Some people like to scoff at making New Year’s resolutions. But whether you’re doing it for the new year or just because you woke up and decided you wanted to change things, making the decision to improve yourself on and off the mats (and sticking to it) is commendable. Not all of us are going to be able to win Worlds or drop two weight classes in the coming year, but we could all stand to commit to these jiu-jitsu resolutions:
Roll out of your comfort zone.
If you’re a gi fanatic, do more no-gi work. If you work best when you’re on top, start playing guard more often. Do the things that scare you — the things you kind of (ok, really) suck at. Doing what you’re good at is easy, but practicing the things that get you smashed and submitted is what’s going to turn you into a well-rounded and fearless fighter.
Focus less on what others are doing and more on what you’re doing.
There are always going to be competitors out there who are faster, stronger, more technical, and all-around better than you are. Some of them might even be your teammates. That’s great for them, but there’s no reason for you to be concerned with how often they’re training or how many stripes they have on their belts. Envy and ego walk hand in hand in this sport, and if you can’t leave both of them at the door, whichever one you take with you is going to drag the other one in and disrupt your progress. Your path to success is unique, and if you’re too busy staring at someone else’s, it’s only going to make you lose your way.
Quit making excuses.
Someone out there is busier, older, and more tired than you are, and they’re still putting in the time and effort to train. Not everyone is physically capable of training as much as they’d like to, but come on! You know when you really can’t make it to class and when you’re just slacking off. Figure out the difference, and then acknowledge that a slightly achy knee shouldn’t keep you from rolling the same way a torn meniscus would. If you actually get injured or your work schedule changes for the worse, you’ll regret all the times you convinced yourself that you “couldn’t” train.
Redefine your limits.
Some people claim that limits are a load of BS, but it’s healthy to have at least a couple when you participate in a combat sport. If you’re sixty-five years old, there’s nothing wrong with modifying your flying triangle to be a little less… flying. That said, as you progress, it’s a good idea to start pushing your limits. You get better every time you train, and in most cases, your “can’ts” should slowly turn into “cans.” It’s fine to have a few things that you’re just not ready, able, or willing to do in jiu-jitsu. But this year, try to knock at least a couple of them off the list.
Be a better teammate.
Jiu-jitsu gives us so much, but sometimes, we forget to give back. Many of us are lucky enough to have a supportive team surrounding us, and chances are that most of us try our best to be supportive in return. But it never hurts to try a little harder. Take the time in class to help not only your close friends, but also the brand new students who are too intimidated to ask questions. Show up at tournaments to cheer on your teammates even if you’re not competing yourself. You don’t have to make any grand gestures, but if you go slightly out of your way to be the teammate you’d love to train with, you’ll make your academy a better place to train at.
Take care of yourself more.
Since I’ve never trained while injured and always treat my body like a temple, I’m not a hypocrite at all for giving this advice. But really, if nothing else will convince you to eat a little better and sleep a little more, remember that you only have one body you can use to train jiu-jitsu. If you don’t give it the love it needs, you’re eventually going to be physically unable to do the things you love. Even if you only make small changes like drinking less soda or drinking more water, you’ll eventually start seeing improvement not only in your training routine, but also in your daily life.
Be your own biggest rival.
Especially if you compete, it’s fine to have your eye on someone you really want to pass up on the podium. Every time you show up to class, though, your main focus should be to become better than the athlete you were the last time you trained. Self-improvement is a huge reason why most of us start training in the first place, but we tend to lose sight of that as we progress. As the new year rolls in, set your sights on being better — physically, mentally, or technically — than you were when you rolled out of bed in the morning. Compete against yourself, and you’ll never run out of motivation.
Say “yes” more often.
It’s easy to fall into a jiu-jitsu rut when you do the same things day in and day out. That’s honestly why so many people end up quitting after doing it for a few years. This year, resolve to try new things. If you can, save up some extra cash so you can attend the seminars your friends are going to. Compete in tournaments you’re “not ready” for. Suck it up and drive an hour or two to roll at other academies’ open mats when your friends invite you. Make more of an effort not just to train, but to enjoy training.
Learn whether you win or lose.
One of the most popular phrases we use in jiu-jitsu is that “you win or you learn.” The idea, of course, is that you can never truly lose in a sport that teaches you through defeat, but it’s easy to forget that we can also learn through victory. When you come away the winner in a tough sparring session or at a tournament, refuse to fall into the mentality that you have nothing to improve on. Focus both on what you did right and what you did wrong, and use it to do even better the next time around. And if you’re the one tapping out, remember the old mantra and use your shortcomings as teachers so you never go down the same way again.
Set more goals and then smash them.
Stop viewing your goals as finish lines and start seeing them as check points. When you get promoted, submit an upper belt, or win a tournament you’ve been preparing forever for, take a moment to be happy for yourself. Then aim higher. If you’re really one of those people who enjoys making New Year’s resolutions, plan your goals ahead of time, but once you get there, don’t be scared to blaze right through them and keep going. Anyone can settle for the things that are easily achievable; it takes a little something extra to reach higher.