No Substitute For Mat Time

Today, the Jiu-jitsu Times is featuring a video by Keenan Cornelius giving some training advice on how to get better at jiu-jitsu. For those without the spare 12 minutes to watch the entire video, allow me to paraphrase Keenan’s message.

In order to develop your jiu-jitsu to a high level, you need to:

1) Acquire an arsenal of techniques to use in specific situations
2) Learn how to make use of your physical attributes and how your body moves in certain positions

For point number one, there are abundant resources available. This is called direct learning, where someone teaches you a new move. Your instructor should be your primary source of technical training, as he can teach techniques that are appropriate for your level of experience.

The much maligned YouTube is also a valuable source of technical information. However, learning new moves only goes so far, according to Keenan.

The second part is all about mat time. There is no substitute for mat time.

Keenan explains that you learn new moves up until a certain point, and then the improvement comes from learning how to use your own body to move as efficiently and effectively as possible.

This “invisible” jiu-jitsu is something that is “felt” more than directly taught. Your instructor can teach you how to execute the triangle choke, but NOT how to feel the timing and make the micro adjustments necessary to make the triangle as tight as possible. You need to make your own mistakes in rolling and learn that if you do something incorrectly, your guard gets passed. You need to experience when a setup triggers the reaction in your opponent that leads to a successful submission.

If we were to record you learning a new sweep and then time lapse over 200 reps, we would see a gradual tightening of each movement and increased smoothness to your execution by the end. Sure, some tips help but the real improvement comes from

No one can tell you to move your hip out to the side two more inches or change your angle by seven degrees. These are things that you will gradually start to feel intuitively. Keenan honestly explains that this process takes a long time.

If you have no other responsibilities, you can train full time with many hours on the mat per week and acquire this sensibility faster. But it still requires thousands of repetitions. There is no substitute for mat time.

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