Powerful Ideas to Make You A Better Jiu-Jitsu Student
The first year of training in Jiu-Jitsu is not easy.
As a martial art fundamentally based on real life and practical combat situations, the complexity and unpredictability inherent to Jiu-Jitsu is overwhelming for most beginners.
The first thing you must take into consideration if you feel lost or confused is that such is the nature of fighting. it is complicated and it is unpredictable.
Jiu-Jitsu is only exposing these elements by allowing freedom to practice and always making you work with a live training partner, as opposed to a heavy bag, a dummy, or a wood board.
Feeling uncomfortable, frustrated, or lost with such complexity is very normal, and in fact it is supposed to happen.
A big part of being a great Jiu-Jitsu artist comes from your ability to improvise and adapt quickly to the different situations you deal with during the fight.
But Here Is The Good News…
It get’s easier over time as you learn to embrace the nature of Jiu-Jitsu instead of resisting it.
It is always my goal to ease your path. With that in mind I put together this pst with 5 Ideas that can make help you develop an optimal mindset for learning the gentle art.
All of them will help you navigate this complexity and allow you to consolidate the foundation of your Jiu-Jitsu game leading up to your blue belt and beyond.
Have Clarity Both on The Goal and The Threat
One of the most common mistakes I see students making is trying to memorize each step of every technique.
Steps are important, but even more important is to have a clarity on the goal.
Every position in Jiu-Jitsu presents a threat and an opportunity. The steps that make a technique are just a scripted solution and definitely not the only one.
While the instructor demonstrates the technique, make an effort to understand the context that makes the technique relevant and not just the technique by itself.
Ask yourself questions such as “What is the goal of this technique? How will this technique help me improve my position? What could my partner do to prevent me from achieving this?”
Begin practice of every technique with the goal in mind. Stay focused on it, not on the steps.
Improve Your Position, Get To the Mount
Jiu-Jitsu is fighting at 360 degrees and some times you end up upside down. Literally.
Making decisions on how to improve your position is not always easy because you can lose the sense of direction in the middle of the battle.
If you find yourself lost on what to do next, here is a clear set of instructions I use with the kids on our Little Champions 1 class:
- “If you are on the bottom, get on top”
- “If the opponent is behind you, face him / her”
This sounds simple, but can help you make quick and right decisions.
And here is another idea…
The Full Mount is one of the most dominant positions in Jiu-Jitsu. It is highly regarded because it gives a lot of control for the person on top while offering a wide array of options for submission.
All that happens with the opponent on the bottom offering very little threat.
The full mount position should serve as the main reference, the destination, we want to arrive so we can then finish the fight.
While it is true you can finish the fight from everywhere in Jiu-Jitsu, the mount should be considered the summit of Jiu-Jitsu positions specially for those who are on their first year of training.
Embrace The Struggle
This is more mental than physical.
Jiu-Jitsu is about being comfortable in discomfort. It is supposed to be that way. That is where your growth will come from.
Too many of us are culturally taught to avoid uncomfortable situations but forget that growth lies outside of our comfortable zone.
Remember, there is no situation in Jiu-Jitsu that cannot be turned to your favor. Even a big loss has some very important lessons to teach you.
Embrace the struggle of not knowing what to do. Learn from your shortcomings. Keep going even when you are tired. Take the pressure that is being applied against you and redirect it to your favor.
There are underlying principles that never change
There is an underlying principle beneath every technique. These Principles never change.
For example, to be able to off balance your opponent, his or her head needs to pass cross the line of his or her foot. Before any throw or sweep/reversal happens in Jiu-Jitsu, the head must cross that line.
If you focus on discovering ways to make this happen, you will begin to think about Jiu-Jitsu, creating strategies and executing on it, instead of trying to remember a set of steps that build a specific technique.
Another example of an underlying principle is very evident on guard passes. All Passes must accomplish two conditions to work: hip control and cross the line of the knees.
The order does not matter, but these two conditions must happen for the pass to be accomplished. If you cannot control the hips and cross the lines of your opponents knees you can’t pass the guard.
Knowing these principles allow you to be creative and to think by yourself instead of just executing out of memory.
The goal of a fighter is to think, not to remember.
Figure It Out
As mentioned on the beginning of this post, Jiu-Jitsu will require a great sense of improvisation and adaptability.
It is not about remembering the steps.
In every situation you encounter in Jiu-Jitsu, the mission to understand the goal, recognize the threats, and execute creatively using techniques previously learned as a template or reference.
You gotta be able to deal with the unknown. and learn to figure out solutions to new problems. It is part of our nature to want scripted solutions for every problem but this is not a good thing.
We are creative beings and our ability to find new answers to new problems is the main driver of human progress. It is not different with Jiu-Jitsu.
Exercise your free thinking specially when you participate on the rounds of the live training session. As you figure things out, remember one of the best quotes from one of the best minds to ever inhabit this planet:
“Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set that created them. – Albert Einstein
I sincerely hope these five ideas empower you as a student of this amazing art. I only learned most of them as a black belt, but they are not just relevant for experts.
In fact, I believe they are much more relevant for students at the beginner and intermediate levels.
See you on the mats.
– Flavio Almeids || Head Instructor Gracie Barra North Phoenix Jiu-Jitsu and Self-Defense School