4 Ways to Get Better Faster at Jiu Jitsu
If you’re reading this, then you’ve caught the BJJ bug. You’ve experienced the power of Jiu Jitsu and you want in on it. You’re ready to make the commitment to improving your skills and you want to accelerate the process as much as possible.
The truth - as Jocko Willink so eloquently frames for us - is this:
“There is no easy way. There is only hard work, late nights, early mornings, practice, rehearsal, repetition, study, sweat, blood, toil, frustration, and discipline.”
Jocko Willink, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual
That’s both good news and bad news, depending on how you look at it. The bad news is that if you were looking for a hack, there isn’t one. You can't plug into the matrix and download 15 years of intense training into your brain and body over night. The good news is the path protects the sacred nature of the earned skills which makes Jiu Jitsu so well respected.
All that being said, there are ways to accelerate your improvement, both during class time and outside it.
- Study. Don’t just show up to class. Watch instructional videos. Follow high level grapplers on social media and watch them train or compete. Watch breakdowns of complex matches and movements. Immerse yourself in the Jiu Jitsu universe and its secrets will be revealed.
- Compete. Even if you’re intimidated by it. Especially if you’re intimidated by it! This is arguably the fastest way to take your grappling game to the next level. Test your moves under intensity, watch your matches, and learn from your mistakes. If you make a mistake in the training room, you might say “dang.” If you make a mistake on the competition mats, you’re never going to make that mistake again! If you do well in competition, the confidence boost will encourage you to push harder. If you do poorly in competition, your ego will push you to train 5x harder and with more focus for the next few weeks than you ever would have without the nudge. It's like hitting a Boost Pad in Mario Kart.
- Roll with intention. Pick a technique to work for a week or two. For example, come to class every day for a week with the goal of hitting a scissor sweep. Or a leg drag. Or a Kimura. Or whatever. After a week or two, pick something else. This practice of focusing your training will not only make you better at that particular technique, but it will call your mental attention and muscle memory to situations that otherwise might have been lost and forgotten in the chaos. You’ll realize after rolling just one round this way that you remember more details than usual about what happened in the scrambles. There’s no question that your Jiu Jitsu will improve faster if you roll with intention than if you roll arbitrarily.
- Be consistent. This should go without saying but if you train 6 hours per week vs 2 hours per week, you’re getting better 3X faster. Mat time is the number one factor that’s going to affect your BJJ development.
In summary, it’s in the best interest of Jiu Jitsu that there is no easy way to the top. The arduous path we all must take preserves the integrity of the sport and the respect of its authority in the martial arts world. However, as with everything, there are actions we can take to optimize our results and affect our performance. Study, testing (competing), focus and intentional practice, and consistency are indisputable ways to make the most out of your time and accelerate the improvement of your Jiu Jitsu.