Help! I Train Consistently And My Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Isn’t Getting Any Better

A Jiu-Jitsu Times reader messaged me with an understandable frustration: “I train consistently and seems like I am learning more techniques, but it isn’t translating into better performance in rolling?”

Often times it can feel like our progress is slow or at a complete standstill. Is this for real or maybe in our minds? I’m going to suggest that if you are attending class regularly and not hampered by training injuries, that it most likely is all in your mind.

It is true that progress is not a smooth, uninterrupted upward trajectory in BJJ or in life. But a consistent application of effort under a good instructor will undoubtably help you improve.

The feeling or perception that you aren’t improving comes from a few areas.

We are often our own worst critics.

Most of us have some negative self talk about many things in our lives that are important to us.

No one else but you noticed that your new sweep didn’t go as planned or that you submitted the white belt only three times instead of your usual five times in a round.

Sometimes we set expectations on ourselves as to how smoothly things should go or how long it should take to get competent at a certain technique. These expectations may not accurately reflect reality so you can’t get too down when things don’t work out exactly as you originally planned.

It is possible that you are just being overly critical of your own efforts. Even top level athletes experience inner self doubt and criticism. World Champions seek the help of sports psychologists to deal with these thoughts. It isn’t only you.

Gains can be so subtle as to be imperceptible.

I call this invisible progress. It goes something like this: you rolled with the brown belt but still got tapped multiple times in the round. The same result as four months ago.

What you did not notice, however, is that the brown belt is no longer getting easy submissions because of your beginner mistakes. Now, the brown belt is trying three different attacks because you defended the initial two attacks. They had to transition to a different side control because you were starting to escape the original side control position. You were only looking at if you tapped or not as the measurement of if you are improving.

Huge, quantum leap in ability? No.

Real, legitimate improvement? Yes!

Everyone else is getting better too!

I’m fond of the saying that goes something like this: “When the water rises in the harbor, all of the boats go up.”

When you think about it, that awesome arm bar setup that you learned is not working as smoothly as you hoped because your training partners were at the same class that you saw it! They know most of the same stuff that you have learned. They see it coming and are able to defend your technique even though you performed the move correctly.

Your training partners are improving also, keeping pace with your own improvements. It can feel however, that you are standing still.

Rest assured that if you are on the mats regularly, you are getting better even though it may be difficult to measure and you don’t feel it sometimes.

Keep training!


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