Powering Through BJJ Plateaus
Plateaus are periods when little or no progress or improvement is being made. The classic example of a plateau that many of us have experienced is when we are trying to lose weight. We will be diligently counting calories, performing our exercise routines and the scale will completely freeze up and stop moving. This can be a very frustrating experience that can sometimes derail the entire course of the weight loss program.
Many times as jiu jitsu practitioners we go home feeling like nothing is working and that we'll never progress. The journey to our black belts can be so long and vary so much because everyone's life and training is different, it's common at many times to feel as though we are ever going to reach that coveted black belt level. The key is to utilize strategto get through these times when you feel like your jiu jitsu simply will not improve. Below are a few different examples of ways you can power through the next plateau you may find yourself experience.
Push Through and Go to Class
Unfortunately in it's effort to protect us, our minds can sometimes work against us. There may be times when you are finding difficulty working a new series of techniques or a different approach to passing and you find yourself feeling that you'll never get good at jiu jitsu. This is your mind over-reacting and trying to protect you from pain and frustration. The honest truth is that sometimes "turning off your mind" so to speak is the best thing you can do to break through a plateau. By grinding through, you activate a strong, disciplined approach to your purpose and this might be the best class you've ever taken. You'll never know until you go. Turn off the mind and make it happen. And don't forget to laugh once in a while.
It's important to make it up through the ranks of BJJ to have a sense of humor. Check out this article from BJJ Fanatics on the roll that humor can play when you're a white belt.
Take a Day or Two Off
Sometimes plateaus can come coupled with physical and mental symptoms of fatigue. If you are feeling very negative about jiu jitsu or just physically exhausted, it is far more beneficial to the long term of goal of reaching black belt to take a day or two and rest, relax and think about other things. This mental and physical break will hopefully allow you to recharge and come back stronger with a more positive outlook and realistic expectation of your development.
Set a New Goal
Remember that learning curves are based on quantifiable stats and when a plateau occurs it is assumed that the learning curve has flat-lined. But the reality is that we learn so many things in jiu jitsu that are not quantifiable that it is no wonder we may be plagued with this sense of the plateau.
That's why it's important to occasionally set new goals to strive for so that we can truly gauge our own progress. One of the best ways to do this is to step outside of your comfort zone and step on the competition mats. Not only does this give you a concrete goal with a specific date to train for, which can help spark renewed interest, it also serves the purpose of getting you out with new opponents. When you train with the same folks day in and day out, it can be difficult to gauge your personal BJJ development because you're all familiar with each other's games and therefore able to thwart the techniques of our team members much easier because we see them so often. In a competition, you can truly get a sense of how well you are doing at your belt level by meeting a stranger who shares only the same color belt as you.
Explore Some New Techniques
Akin to signing up for a competition, exploring new techniques will help you inject a revived energy into your training that could help you power through the plateaus. Perhaps you've never been successful as a half-guard player. You could check out Tom DeBlass' instructional series "Half Domination" from BJJ Fanatics here and give yourself a new project to work on while rounding out your game. Another option would be to take a seminar with an instructor who has some techniques that you'd like to explore. A final option would be to schedule some private time with your instructor who most likely knows your jiu jitsu better than you do and can offer some insightful advice on things to work on that may fit into your style and level of development.
Do Some Form of Cross Training
Another great strategy to help with the overcoming of BJJ plateaus is to add some form of cross training to your schedule. Whether it is some sort of cardio, weight training, or something like yoga, putting your focus on another activity with it's own inherent benchmarks and goal lines can help relieve your minds frustration with the current state of your jiu jitsu. By not obsessing about the plateau your mind may begin to relax and allow you to power through.
If you'd like to learn more about what a cross training program including yoga could do for your BJJ, check out this article by BJJ Fanatics.
In the video below, world champion Bernardo Faria shares his response to a student who asked what to do if he's been training for 6 months and not feeling any progress.
The common jiu jitsu quote, about the black belt being a white belt who didn't quit, is a bit of a cliche, but that doesn't make it any less true. If you took a poll of 100 black belts and asked them if they ever felt like they were experiencing a BJJ plateau, the results would be 100% for yes. Everyone experiences that sense of struggle and despair when you aren't making the headway you desire. The important thing is to address those feelings and employ some pro-active strategies that will help keep you on course to your black belt and your other goals.
Now that you've got some concrete steps for how to power through plateaus as a white belt, take a look at the 4 DVD set by Vinicius "Trator" Ferreira for more "Lower Belt Prescription" on sale today!