Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is one of the most awesome martial arts that you’ll ever train, but many people find that it’s also one of the toughest to master. Unfortunately, many of those people quit before reaching the point where BJJ starts to change their lives for the better. Hopefully, this article will help you to avoid quitting prematurely and missing out on all the tangible and intangible.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already tried BJJ. (Or maybe you’re just into reading random articles that don’t apply to you.) Either way, this article will give you some tips on sticking with this life-changing art (even if you haven’t tried it yet). At this point in your training, you might have hit a wall and you might be looking for motivation to stick with it. You might not feel like you’re getting “the moves.” Maybe you don’t feel like you’re making enough progress. You might even feel overwhelmed with everything you’re learning in class.
The first thing to realize is that you’re not alone. If you’ve never trained a martial art or combat sport, then it’s normal to feel confused and like you’re not doing very well at the beginning. Everyone starts at the bottom, and one of the great things about the BJJ community is that almost everyone remembers how it was to be a brand new white belt and how it felt to not know anything. Because they know how hard it is starting out, you’ll find that most BJJ practitioners are quite helpful and encouraging to new members. So here it is…
Your BJJ Survival Guide
The following is a list of 10 things that can help you stick with BJJ and reap the benefits of the BJJ lifestyle for years to come.
1. Make friends at your gym.
As with most aspects of life, having a good support system will make the tough times more manageable and the good times more fun, so go ahead and make friends with your training partners. This isn’t something you’ll really have to TRY to do as most people find that the common interest along with the close and frequent contact in BJJ make it really easy to form friendships.
2. Convince your current friends and/or significant other (SO) to train with you.
Spending time with your SO and close friends is important, so why not share the joys of BJJ with them? Training with close relations will allow you to motivate each other to train and stick with it if you hit a wall or rough spot. Note: Not everyone will want to take up BJJ. In fact, most of your friends and family will never even attempt BJJ, BUT training with even just one close relation can help.
3. Think about how BJJ has improved your life and what you’ve gained from training.
Beyond the physical aspect of BJJ (improved strength, stamina, self-defense skills); BJJ also boosts confidence, critical thinking skills, social skills, humility, patience, etc. On top of that it helps with stress relief, mental toughness, and it improves your ability to deal with pain/discomfort. In other words, you’ll be less whiny : ) What has BJJ done for you?
4. Set reasonable/attainable goals for yourself.
You’re not going to be a black belt overnight. You’re not even going to be a one-stripe white belt overnight. What you can become overnight is a person who realizes that it takes patience and dedication to master something as complex as BJJ. Don’t get bogged down with all the advanced YouTube videos (25 triangle setups, 56 Kimura setups, 101 defenses to everything, etc.) and the newest, latest fad technique. In all likelihood, you won’t be able to follow the video and you’ll have to watch it 50 times in slow motion to even get what’s being demonstrated. And even after solo drilling the technique(s) at home, you probably won’t be able to execute it in class. Focus on getting good at the basics. Make a training schedule and follow it. Go to class regularly, drill and roll regularly, and you will improve. You can’t run before you can walk, so take it easy and learn the basic how’s and why’s before moving on to more advanced techniques.
5. Ask your instructor(s) for constructive criticism/feedback on what you can improve AND work on those things.
A good time to ask for feedback is when you’re rolling with your instructor(s), which you should do regularly. Knowing what you can work on and how to work on it will give you a sense of accomplishment when you improve that thing. The positive reinforcement and recognition of improvement from your instructor can also help motivate you to stick with BJJ and become even better.
6. Ask questions when you don’t understand.
Instructors like to teach and help. They’re valuable resources, and you should feel comfortable asking them for assistance when you need it. Depending on your school you may not be allowed to ask questions during the lesson, but you can ask at other times. Find out when it’s appropriate to ask questions at your school and do it. Try to make sure that you’re executing and drilling the proper technique from the beginning. It’s much harder to go back and “fix” a technique that you’ve been executing or drilling incorrectly.
7. Opt for a private lesson or two to tune up your weak points.
The one-on-one time will help you to focus on things you can improve which will help you feel better about your overall game. You can opt tohave the private lesson with a training partner to split the cost of a lesson and to have someone with whom to work the techniques while the instructor gives feedback. Private lessons are especially helpful when you can’t make it to class as much as you would like.
8. DO NOT become obsessed with stripes, belts, and promotions.
It takes a long time to progress in BJJ, and everyone has their own path. You’ll get there with time, patience, dedication, and hard work. Enjoy being a white belt while you can because even though you might think it sucks, this is the time where you can make mistakes and learn without feeling like you should already know this stuff : ) Also, people usually give white belts the benefit of the doubt and take it easier on them. Enjoy it! Before you know it, you’ll be a blue belt and that comes with expectations.
9. Pick a gym that’s a good fit for you and your personality.
Some gyms are really rigid with lots of discipline. Some are more laid back. Pick one that fits how you like to be and where the people are “your kind of people.” Make sure that you like the atmosphere, instructors, overall structure, and can make it to classes (look at the class times, distance from home/work). You’ll be spending a good bit of time with these people and at the gym, so make sure it’s a good experience that you look forward to, not something you have to force yourself to do. If you don’t like your gym for any reason, find a better fit and change gyms. Do your research and do the free week/sit in on a class or two before you make a decision (so that you’re not gym-hopping), but it’s your life and your money. You need to be happy with how you spend your free time, so do what you feel is best for you.
10. Train regularly (2-3 times a week) and ROLL.
Regular training is what allows you to actually improve your skills and have something to show for your hard work. Rolling (sparring) is pretty intimidating at first, but as soon as you feel comfortable, you should start rolling with safe and helpful partners. (I suggest higher belts at first.) If you only drill techniques and don’t roll, you’ll miss out on a lot of the essential skills of BJJ. Rolling with a partner allows you to work techniques against a resisting “opponent” and it also helps with timing and reacting to your partner/opponent. This is essential for competition and self-defense scenarios.
And if all else fails and you still feel like quitting, taking a short break (1-2 weeks) could reinvigorate your passion for BJJ especially when you see how much fun everyone else is having and how much they’re learning and improving without you : ) BJJ is awesome, but as with anything balance is key. Make sure to prioritize your family and work obligations accordingly : )
Hopefully, I’ll see you on the mats! Its one of the BEST decisions I ever made! 🙂