Life is too short not to be enjoyed so remember that first and foremost training should be fun! For most people training bjj or judo is a hobby, a fun way to stay in shape while learning a skill. Yes, you are learning to defend yourself in a fight but you should also be having fun. At times the classes may be hard and you might question if it’s worth it, just remember anything worthwhile is worth a sweat! Here are some tips to help you along the way.
Relax: Every new student, and many veteran students, gets told to “relax” about a hundred thousand times. Like anything else it takes practice but it’ll come and your training will be more productive. When being told to relax this roughly translates to the following:
a) Pace yourself- Don’t try to go all out for 30 seconds then be unable to continue without passing out or throwing up.
b) Don’t be so tense- Being tense slows you down and makes you tire quicker.
c) Don’t freak out- When stuck in a bad position or in a submission, just stay calm and think of the necessary steps to escape or counter.
d) Slow is smooth- Don’t try to execute techniques a hundred times faster than needed or that your skill level mitigates.
e) Smooth is fast- Don’t bully techniques. Execute the move that is there, not force the move you want.
f) Breath- When you are tense you tend to hold your breath as well. Try to keep a regular breathing pattern, this sounds simple but you will be surprised how hard it can be when under pressure.
Patience and Consistency: To get good at anything takes time. You aren’t going to be tapping everyone at the academy after a week of training. Have patience and put in the work, being good will come. To make progress attend classes consistently. A session here and there is no good; make the effort to get to all regularly scheduled classes.
Focus: Simply showing up is not enough. Despite what someone might say they can’t make you good. Only you can make you good! A great instructor knows how to coach and guide you, but in the end it’s down to you. Pay attention and get as much out of the class as possible. You should take something from every class.
Ask Questions: If you don’t understand something then ask. Ask your instructor or more experienced students. If someone keeps catching you with something during training ask what you are doing wrong, correcting the mistake will make you better. As the saying goes “The only stupid question is the one not asked”.
Tap!: Don’t get hurt. If you are caught in a submission and don’t know the proper counter you must tap. You’re supposed to get tapped, it’s part of the learning process. You don’t actually have to be in pain to tap, often that is too late! Tapping and carrying on with the class is lot better than missing sessions while an injury heals.
Use care with submissions: Apply the final portion of submissions with slow even pressure, do not crank them without control. By all means enter quickly in to the technique, but when it comes to finishing you have to control the partner and apply pressure slowly to the submission in order to keep them safe. Be aware of the tap. When you have a submission applied it is your partner’s job to tap, but it’s your job to notice the tap. Wildly yanking on a submission without being aware of your partner may lead to injury, they may not be able to use hands to tap you and could be signaling vocally, tapping the mat, or by stamping feet .
Injuries: Take injuries seriously. If you incur an injury, stop and get it treated before you go back to the mat. Missing the end of a session to ice an injury and skipping the rest of the week is better than creating a problem which will prevent you from training for months or even years. if you need to take time off, do it. Going down to watch the classes during your break is encouraged. Learn to treat your injuries with R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation).
Don’t Beat Yourself Up: You will get tapped, you will be sore, you will be tired. Remember that everyone went through the same thing, even the best guy at your academy. Even experienced student have “those days”, bad sessions are a part of training. Don’t get discouraged.
Watch others: You can learn a lot from watching others. Being able to see and understand what others are doing will increase your knowledge. You may be able to pick up a new technique, or a detail of a movement that will help your game. Every student has their own “game”, differing styles can teach you different things. Also, studying someone better than you and modeling how they roll can be a good way to make progress.
Hygiene: Wash your gi every session. Wash yourself every session. Keep nails trimmed. Wear deodorant. Brush your teeth. Thank you!
Respect: On the mat keep your partners safety in mind and don’t go bullying less experienced or smaller students. “Leave Your Ego at the Door”. Training can be competitive at times but you are there to learn, not fight. Training and drilling is about improving performance, not “winning”. Don’t bring your insecurities on to the mat.
Position, Transition, Position: Good position and transition skills are what makes a good grappler. This should be your focus, not just when you start training but always. Submissions are great fun but good position skills are where it’s at, they are what get you to the submission and keep you out of bad positions. Not much point learning a submission the mount if you can’t get there or hold the position.
Perfect the Basics: Spending the time on the fundamentals is the way to get good at grappling. At times the “basics” may seem a boring but in time you will see the depth of understanding there is to gain in their application. Through application of the basics, subtleties of the game will become apparent and you will have the foundation to take your game to the advanced level.
Do The Things You Hate To Do: Everyone has weakness that we need to train but always seem to put off. You need to learn to enjoy training your weak spots, it is focusing on these areas that improve your game. Train the things you hate and take solace in the knowledge that you’re making progress at your club might not.
Training Partners: Finding a good partner is great for making real progress. Find someone who understands how you train and will challenge you. However, be wary! Training with the same one or two people can put you in a rut, make sure you expose yourself to a wide cross section of the club.
Set Goals: Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. Write them down and review then regularly. You must constantly set realistic and relevant goals, have a plan to achieve them and stick to it. Goals keep you motivated and give you a blueprint for improvement.
Rest and Nutrition: Get plenty of sleep and rest. Your body needs time for recuperation, repair and growth. Over-training, tiredness and stress will all hinder performance. Also remember that your nutrition is your fuel. You must find a good balance in your food, drink and supplements to support your training.
The Big Picture: Remember that fighting ability doesn’t mean jack in the overall big picture. At your funeral do you want the mourners missing and grieving over the loss of a fantastic person, or saying “well, he might have been an a$$hole but he had a really tight game”. “The black belt is as much about character as it is technique” –Helio Gracie.