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I recently had to take some time off from Jiu Jitsu, not by choice, but time away, nonetheless.
One of the things I found interesting is how quickly my mindset changed when I didn’t have the constant checks and balances from Jiu Jitsu. Allow me to explain. When I first started training, I was, as many people are, overly confident in my “abilities” to defend myself in a self defense situation. As I’m sure you can imagine, and maybe experienced yourself, when I started training Jiu Jitsu I was quickly forced to accept the reality that I had no idea how to defend myself and was overly cocky about my ability to do so. This was a very humbling experience, one that I will never forget.
Let’s fast forward a few months. Now that I have been training for a little while, you would think that I had started to develop more confidence about my ability to defend myself and was well on my way back to the cocky and confident person I was before, right? Wrong. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know… well the more you train, the more you know what you don’t know. The more I learned, the more I realized I had a long road ahead of me.
Sure, along the way I would have amazing training days where live training went great and I felt strong and technical and did well in my matches, but for every one of those I would have several others where I felt weak, out matched on technique, or on some occasions like I didn’t even belong on the same mats as my training partner because they were so much better. It was the perfect balance of being able to see the progress, and also being reminded that I wasn’t Gordon Ryan.
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As the path continued, late into my blue belt, I had established a baseline level of confidence that I felt was earned through many hours on the mats, the confidence of, I am more prepared for a self defense situation than most people I would encounter on a daily basis. Understand that this by no means meant that I thought I was ready to climb in the cage and fight, or even that I was walking around looking for a fight, quite the opposite actually. It was around this time that I started noticing that I was more aware of my surroundings and much more likely to try to avoid conflict than look for it or create it. I knew I still had a long journey ahead of me before I would be able to say I was confident in every situation, but that’s ok, at this point, I was in love with the journey and had no desire to ever miss any time on the mats.
You know how we lose the vast majority of our teammates as soon as they get their blue belt? A similar effect, but in smaller quantity happens at each rank, and for me, I was a part of that when I got my purple belt. It was never my intention to take time away, but almost immediately after getting my purple belt I had some medical issues come up that forced me to take time off the mats. Initially it was only supposed to be a few weeks, maybe a month at most, the more time that passed, the more frustrating it was. In the beginning it was easy to stay in the right mindset and remember the lessons that Jiu Jitsu taught me over the years, but as time went on, without realizing it, my mindset shifted somehow. I found myself closer to the person I was before Jiu Jitsu and further from the person I was and wanted to be when I was training regularly.
As the weeks turned into months, I found myself short tempered and blowing every little thing out of proportion. It took me a while to realize, but I had lost the thing that kept me in check, I lost my checks and balances. It was an interesting realization because at this point I had almost completely lost touch with Jiu Jitsu and had often wondered if I would ever go back. This solidified that going back was not a question, simply when I would be able to go back was the only question.
A little over 4 months went by before I was finally cleared to get back to the mats and start training Jiu Jitsu again. I was so excited I could barely contain myself. Walking back in on my first day back was much like walking in for the very first time. I had expectations of what was going to happen that were unrealistic. You don’t realize how much of this skill you lose if you are not actively working to develop it. I think most people also don’t realize the mindset shift that happens as a result of not training, slowly losing all of the mental benefits that we are afforded just because we train consistently.
One of the biggest things I noticed coming back, aside from lacking the checks and balances to keep my confidence in line is that details matter, they matter a lot. Jiu Jitsu is a game of detail and nothing is ever done just because. In my experience what I have found is that if you find yourself doing a technique where you don’t have a very specific approach and plan with detailed steps on exactly how you plan to execute the technique, chances are, you haven’t truly learned the technique.
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If you look at some of the greats, like Gordon Ryan, you will see that there is a reason for everything he does. It may be that he grips one way or another because he has found through hours of training that this is the best method. Many times it seems people want to reinvent the wheel when it is not necessary. In today’s technology driven world there is no reason to not be at the top of your game other than laziness or lack of dedication. With video instructionals available from BJJ Fanatics everyone now has access to refine their game with the details from the best in the world.
If you are looking for a place to start, may I suggest starting at the beginning, when you first started training what did you focus on? It is likely that you started in the closed guard and began learning submissions from there before branching out into more advanced techniques. If you are new and are wondering when is the right time to start using video instructionals to supplement your game, the answer is now, now is the right time. Spending time studying video instruction from your favorite high level grappler will only further advance your technique at an advanced speed.
In Gordon Ryan’s newest video instructional he shows how to dominate from the closed guard using a system that has proven successful on the world’s largest stages. “Systemizing closed guard” – by Gordon Ryan will take your closed guard game to levels you never knew where possible.