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How To Improve When You Can’t Train A Lot
It is an age-old problem. You have the resources, i.e., money to devote to jiu-jitsu but now you don’t have the time because you need to (insert adult responsibility here).
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You dreamed of the day when you could afford all of the cool training videos out there, and you just knew your game was going to seriously skyrocket.
Unfortunately, you are soon faced with the reality of the situation. Now that you have the money, you no longer have the time you once did.
So what do you do? How can you improve at something you can’t devote a ton of time to like you used to?
Worse yet, what if you come to this beautiful art after you’ve already established your career and family?
How is it possible to juggle all of the responsibilities you have and still fit in training?
Fear not my friend! Help is on the way.
Here are a few suggestions you can follow, and hopefully you see steady improvement.
- Pick something you are not good at and want to improve on. Let’s say for example you want to improve your back attacks.
- Find someone you respect who works the position you want to improve on. For instance, John Danaher’s Back Attacks Enter the System is a great resource to help you improve rapidly.
- When you are at home, make some time either in the early morning before the kids get up or in the evening after they go to bed and watch the videos. However, don’t just watch the videos and forget about them. Take active notes and create a journal in your own handwriting detailing the moves in your own words. If you are artistically inclined, and even if you aren’t, try to draw the positions he is explaining to you. Trust me on this, it will help.
- Make a plan for the next time you practice and include ample drilling time. By purposefully pursuing a drilling mindset you will build the muscle memory you need to pull it off live.
- The next time you are able to go to practice find a training partner and ask him if you can drill some moves you want to get better at. What you’ll see is often times your training partner will be interested in what you are learning and will begin asking questions. You will now be in a position to teach him or her what you are learning.
- Rinse and repeat until you have that particular aspect of your game dialed in.
Several things are happening here.
- You are taking ownership of your training. It is essential to go to class and learn from someone more experienced than you of course. However, as time goes on and the longer you are in this art, you have to find your own way too. This method helps you start out on that path.
- By writing down the moves you, are imprinting on your brain what you need to learn to pull the move off mentally. The physical act of handwriting makes the position come alive in your mind before you even try it live.
- Drilling takes the move you’ve committed to your memory and brings it into reality. You will now begin putting together both the mental and physical components in a dynamic way that makes you see how the move or series of moves works together in the overarching portion of the match once you go live.
- The other thing that can’t be overemphasized is that you won’t forget it. Let’s face it, how many moves have you remembered from every class you’ve ever attended? If you’re being honest, if you haven’t drilled the position or move at least a thousand times the chances of remembering it are next to zero.
So how else does this help?
Keeping a journal also does something for you that just drilling alone or worse yet just rolling alone won’t do and that is what is known as the spacing effect.
The spacing effect has become more and more accepted in academic circles because it has been shown to improve student’s scores on tests.
How does it work?
The spacing effect is a way of committing to long-term memory items you may have only remembered once for a test and immediately forgotten afterward.
This isn’t much different from BJJ, is it? You learn a move in class and can perform it way easier at the end of class than you could when you first tried it out.
However, if you wait for a week or two and your instructor asks you how to do it, he will probably end up with a blank stare followed by a series of fumbling moves as your brain struggles to dust off the cobwebs.
Instead, take the moves you learned at class and commit them to a journal and if it fits your game make a point of becoming proficient at them.
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Here’s how to do it.
- You drill a move once until you feel comfortable with it.
- Instead of never doing it again, review your journal and repeat the move with drilling again.
- Do this a minimum of 3-5 times. Trust me, the amount of learning that will take place is just mind-boggling.
- Space the sessions out over a series of weeks to months as a way to really drive the principles of the move home.
- By this time you will also be performing the move live, and that experience will also give you a ton of great feedback which you can then take to your next drilling session.
The process may seem drawn out and slow, but if you commit to it for a year, I can almost guarantee you that your game will improve dramatically. It also helps you make each training session worthwhile.
It is never too late even if you’ve been training for a while to become better.
This method is merely an effective way of organizing your training in such a way so that you will remember what you’ve learned and more importantly be able to pull it off at the right time during a live rolling session or in a tournament.