One Step Forward, Two Steps Back: How To Improve In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Sometimes in jiu-jitsu, as in life, we need to take a step backwards in order to take two steps forward.

Say you are working a low level job. Sure, you get a check every two weeks, but it isn’t very interesting and your take home pay will barely take you home (sorry for the terrible joke). Going back to school will help you get a better paying job in the future, but you will be a starving student for the time of your education. Or…you can maintain the existing low level job and stay in a rut.

So it is in BJJ. If your progress has plateaued you need to change something up to remove a bottle neck. Or perhaps you have neglected some area of your jiu-jitsu for too long and if you want to be a solid purple belt, you need to bring those areas up to standard.

Or…you can just continue doing your old methods and hope that somehow, the gaps in your jiu-jitsu suddenly resolve themselves.

There are two significant areas in your jiu-jitsu where you may need to take a step back for future progress.

1) Correcting weaknesses

Most of us play to our strengths, as success in rolling reinforces which techniques and strategies we start to favor. It is however, possible to be seduced by your success and fail to develop a complete game: the former wrestler who never trains bottom positions, the guard jumper who never works on his guard passing, the speedy guy who relies on being faster than his opponent to get an advantage.

Then they encounter someone equal or better than them in the areas they’re strong in, and they are totally exposed.

These guys need to reassess and spend some time working in those areas of weakness. The initial results may not be pretty. But for your longer term development in jiu-jitsu, you need to fix those problems.

2) Adding a new position or strategy

This one is less glaring and urgent than the first, but is far more common for intermediate and advanced BJJ guys.

Let’s say that you have some really strong sweeps from your guard and those are your go to when you play guard. You don’t remember the last time that you actually submitted someone, and you admit to yourself that you don’t have much of a serious submission threat from your back.

You can vow to pass up those easy sweeps and stay on your back and work for a submission. You know you could get the sweep, but instead you work your submissions.

This is the only way you are going to raise your submission skills. But in the meantime your guard is not going to be nearly as effective as when you played only your strengths.

In my own jiu-jitsu I decided to develop some solid guard passes to my right instead of my left, like 90% of jiu-jitsu guys do. I will confess that my initial guard passing attempts were a full two belt levels below my brown belt at the time. It was a little tough on the ego to struggle passing the guard of training partners that I could easily pass on my strong side. But after a few weeks I passed a critical sticking point and my results improved.

What area of your jiu-jitsu game do you need to go 1 step backwards to go two steps forward?


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