There comes a point where one realizes that life is about colorful experiences. Many of these experiences are not found in the comfort zone but rather they require sacrifice. Sometimes you have to trade sleep to find a beautiful sunrise, or get over your fear of starting up a conversation with an attractive woman, even trek for days to find a glorious view. Less dramatic examples might include deciding to spend time with family members you don’t always make the time for or going to a new place for dinner rather than the “go to”. Without seeking new adventures like this I might not have tried Jiu Jitsu or find out that I would come to love the United States of America and what it represents. So next time you’re about to go on autopilot mode and do what you always do, remind yourself that better memories are always possible.
We are surrounded by heroes every day. From the likes of Connor McGregor or Amanda Ribas who struggle and fail valiantly before millions to your mom or dad who displayed such qualities you could only wish for. Without heroes, the day would never come where it was our turn to spread hope as some others once did for us.
If Covid 19 has taught us gym goers anything it is that we are far less capable than we think. At the same time, it has taught some of us how much more capable we are. Those of us who experienced the luxury of public gyms were suddenly thrown into chaos due to shut downs. While some of us used this as an opportunity to redefine and rediscover what health and fitness meant to us, others quickly fell victim to excuses, paving the way for poor habits and lack of activity. For those who adapted and evolved, they were rewarded with the freedom that comes with having full control of your health and fitness regardless of the circumstances.
Regardless of who you are when you begin your Jiu Jitsu journey, one thing is certain. The person who emerges after years of hard training, dedication, blood sweat and tears is undoubtedly your better self, so long as you maintain the mindset of daily improvement.
If your goal is to be a gym-hero, smashing every student that crosses your path, it’s not to say that you will not achieve a high level of BJJ but rather that you will fail to learn many of the valuable lessons that occur through struggle and hardship.
When you seek to improve, you will be tested far more than those who stay in their comfort zone. A great example of this is students who use practice to develop their weakest positions as opposed to their strongest. While you will no doubt endure significantly more difficulty than in your most trying positions, you will also receive much faster and greater improvement.
How many times has a great idea come upon you only to be lost until it resurfaces years later? Resist the need to ignore your inspirations and procrastinate, no matter how big your idea, you must start. Starting can mean many things but usually the most important is to avoid your idea becoming a fleeting thought, only to be found when it is too late. A great tool I have found is to write it down. It doesn’t have to make sense, it has to exist. In competitive sports, we analyze tape to gain insight and examine strengths and weaknesses. As you can imagine, there is no tape for our thoughts which is why we must resort to writing. If our “cave ancestors” were able to discover the significance of recording our ideas, we too can harness the power of technology and document our ideas via dictation apps, etc. Don’t wait, just do it!
Have you ever been in the middle of something and gotten side tracked? Of course, because it is a completely natural thing for humans with the exception of the Uber disciplined who have found a way to channel all their energy into one specific task until it is done. While many claim the ability to multitask, it is simply not how the human brain functions (see here). We are at our best when performing A SINGLE TASK and it important to recognize that. Start to catch yourself looking at your phone while writing a document, thinking about something else while someone talks to you, having Jiu Jitsu day dreams while the instructor teaches. By recognizing these patterns can we start to get more out of ourselves in anything we choose to do, like a sniper who lasers in on a target until it drops.
Many people believe that BJJ or Jiu Jitsu tournaments are merely about achieving medals and recognition in the sport. While that is true, who doesn’t want to be respected for their efforts, there is something to be said for the reality of fighting and its effects on the human mind. Fewer things will drive a person to change their mind and body the way the tournament circuit does..
If you are lacking motivation, commit to a tournament and actually do it. After it’s all said and done, ask yourself “What can I change to have a better outcome?”. If you are overweight and physically lacking, the next tournament you register for demands you form new habits in said department. All you need is to commit to showing up to however many tournaments a year and let your servings of reality begin to add up.
Often times you will find that you aren’t really all you thought, but one thing is for sure and that is you are definitely capable of more than you are managing. Whether it’s overcoming your fears, becoming more disciplined or giving your all, there is much to gain from the simple act of matching yourself up with other men or women of your age and weight and going to war. Don’t let the excuses stop you, just do it. Your best self is waiting.
Practice, practice practice. This is true for CrossFitters, Bodybuilders, Powerlifters and Weightlifters alike. So why is this message lost on the general public? Why does training have to be a contest between who can lift the most weight or who can perform the most ridiculous exercise? Because if you walk into your average box gym this is what you will see.
When dealing with weights, just as with fighting, ego will get you killed. Pushing yourself is important but not at the expense of technique and certainly not to impress anyone around you. Training is meant to serve a purpose, strength, physique, confidence, health, resilience and the list goes on. While there is no greater feeling than throwing a few plates on and repping out some deadlifts, one must always remember that the weights will outlive all of us. Remove any need for ego and come into the gym with the mindset of learning and giving your best. Just as in a Martial Arts academy, it will serve you well.
A couple years ago I was in Texas, Fort Worth learning from a friend who, over the last 20 years as a black belt, had developed a teaching methodology that I was interested in learning. He called this method “The Block” method. What is was, was a way of chaining together a “Start to Finish” blueprint for his students, starting on the feet and ending in submission. Sounds simple enough, and the beauty is, that it is! Below are a few example blocks that could make up a 3-6 week plan for your BJJ students.
Double leg takedown
Torreando pass to knee on stomach
Single leg takedown
Torreando pass to knee on stomach
Single leg takedown
Torreando pass to side mount
While those of us who are more experienced may find this style far too simplistic, it allows for great flexibility to accommodate for ones skill level. For example, an advanced student may have 4-5 set ups for a double leg and reactions to the partners defensive counters, this can make their 3 moves 12-15 where the beginner is still trying to understand the concept of getting on top, passing the legs and working towards a pin (side mount, mount) and ultimately a submission. In my experience I find this works great at a youth level as well as an adult level although you will have to give kids considerably less detail.
While studying Jiu Jitsu and watching Gordon Ryan’s Attacking the Guard series on BJJ Fanatics one of the things that impressed me was Gordon’s ability to clearly state the problems in each position. While many positions in Jiu Jitsu come with their own complexities I am in agreement with John Danaher that each position contains a main and central problem that must be solved above all else. This makes navigating through tricky positions easier knowing that you have but one task above all else. For example when attacking your opponents back, the main goal for them is to remove the chest to back position you have established. If they are to accomplish this you will no longer be in control of the back, rendering any attacks from the position futile. When troubleshooting your weaknessses, look to identify the problem that stops your advancement more than any of the others and your ability to find a solution will likely come with it.