Jiu-Jitsu Strategies On and Off the Mat.
Often, we go to Jiu-Jitsu class learn some new moves, practice them, and make some of them part of our own game. It is easy to get caught up in this cycle and not progress even close to what our true potential is. In this article, I want to discuss a few concepts you can do to get more out of your time on the mat. If you apply these principles, you will learn how to overcome any lack of motivation you may have, learn at a faster pace, retain more information, stay safe, improve your longevity on the mat, and learn how to apply Jiu-Jitsu into your everyday life.
Jiu-Jitsu is fun but it is easy to get carried away with playing the game and slow yourself down from reaching your ultimate potential. To reach a high level in your Jiu-Jitsu training you need to:
1- Stay Healthy
2- Improve Strength
3- Improve Flexibility
4- Improve Technique
5- Learn to Relax
6- Develop Mental Understanding of the Game
7- Increase Your Focus
8- Be Consistent
9- Work Well with Your Partners
10- Let Go of Your Ego
Our health is the most important. To stay healthy, we need to take care of our bodies and pay attention to the fuel we consume. Get enough rest at least 7 hours every night. If you are training for high-level competitions this is a must. Also, adding a meditation practice to your daily routine will help the body to recharge and improve your focus. Staying positive is essential in any performance sport. Having the ability to let go of negative distractions and keep your mind focused on what will help us reach our goals will always help take us to the next level.
While Jiu-Jitsu is known for being a martial art where the smaller competitor can often walk away from the victor. Improving our strength helps with injury prevention and the overall functionality of the body. This does not mean we need to become bodybuilders and look like the Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger. But by improving our functional strength we will be able to perform more techniques and be safer in the process.
There are many movements in Jiu-Jitsu that require a bit of flexibility. This will improve naturally with the practice through drilling and warm-up exercises. As a practitioner who is always trying to improve their Jiu-Jitsu, it is good to implement 10-20 minute session of daily stretching. You will find that this will not only improve your game but will also keep you feeling energetic and healthy in other daily activities.
Technical improvement is always important. There are thousands of techniques out there and they are easy to come by. Just check out YouTube and you will fall down a rabbit hole that you will never come out of. This is something that slows down the progress of many Jiu-Jitsu students. They start trying to find the next flashy move or system of move always going from one to another never reaching a high level of the basics. This goes for both beginners and advanced practitioners.
For beginners, learn the basic curriculum your academy has to offer. Drill the techniques over and over until you do not have to think about them. The goal should be to not just memorize the movements but do thousands or repetitions and every time with a higher level of focus. Learning more details finetuning your movements and understanding how to apply them from multiple angles.
For advanced Jit’s heads. The same concept applies obviously with more flexibility. I have been training/teaching Jiu-jitsu for 30 years and still to this day when I get the opportunity to work with one of my teachers, I never ask for new techniques. The question is always how can I do this better, what are some different angles it can be applied, or what some other applications of this energy? Once you reach Purple, Brown, Black belt it is easy to get caught up in the game. Jiu-Jitsu is fun. But don’t forget to rep. your techniques and always look to improve even the most basic of white belt techniques. No matter how long you have trained or how many world championship titles you have there is room to improve everywhere. The minute you think there is not you will start to fade.
Learn to Relax
Learning to relax is a big topic in Jiu-Jitsu. It is funny after teaching and running an academy for over 30 years I have seen thousands of students come through. Everyone knows how to relax, right? Well, we all have our own interpretations of what it means to relax. I cannot count how many times I have asked students if they are relaxed only to show them with a slight adjustment that they could drop their shoulders two inches.
In Jiu-Jitsu, you want to relax to improve your awareness, response time, and conserve energy. Awareness in Jiu-Jitsu will save you hours of butting heads with others both on the mat and in your everyday life. Being able to remain relaxed allows us to respond more in the moment which allows our movements to be more precise and deliberate. And, when you are tense you are wasting energy that could someday save your life.
If you have been around Jiu-Jitsu for a while, you have experienced the “Meathead”. We all have. The meathead is the person in class who resists every position, fights with all their strength even in losing battles. Often these people are not fun to roll with and will be avoided by others in the academy. If you are the meathead this will slow down your progress because you will be missing valuable mat time with the higher-level members at the academy who are trying to avoid you.
Learn to slow down and use the techniques it is ok to tap out. You are better off learning the movements and how to get the advantage with relaxed technique even you tap out ten thousand times, then muscling through and tapping out your partner.
One of my teachers once told me to imagine you are rolling with your 8-year-old daughter. You would be so light and careful not to hurt her. Rolling like this with someone who is your size or stronger will make you have to use timing, technique, and strategy to get ahead. If you do try this there will be a year or two where you tap out many more times than you would have otherwise, but in the end, you will become a much better grappler.
Develop Mental Understanding of the Game
This is what makes Jiu-Jitsu one of the funnest things I have ever done. The mental strategies behind the game are endless and complex. People often refer to Jiu-Jitsu as the game of chess but with the body. When you reach higher levels of practice you start to see applications of the art in conversations, relationships, business, interpersonal conflicts, and many other areas. There is Jiu-Jitsu in everything we do. Living this lifestyle offers endless rewards.
Increase Your Focus
There is something to be said about doing a repetitive action thousands of times over. Think about an amazing musician who can play a song with three simple cords, and it will touch millions of people and inspire them from all over the world. These same three cords I could teach tomorrow, but how long, if ever until you could do the same? Now there are many things that come into play when talking about a famous musician, but the focus through repetition is the same. Once you are able to focus like a master musician you can learn to play Jiu-Jitsu in every area of your life.
This is the hardest thing to teach new students. Most people are not very disciplined and have not developed the mindset of discipline in their life. You do not need to go live in a cave in the mountains and meditate for 10 hours every day to develop discipline. Start small commit to going to class 2 days a week and stretch for 15 minutes every day. I guarantee you if you do this it will be one of the best things you have ever done for yourself.
Getting a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu takes most people 10 plus years to accomplish. This is a lot of hard work and consistent effort. But, I bet you could go out there and ask any Jiu-Jitsu black this question, I know their answer would be no.
“If I were to give you one million dollars for your black belt, all of the experiences and life lessons that came with earning it, and all of the relationships that you have gained through your training would you take the money?”
In fact I bet most would not take ten million, I know I wouldn’t. This is what being consistent will do for you.
Work Well with Your Partners
This is something I have always stressed from day one. If you are a good training partner you will get better faster your partners will get better faster and you will build relationships that will last a lifetime. Something about doing a practice like this where you have to trust your partners in ways we do not have to with our friends and acquaintances. This builds tight lifelong bonds if you are positive and looking to better yourself along with everyone else. There is no room for ego at the academy we are all here to make everyone better so the group/team gets better. With this attitude, you will go a long way.
Let Go of Your Ego
We touched on this in the last section, but let’s dive a bit deeper. We all have an ego. How it comes out in our actions and how we control it will determine whether we are successful in reaching higher skill levels. One of my old instructors used to say that the smartest thing they ever invented in Jiu-Jitsu is the tap “tapping out”. Tapping out allows you to avoid injury and learn from your actions. We are always learning. When you let your ego take over you will miss so many of the lessons that Jiu-Jitsu has to offer.
I hope you got a few ideas that will help your practice. If you have any questions, please reach out below. Also, stay tuned for the next post on how to set goals with your training and accomplish in a year than most do in 4 years.