I recently had a laugh after re-reading my initial post on what to expect after the first few months of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).
It was funny because the me that wrote this was in a very early stage of jiu jitsu, and while I’m still a total beginner on my BJJ journey, I’ve learned a lot since then.
By January I’ll have been training for two years, and in that time a lot has happened in my BJJ life.
I’ve graded to white belt four stripes, competed several times, gotten ringworm a number of times, upped the number of times I train per week and have had to take time off due to sickness, being overseas, injuries and everything in between.
More importantly I enjoy BJJ even more than what I did when I started.
With that being said I thought it would be interesting to jot down some thoughts about what to expect in your first two years of training, at least according to my own experience.
1. Expect and accept having to take time off
The first expectation you should have in your first couple of years of training is that there will be periods where you will have to take time off training, and that’s fine.
As I alluded to above, I had to take time off training during my first two years because of ringworm, some nasty injuries, holidays (both overseas and interstate) and work deadlines. At first, I grew frustrated that I couldn’t train and that I would miss out on a valuable technique or chance to get better.
Each time after a break I would have my first roll and have the same feeling: I would feel tired as shit but relieved to be back. After coming back from overseas I actually felt that I was better on the mat, although that might have just been the benefit of coming back with fresh eyes.
There are two reasons why I no longer feel that occasional short breaks from training are negative:
- You can always be learning even when you have time off – you can mentally rehearse techniques from your training log or watch videos online
- Infrequent short breaks don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, which leads onto my second point:
2. Consistency is key
During my time in jiu jitsu I’ve made many friends who started at around the same time as I did. Many have been much better than me. Especially at the start of my jiu jitsu, I felt I was terrible compared to other students on my level.
Over time I’ve realised that no matter how good your natural talent is, there’s no replacement for showing up every week at training. Someone can have tonnes of natural talent, but if they come to training haphazardly or stop after six months, even someone like me can surpass them over time.
Consistency and time on the mat has had the biggest impact on my game overall. I’ve found extracurricular YouTube videos also useful, but not as useful as just showing up.
3. Find a mentor
As you start to make friends in your gym you might find yourself asking certain advanced students for pointers. In my case I just kept bugging one of the brown belts with questions at the end of class about techniques I didn’t understand (of which there were many).
I now have a number of friends that I can go to with questions to help clear things up.
Being able to roll with a mentor is great too, as you can pick up on subtle things that advanced students do subconsciously, and they also might point out flaws in your game.
4. Roll with everyone
As you start to progress you’ll gravitate towards rolling with the same friends or training partners.
I’ve found there’s something to learn from rolling with all shapes and sizes, so it pays to be open to rolling with people you don’t regularly train with too.
You may not get to play your usual game with someone much stronger/heavier/lighter/weaker than you but you’ll learn at least one thing from it to apply to future rolls, so it’s always a useful experience.
5. Don’t miss out on training – you don’t know what will happen next week
We all have days when we just want to bail on training and relax at home.
On these days It’s always a good idea to suck it up and head to training. This is because you don’t know when you’ll catch a cold, get ringworm or have a family function on and have to miss class in the future.
Even if you’re tired, cold or just not feeling into it, just think about the feeling you’ll have after a good training session.
I’ve had times where I’ve bailed on a class because I wanted some time at home, only to then miss out on another class that week due to something unforeseen. This further reduces the number of classes I’m able to make that week, and thereby impacting my consistency target.
6. Don’t neglect the mental component
I’ve had poor results in the four competitions I’ve had so far. This is due mostly to skill, although I noticed that I was lacking in the psychology department too.
I tried to tackle this by reading three books: The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow, Mental Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehr and 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins.
There are lessons to learn from each of these, but the book that I found easiest to follow was 10-Minute Toughness by Jason Selk. The other two books were very comprehensive, but what most resonated with me was the simplicity of 10-Minute Toughness.
In 10-Minute Toughness, Selk advocates a five minute pre-training warm up and a five minute post-training debrief. I’ve been doing this regimen for almost a year now and have felt much more in control of my mental side during training. In 2018 I will be employing these strategies to help with my competition.
There you have it! I hope this has helped give you an idea of what two years in BJJ looks like, at least according to my experience.
What’s your experience of BJJ been? Let me know in the comments below.