We all want to get better at jiu-jitsu. That’s why we show up a few times a week, put in the work, and deal with the bumps and bruises that come with learning a martial art.
But, are you making the most of each time you step on the mat? Could you be getting more from each class to accelerate your learning and improve the quality of your jiu-jitsu?
Here are a few ways to get more out of each jiu-jitsu, MMA, or fitness class that you participate in.
1. Adapt A “White Belt” Mentality
No matter how long you’ve been doing jiu-jitsu we can all benefit from adopting a “white belt mentality.” This means approaching every technique, roll, and drill as if it were your first day. When you are a white belt, you’re anxious to absorb all of the new info to improve and learn. No matter what belt level you reach or haw many times you’ve learned the same move, approach each class as an opportunity to learn new details and improve your jiu-jitsu.
2. Ask questions!
One of the best way to understand something is to ask a question about it. Not only will it clarify things for you, but the process of asking a question will make you more engaged and help you remember the technique better. Sometime people feel shy or embarrassed by asking questions, or as if they were disrupting class or annoying the professor. Don’t allow those things to stop you from speaking up! You are paying money to learn so you should never feel bad for asking a question! Plus, you might help the people around you learn as well.
3. Take Notes
It may seem like extra work, but taking notes on what you learn will help dramatically in remembering techniques and positions. Your notes don’t have to be long or comprehensive. Just a few bullet points on the technique of the day and some details that made the move work for you will go a long way. Jot them down between technique time and sparring time, or add them after class. Plus, you don’t need a notebook or a pen and paper, just use the notes on your phone.
4. Get a thorough warmup / cool down
So many people neglect the warm up and cool down parts of class, but these are great opportunities to improve flexibility and reduce your chance of injury! The purpose of the warm up is the prepare the body for action. It literally heats up the temperature of the muscles, primes the nervous system, and activates the heart and lungs. This allows the body to move and perform better, which translates into better jiu-jitsu movement and sharper technique. You’ll also decrease your chances of getting injured which will ensure more time on the mat in the future. The cool down brings the body back down from an active state so it can start to recover. The cool down is also a great time improve your flexibility since the muscles are warm and elastic. Don’t skip either!
5. Try to Apply What You Learned
How often have you been shown a technique, drilled it a few times, then never used it again? It happens all the time. One of the reasons is because many of us don’t actively put in to action what we learn, instead reverting to our old bag of tricks we can rely on. This will lead to stagnation in your game and a small technique arsenal to chose from. Only when you try to apply the technique of the day in live sparring can you fully understand if it’s a match for you and worth adding to your game. You will have to become vulnerable when applying a new technique, but it’s really the only way to get better. That’s what the training room is for, trying new things and getting better.
6. Work when you’re tired
We all get tired. It doesn’t matter how great of shape you’re in or what belt level you’ve reached. Everyone gets tired during sparring. It’s important, however, to push yourself in those moments, even if it means gettin submitted or losing position to someone less experienced than you. In theory, jiu-jitsu is based on technique, and made to work without strength. So the truest test of your technique will be if you can apply it while tired. But if you just lock up and stall, you’ll never see if your technique is where it should be. Plus, your fitness level and conditioning will improve the more you push when you’re tired.
7. Review what you learned at a later date
This tip goes hand-in-hand with taking notes and applying what you’ve learned. Open mat, usually at the end of the week, is a perfect time to look through your notes and attempt to remember what you’ve learned throughout the week. Waiting a few days after you’ve learned the move will force you to think and remember what you learned. Drill the positions with a partner at 25, 50, and 75% percent to get different feels. Open learning time like this will dramatically improve your jiu-jitsu and speed up your learning process.
8. Roll with people who are better than you
They say you should always have one training partner who is less skilled than you, one who is the same level, and one who is more skilled. When we train with people who are better than us we are forced to think and act. We need to remember techniques, experience new positions, and push ourselves to survive. Even if you are defending the entire time you are making yourself stronger and more resilient every time you train with someone of better skill. See how long you can go without being submitted and try to increase that time each roll. If your goal is to improve faster, then training with people who are better than you will serve you well.
9. Don’t Be Afraid To Explore
Although your instructor is the one with the experience and knowledge he or she will never have the same set of qualities as you. No two bodies are the same, and people don’t all learn the same way. Always listen to your instructor, but don’t be afraid to try new positions or adapt things to your body type or game. Often times, breakthroughs happen when you explore new positions on your own. Your instructor is your guide, but only you will be held accountable for your own development.
10. Keep the focus on learning and improving, not comparing
It’s very easy to compare yourself to those around you or make every roll a competition. But the focus should be on learning and improving. Don’t get caught up in other peoples progress, who got stripes, or who got promoted. Focus on yourself and improving your technique and performance. We all get submitted, we all lose matches, and we all have bad days. If you keep the focus on learning and improving, you’ll get much more benefit than if your goal is only to win. Keep the white belt mentality and focus on improving your jiu-jitsu!