Escape the BJJ Plateau
It is common over the long road to our jiu jitsu black belts to oftentimes feel as though we are not making progress. Experiencing a true BJJ plateau can be as frustrating as getting stuck in bottom side control against a much stronger, heavier, and more experienced opponent. When you are exhausted and being smashed into the mats, it's extremely difficult to think clearly and figure out a way to escape. Plateaus can effect us mentally as well as physically. Being the nail day after day on a mat full of hammers can take its toll. What are some things that you can do to get yourself out of this funk and escape the plateau you're feeling?
Diagnose the Issue
The first and most important thing that must be done when faced with a perceived plateau is to do a bit of self assessment and diagnosis of the condition of your BJJ at the moment. By taking an honest look at your plateau, you will be more likely to escape the plateau and begin to feel yourself positively improving again. Back to our example of being stuck in side control by the heavier opponent, taking the self assessment is similar to taking a deep breath and not panicking so as to be able to conserve our mental and physical energy to launch our escape plans.
Talking to your instructor or coach would be one of the first steps towards diagnosing your plateau. These are the people who can give you the most honest feedback on your BJJ development. They will be able to share their experiences and offer you suggestions or tips for your situation that could potentially save you a lot of time running through your own trial and error process.
One big mistake that EVERY jiu jitsu practitioner makes at some point is to compare themselves to other students of the same or even different belt levels. BJJ is highly individualistic in every way. Different people acquire physical and mental knowledge at different rates. Your training frequency or schedule can also impact your knowledge gains. It's important when doing your self assessment to not spend all of your time comparing yourself to others on the mat. This alone, could put your development into a new light.
Take a look at all of the elements of your current BJJ training. Have there been any changes to your training schedule? How many days a week are you training? Are you training primarily with the same people all of the time? How do you spend your off the mat time? Are you doing any other activities that could hurting your BJJ progress?
Simply by examining as many aspects of your current BJJ life, you may reveal something that could be hampering your progress. Run through the findings with your instructor, coaches, or even experienced higher belt students. They may be able to peruse your findings and make some suggestions.
Get Back to Basics
Once you have done an honest appraisal of your plateau and looked at the various things that could be making you feel like you're not progressing as you think you should, it can be extremely helpful to go back to the tried and true techniques that you first learned with you stepped on the mats. Often times, as new students eager to "master" the techniques or add to our knowledge base, we can get into a rush and not spend the necessary time working each technique to its fullest.
By going back and exploring the basic techniques and positions, we can sharpen them and breathe new life into moves that we haven't used in a while. This can give your mind a bit of a break from learning "new" material and deepen your understanding of the basics. It is important to always remember the case of Roger Gracie who in 2009 defeated 9 opponents with the same cross collar choke from mount. Having that kind of mastery and ability to apply a technique against 9 different opponents is a distant goal, but one that can help rejuvenate our skills.
Set a New Goal
There are many reasons why someone trains BJJ. Regardless of what initially brought you to the mats, over time, it's important to constantly refocus and also add new goals to keep ourselves progressing. Adding a new goal gives our minds and bodies new purpose, a new project and challenge to pursue.
A new goal could be as simple as looking to add a new position or technique to your game plan. A new goal might be to improve our overall health and conditioning and lose some excess weight. It can also be helpful to consider competing in jiu jitsu. If you've never competed in the past, signing up for your first competition can help spark your training, your conditioning, all while sharpening your technique and giving you one of the ultimate challenges in BJJ to aim for.
When we spend so much of our time looking at our day to day progress, it can be difficult to see and appreciate the improvements we are making. By taking some time to reflect on the long game of jiu jitsu, seeking the counsel of our coaches and instructors, we can begin to develop a game plan that allows us to refine the fundamentals and set a new goal to make ourselves better grapplers and get us moving beyond the plateau. The most important thing to realize is that you have the power to break through your plateau.
One of the best resources for sharpening your fundamental techniques available today is Bernardo Faria's latest instructional release that contains well over five hours of his favorite basic techniques. Get yourself a copy of "Fundamentals of BJJ" today here at BJJ Fanatics!