Does the 10,000 Hour Rule Fit BJJ?
In his influential work, Outliers: The Story of Success author Malcolm Gladwell examines people who have achieved extraordinary success in their lives in a particular area. One of the reasons for this success, according to Gladwell is the 10,000 Hour Rule or Principle which states that regardless of someone's innate talents and abilities, most skills require upwards of 10,000 hours until the practitioner can be excellent at the skill.
What does 10,000 hours look like in practical numbers? If the average person spent 3 hours a day on a skill and practiced that skill everyday, they would achieve 10,000 of practice in about 10 years. Does this sound at all familiar? It's said that the average BJJ student who steps on the mats and trains diligently can expect to earn a black belt in an average of 10 years of study. But does the average student train 20 plus hours a week? Probably not.
In reality, the average student probably trains much less than half of that time each week. It's not that many students don't want to train more, but due to other life responsibilities like jobs and school, training that much might not be possible. The true outliers of the jiu jitsu world are the world-class competitors. These are the top level competitors like those that make up John Danaher's Death Squad. People like Garry Tonon, Gordon and Nicky Ryan are training more hours in a day than most practitioners train in a week. These are the people that have the opportunities, the work ethic, and the skill to train most like 5-6 hours or more per day, not counting strength and conditioning and other physical endeavors. Training as a full time job can allow one of these outliers to achieve their 10,000 hours is an little as 5 years or less.
The good news is that Gladwell never said it took 10,000 hours to become good at a skill. His 10,000 hour rarified air was reserved for the absolute best in their fields. In his book, he uses examples like the Beatles, who before they came to America in 1964 had played over 1200 shows together. For years, they were the house band at a strip club in Hamburg and played 5 hours a day 7 days a week. Gladwell argues that this investment of time and work ethic is integral to the ultimate success of the Beatles.
What can a non-full time BJJ student who gets to 3-5 classes a week and probably tops out at 10 hours of training a week or less do to maximize their time and get as close to that 10,000 hour ideal? Let's look at two easy options.
Study BJJ When You're Not at BJJ
Find ways to immerse yourself in BJJ by watching matches, instructional videos (from BJJ Fanatics) and talking to friends and training partners when not training. Staying engaged will help keep those hours moving in the right direction.
Study your own game on and off the mats. Work on the things you and your coaches think are weak areas. Fill the gaps.
Drill, Drill, Drill
Make use of your time whenever possible by squeezing as many repetitions into your training time as possible. Drill when others are resting. If you can only train 3 hours a week, make sure you are working the entire time. Maximize what you have and you will move yourself towards that expert level as fast as possible.
Chase your individual BJJ goals whatever they may be, but also be aware of the commitment that is necessary to achieve the highest level of skill and that most likely will take upwards of 10,000 hours of practice and training to achieve. This does not mean you will not be good at jiu jitsu with less hours, or not achieve your black belt. On the contrary, with patience, discipline, and hard work, we can all get there. To become world class, is another matter completely. And that's ok.
Get your BJJ studying started today by checking out the "Crucifix and Loop Choke" instructional from Alexandre Vieira. His loop choke was recently chosen as 2017's top submission in competition by FloGrappling. You can get all of his secrets here at BJJ Fanatics.