If You Want To Get Better, Practice What You Suck At

Photo Source: Issys Calderon Photography

Even though jiu-jitsu is all about removing ourselves from our personal comfort zones and stepping into very uncomfortable zones, many of us still find ourselves sticking with what we know and avoiding what we don’t. It’s why you see former wrestlers avoiding pulling guard at all costs and why guardeiros tremble in their gis when it comes time to practice takedowns.

If you’re one of those people, relax– we all are, to an extent. Especially around the blue or purple belt level, you’re going to start realizing that some techniques just really aren’t your thing. You’re also going to start developing your own game and discovering the moves that will frustrate your teammates to no end every time they have to roll with you. Just like everything else in life, jiu-jitsu is going to be full of things you’re good at and things you suck at.

But that doesn’t mean you get to stop practicing the things you suck at.

I mean, sure, you can if you want to, but that’s not how you evolve as a jiu-jitsu fighter or as a person. About 99.9 percent of everyone who has ever tried jiu-jitsu definitely sucked at it during their first class… and the second class… and the third one. But the greatest black belts in the world are the ones who didn’t let that stop them.

Once you stop completely sucking at jiu-jitsu, it becomes easy to get complacent. You might start to figure, hey, you’re good at this technique, so it’s not a big deal if you’re not so good at that technique. Or maybe you figure that since you kind of have this move down, you don’t really have to worry about being able to do it in your sleep.

There’s no question that it’s easier to do things that way. The problem is that it’s not better to settle for “meh” when you’re capable of so much more. Even if you don’t compete at all, you owe it to yourself to develop a champion’s mindset. You’re investing a lot of time, money, and energy into your jiu-jitsu, and you’re not milking it enough if you’re just showing up and working on the same thing you’re already good at. It’s like going to college to study the same thing you already got your degree in.

The next time you train, figure out what you’re trying to avoid doing. Then, do that. It’s OK if you’re terrible at it. It’s fine if it gets you swept and tapped out and utterly dominated. That’s the point. You’re never going to fill in the holes of your game by walking around them and pretending they aren’t there. When you just focus on what you’re good at because you’re worried about how bad you’ll look if you don’t, you’re reverting back to your first few weeks as a spastic white belt when preserving your ego was your number-one priority.

Everyone you roll with will have their own strengths and weaknesses, but if you work on making your weak points your strong points, you’re going to find the holes in your opponent’s game a lot faster than they find yours. You’re not going to be good at everything, and that’s fine. The point is to give a bit more love to the things you’re bad at so your jiu-jitsu game is a well-oiled machine instead of a sexy sports car with a missing tire and no headlights.

If your goal is to be good at jiu-jitsu, don’t settle for being good at just leg locks or just playing guard or just smashing and passing. Work on everything not only so you can be a well-rounded fighter as you work your way up the ranks, but also so you keep your mind focused on not giving up just because things are hard. Even if you’re satisfied with your reputation as the dude with the baddest side control on this side of the Mississippi, it’s going to benefit your mentality to expose your weak side to the world and work on making it stronger.

So go out there and suck. Show off all the nothing you can do from your crappy butterfly guard, and put the spotlight on how laughable your triangle escape is. Then, work on it until nobody believes you when you say it used to be your worst technique.



  1. It really takes a commitment to the “long game” to put your weaknesses front and center. But we train to be the best black belt, not the best white or blue belt. Great article!


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