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How To Succeed in Jiu Jitsu

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve seen students struggle with in Jiu Jitsu is to completely engage the learning process by applying a new technique being taught once they are in a bad position during a roll. Often, when students begin to feel uncomfortable, they consequently stop trying to implement the new techniques the instructor is teaching in class. Instead, they immediately resort to doing only what they are already familiar with at the expense of progressing in their learning. However, to succeed in Jiu Jitsu, we must be open to learning new skills while continually pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

When we are presented with a new concept or technique, the question we must ask ourselves is: “Am I willing to not perform at the highest in this specific training to add new tools to my game?” Being willing to apply what the instructor is teaching is a sign that we are open to learning which will improve our Jiu Jitsu. The longer a student continues to do the same things they already know during a roll without trying anything new, especially while other students continue to learn and progress, they dig a deeper and deeper hole that is hard to come out of later. When this happens, we are usually dealing with pride. Sticking with familiarity is not limited to the mat. It is something that we as humans are challenged within every area of our life.

We cannot overcome and progress by limiting ourselves to doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. If we are not willing to get out of our comfort zones to learn something new, then we will find that what had been working during rolls will no longer yield results. Eventually, our training partners catch on and catch up. While we were busy sticking only with the same techniques, our teammates were developing a tremendous amount of skill through implementing the new tools being taught in class. The consequence is that, even if our dedication and passion for Jiu Jitsu is high, we will stagnate, and our frustration will grow.

In my experience as a professor, when a student falls behind his peers from failing to embrace the learning process and frustration consequently ensues, that student often quits training Jiu Jitsu. By focusing more on what they already know rather than building on it with new skills these students eventually find themselves so low that they do not see a way to get out of the hole they dug, and Jiu Jitsu is no longer fun for them. The problem was never the technique being taught, the ability to learn Jiu Jitsu, or that it is not fun. The problem is pride. The result of quitting when it gets tough rather than learning is that the student takes their pride with them wherever they go.

Starting your Jiu Jitsu journey can be especially tough when you have a limited understanding of the positions and so cannot yet implement or defend from them. But, just like anything else, if you keep studying and practicing you will improve. Eventually, the technique or skill that you were not so great at will become just as good if not better than the ones you already know. At the end of the day, we must incorporate into our dedication and love for training Jiu Jitsu with our willingness to learn different skills on the mat. This is how you progress and succeed in Jiu Jitsu and life.

Continually adding technical ability and conceptual knowledge is crucial to learning and enjoying the art of Jiu Jitsu. Through my own training experience, where I am faced with the challenge of constantly learning new skills on the mat, Jiu Jitsu has given me the tools to not only improve my own game but also the confidence to apply the same principles in all the areas of my life. And this is what I desire for each of my students.

– Professor Tony Passos


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