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How To Study Jiu-Jitsu

How To Study Jiu-Jitsu

If you want to progress in this art, do not make the mistake of believing all you have to do is roll a lot.

I've seen it too many times and wish I could go back in time and tell myself what I try to impart to new practitioners.  That is this. Don't focus so much on rolling believing you are improving.

We've all heard the saying practice makes perfect.  A more accurate definition is practice makes permanent.

If you are not training under the guidance of a qualified instructor you are more than likely building bad habits that you won't be able to find your way out of.

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For instance, let's say you have a wrestling background and really like playing from the top position.  It's much easier to play from here since you get less tired and are able to maintain some semblance of control.  At least with the lower belts. Once you begin rolling with the higher belts that can quickly change and you will find yourself fighting for your life (not literally) from a position you are not comfortable with.  

Here's the problem.  You've spent so much time working your top game and not playing from positions you need to practice more, then you wonder why you aren't progressing.  

It can be a vicious cycle, and unless you have a better balance of learning along with live-rolling, you will end up becoming a very one-sided player.  

So what is the magical ratio you should be trying to achieve?

Half technique and half rolling?  Three-Quarters technique/drilling and a quarter live rolling?  

At a minimum, you should spend half your time trying to learn and refine techniques that complement your game.  Understand, I'm not saying you need to learn a new technique every day and that you should have this vast library of moves you can call on at any time.  What I recommend instead is learning a handful of techniques and refining them until you can pull them off from the white belts in the academy all the way to the black belts.  It may sound crazy and a little arrogant to say you will be able to pull a move off on a black belt, but I assure you, it can be done.

You have to believe in yourself, and you have to believe in the technique.  What ends up happening a lot of times though is the practitioner will drill the move a couple times and then try to pull it off on a more experienced player.  

I think you can figure out the result.  It won't be pretty. You are essentially bringing a knife to a gunfight.  

This is short-sighted thinking at its worst.  You have to settle in for the long haul with Jiu-Jitsu.  Don't worry about the person who started after you and seems to be picking things up faster than you do.  It isn't important. Be the person who commits and dedicates him or herself to becoming the best version of themselves.  

Otherwise, you become the person who tells themselves they 'just need to get in shape' before they can begin learning.  It doesn't work this way. Being out of shape is one thing, being out of shape and not having a bank of reliable techniques that work for you is another beast entirely.  

Do this instead, commit to a particular technique you want to pull off and begin drilling it relentlessly.  I remember a guy I read about when I first got started who would practice one particular move a thousand times before he even thought about trying it live!  Think about that for a second, he would put in countless (not really countless, it was a thousand) reps so that he would become intimate with the move. He could pull it off in his sleep.  He would know every situation being thrown at him and from every angle before he pulled it off live. It's almost like a superpower if you think about it.

Here's the thing, it isn't a superpower.  Anyone can do it. Don't let your ego get in the way, allow yourself to fail and keep refining the move.  Eventually, you will have an arsenal at your beck and call. It will serve you well and make the game that much more rewarding and fulfilling to you.  It will also do something else. It will make you a better thinker. When you apply your thought process to BJJ (or any sport for that matter), you become just a little better at thinking.  This is because you have to know the little details of each move and why you are performing them in a particular order. You will find yourself approaching problems in your life off the mat in the same manner.  You develop patience with yourself as well as a confidence that you will get through or solve whatever is in front of you.

This is the true beauty of the art.  

What do you do if you don't have an instructor?

There are a lot of videos out there, especially on Youtube.  You need to be careful of that though. Here's why - context.  Learning an isolated move on Youtube and then trying to force it into your game is not an efficient use of your time.  What you should do instead is find a video series that builds a particular aspect of your game. Let's say you keep getting swept by players with excellent open guards.  Yes, you could go to Youtube and find someone that will show you a particular pass, and it may work, but what about when your training partner changes things up just a bit?  Instead, take a look at Marco Barbosa's series on pressure passing. You will learn how to deal with different situations involving passing and develop your own game based on his system.  He's seen everything, and he doesn't hold back.

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This is just one example, however.  First, identify where you are struggling.  Are you getting passed with ease? Are you getting swept without your opponent breaking a sweat?  Good! Knowledge is the first step. Now, find a video series here on BJJ Fanatics that addresses the area and dedicate yourself to learning it inside and out.  You will become the resident expert at that particular aspect of the game, and when you begin teaching others what you've learned, your learning will skyrocket.

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