ride a bike. You wobbled, you fell, maybe you had stabiliser wheels. You might have had your mam or dad hold you. Then you took your first tentative solo runs for a few metres. But then one day you could just cycle. When was the last time anyone offered you a cycling lesson, you know, just to keep it fresh in your mind?

That’s a little bit like the WHOOSH effect I’m talking about. When you consistently show up to training month after month, one day I’ll look on the mat and see that you’ve just got it. That doesn’t mean you’ll be a world beater (yet), but it does mean that you’ll have understood base, balance, posture, movement, pressure and so on. You’ll look like a grappler, and be moving in a purposeful and intentional way.

The great news is that this happens to everyone. I’m yet to see anyone who trains consistently over time fail to get it. That’s when you really start to get good.

I call it the whoosh effect because it’s like the wind fills your sails and you get a surge of progress.

It takes time, but it will come. Don’t be in too much of a hurry. Enjoy your training!

See you on the mat,


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