Are You Trying To Learn How To Get Better At Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
All martial arts training has a learning curve, and when you are first approaching a new discipline it can be easy to feel intimidated by the enormity of what you don't know. And Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is no exception.
Quite the contrary. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is thought to have the highest dropout rate of any martial art, with 90% of students never making it to blue belt.
But while that statistic seems stark, beginners should take heart. Even the most venerable practitioners once started just where you are, and your early struggles do not define your capabilities. Only you can decide how far you're able to go.
So if you're a beginner who is struggling, don't tap out just yet. Instead, try these top tips to help yourself continue to improve.
1. Train Consistently and Train Often
An unpracticed skill will never sharpen, so the single greatest asset you can have is the dedication to train as consistently and frequently as you can manage.
Ideally, this would mean training as often as you are physically able, but of course, even the most dedicated students have outside obligations. If you can only train consistently once a week with no wiggle-room, then once a week is better than not at all.
However, you will likely find that you're really struggling to make headway without training at least twice or three times a week. You may need to get creative with how you get these sessions in, depending on your schedule. Attending open mats, coordinating with a sparring partner after or in between classes, or even just running solo drills at home are all ways to keep improving when you're not in class.
2. Take Drilling as Seriously as Sparring
I doubt that anyone thinks that drills are as fun as sparring, especially when you're first starting out. All the same, it's important not to neglect them.
If drilling feels tedious and repetitive, that's because it's the real work of training. Building that muscle memory is essential to your long term success, and will also help you learn what moves work best for you.
3. Train Your Muscles as Well as Your Skills
While honing your technical skills is paramount to improving, you also need to build the necessary strength and endurance.
There are plenty of tips on meeting general fitness goals, which are important in any martial art. But in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you want to build up a strong grip.
There are actually three types of grip that can all be trained. All three are valuable in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, either allowing you to better control an opponent or merely allowing you to maintain a stable position.
4. No One Wants to Train with an Unkempt Partner
As much of your training will involve you working with a partner, it is important to make sure that you're the kind of person that people will want to train with.
Always keeping a clean uniform, for instance, is just plain considerate given the amount of time you'll be spending in close proximity with others. Meanwhile, keeping your nails trimmed and clean can prevent unnecessary injuries.
It may sound like common sense, but you'd be surprised how many beginners neglect it.
5. Don't Be Ashamed to Tap
For some beginners, one of the biggest hurdles that they will have to overcome is their unwillingness to tap out. By the same token, it is not uncommon to see beginners in class standing off to the side nursing easily avoidable injuries.
In training, everyone's goal should be to learn and improve. As such, there is no winning or losing, and you need to let go of the idea. Even in tapping out, there is an opportunity to learn.
Later on in your education, you will learn how to resist and safely escape from submissions. But at the beginner stages, all fighting a submission to the bitter end is likely to get you is a hyper-extended shoulder and a bruised ego.
6. Strive to Surpass Yourself, Not Others
Chapter 66 of the Tao Te Ching contains the lines "because she competes with no one, no one can compete with her". It's a passage on humility, and a good mantra to keep in mind during your training.
You see, if you want to undermine your own progress, the surest way is to compare yourself to others.
For one thing, it's normal for your classmates to have different experience levels or more time to devote to training. Everyone's situation is different, so your self-imposed competition is unlikely to be on a level playing field.
But more importantly, it distracts and discourages yo from what your goal should be, which is to improve your own skills. So rather than worry about whether or not you could defeat your classmates, wonder instead if you could defeat yourself from one month ago. Keeping this as your objective will keep on track and pushing against the only opponent you should concern yourself with.
7. Be Patient
Earlier we mentioned Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu's high dropout rate. This is often due to the frustration that many beginners feel at the beginning of their training.
After months of diligent work, it can feel like you're not making progress. Rest assured that you are, you simply can't see it from where you stand.
It can take years to become skilled in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu. The key to sticking with it is to not become impatient with the journey, but rather to embrace it.
The Surest Way To Get Better at Brazilian-Jiu Jitsu is Persistence
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is an art form like any other. And as with any other art, you will find that persistence is of greater value than random talent.
Martial arts are often pitched as a way to build character and a strong work ethic, and the reason why that is true is that the progress that you make is hard-earned. And because it is earned, it is all the more gratifying.
And of course, the benefits of training are physical as well as mental. To see how martial arts training can help you build a solid foundation of health, check out our article on improving your functional fitness with martial arts.