How to Deal With A Training Plateau

Garry Tonon believes that the fastest way to success in grappling is a having a complete understanding of submission holds.

Anyone who has trained for a while knows that there’s a good chance that at some point in one’s grappling career a plateau will appear.  Basically, a plateau is a period or expanse of time in which the practitioner is seemingly unable to improve.  This can have far reaching consequences, and people have even become disillusioned with jiu-jitsu as a result of their plateaus, so if you happen to run into a plateau in your training, it is important to address it.

Here are five possible ways to approach a plateau and escape its grips:

Drill more.  

Drilling is like a savings account: every time you drill you make deposits.  You may not realize the short term effects, but the drills you do will pay dividends in the long run.  The nice thing about drilling is that because you know you’re not going to feel immediate improvements, drills effectively exist in a reality without plateaus.  The more you drill the sounder your game will be.

Seek out different instructors.

This does not mean you should leave your gym, but if there are other gyms in town that allow drop-ins, one way to change your game up and effectively escape the plateau is to drop in at gyms where the techniques being taught are a bit different.  The temporary change of scenery can make a big difference.

Of course, make sure you mind team politics. You don’t want to drop in at a rival gym, but if you diversify the instructors from whom you attain knowledge, you can change the scope of your game.  Also, if you are fortunate enough to be part of a team that has affiliates all around town – i.e., Renzo Gracie in New York City or Brasa in the Midwest – that can be a simple and politic-free way to mix things up.

Seek out different grappling arts. 

Repeat after me: BJJ isn’t the only effective grappling art.  If you can find a high level Sambo, catch wrestling, wrestling or judo instructor, this can be a great way to mix new and unfamiliar elements into your game.  You may find that there are entire families of submissions with which you were never acquainted such as neck/face cranks and leg locks! You’d be surprised just how much content BJJ as a whole neglects.


The more you compete the better you will be at competing.  The better you are at competing, the more you’ll be able to treat competition as a learning experience.  There is no greater teacher than failure, and often plateaus come from exposure to the “same old,” whether that is the same old modes of failure or the same old successes.  In competition, you will find new and awesome ways to fail and to succeed.

Add a new exercise program to your routine. 

Some people do BJJ exercise outside of their BJJ training; many do not.  As much as a plateau can be psychological, in some instances, it’s physical.  That extra oomph that you get from becoming stronger and more explosive may open up new avenues in your game.  Granted, jiu-jitsu is mostly mental, but it doesn’t hurt to become stronger, and becoming stronger is far less a mental exercise than it is a physical one.

Plateaus will happen to most of us, and when you hit a plateau the smartest thing you can do is to find ways that are under your control to improve your grappling skills.  For those reading this that have experienced and surpassed plateaus, are there any methods I didn’t cover here?  How do you deal with plateaus?


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