You spend lots of time and effort and money and other resources on jiu jitsu, and you do it because you love it. You’re also the type of person who likes to improve quickly too. You want to put your heart and soul into an endeavour and ensure you’re doing it well, and to the best of your ability.
You’ve also heard the quote, ‘you can manage what you can’t measure’ so now you want a sound progress metric on the mats. But here’s the thing. Jiu jitsu isn’t like most things, which is why we love it so much. If it was like most things we’d be like most people and it just isn’t so.
In other things, you put a ball through the net and you win. You touch a piece of leather on white paint and you have all the glory. This is what we see as uneducated observers in these other sports. But in jiu jitsu, you’re expected to tap to a black belt. You haven’t been training for as long as that other 2 stripe white belt. You and your newly graduated blue belt also aren’t on the same playing field.
So to base your performance against these foes is unfair to yourself and your own progress. That’s why the practice of jiu jitsu isn’t best measured in terms of wins or loses or amount of submissions inflicted or eaten per class. Sure you tap but there are also many other ways of determining progress in jiu jitsu.
So how can we do it better?
# Consistent Sessions Per Week
My good friend and mentor Zoran Kovich says ‘what you pay attention to flourishes’.
This basically means where you put your efforts will reap rewards that you’re after. In fact there is no better way to improve more than by simply committing yourself to class, and spending time on the mats. Of course you can attend open mats and not do much at all, but you’re not kidding anyone with this, let alone yourself. No, what I refer to here is consistent, mindful, attentive hours of jiu jitsu training on the mats throughout the week, consistently.
The consistency here is a big thing too. It’s no use going 5 times one week then 0 times the next. Of course life gets in the way, but where you can help it it’s better to do a similar amount each week rather than the yoyo style of up and downs.
When the previous lessons are hot in your mind, and your thoughts fresh in your mind from last time, the laboratory is the perfect spot to keep improving. Consistency is how you progress in the most optimal way, and how you ensure your jiu jitsu is progressing as opposed to regressing.
Your Breathing During Rolls
The better I get at jiu jitsu the more relaxed I am during my rolls.
When you start there is visible chaos in the air, you squeeze your own muscles, and clench up your jaw, and pant loudly, and you can’t think of anything let alone the need to stay calm.
As you get better you’re more able to process everything that is happening.
Soon enough your attention won’t be in survival right now mode, but feeling each position, and plotting the next moves. Feeling things, and actively thinking requires calmness, and energy in the form of oxygen to your brain hence why your breathing needs to be in check.
So if you find yourself truly flowing in a roll, chances are you’re also having lots of fun, so give yourself a pat on the back because this is a major win in the long term journey of jiu jitsu progress.
Length of Time without an Injury
OK you’re training and things are awesome and you’re taking time out of your days, and no you’re not currently a world beater or a dominant mat rat, but you’ve been at it for consistently x amount of time, and you’re having fun, & you are getting healthier. That is opposed to being injured all the time, which is a very possible and real outcome also.
Let me tell you something. There are so many practitioners out there who may be better than you, but who have also ravaged their bodies and continue to inflict harm on themselves in the name of performance. These are students who will have to quit eventually, simply because they cannot possibly go any further. ‘Wham Bam thank you Maam’ kinda people come into the art, create as much destruction to themselves, and others, and then are out. These are short term practitioners, and these people don’t look at a metric like length of time without an injury.
You my friend, are different. You got into this for your improvement, not your demise. Your ego is in check, and you understand this world isn’t comprised around you. There are others in here and you think of them too which is why you don’t see the need to sacrifice yourself and your body parts for that little bit more of performance.
So, look back on your last few months of training. If you have rarely been injured, knock on some wood, and congratulate yourself for being a responsible member of the school, and a long term student of the art.
Amount of Fun
Ok so you get tapped on the regular in class, but did you die? Your classes are filled with excitement and anticipation in getting there, you meet your new found legendary friends upon arrival and shoot the shit the whole time, you get to move your body in ways you never even considered before, and build movement skills your friends are envious of. You do your thing on the mats and in class and you go home with a smile on your face, and so many problems that are pressing for solutions.
You’re excited, and alive, and there isn’t much in this world that gives you this feeling, while being legal and healthy at the same time :) In short, you are having fun!! This is a good thing, because fun and play tend to lack in a typical adult’s life these days.
Now if you get submitted x number of times, it does not need to take away from the satisfaction of the entire experience. If you think about how much fun you had while havign that experience, the outcome of said experience will not be as significant with the thought of the extra benefits you received.
So there you have it. A few different ways to measure your progress on the mats. Ways that will decrease the amount of pressure you feel to perform. And when you decrease the pressure, you increase the satisfaction, and this is the ultimate way to learn. When you learn, you improve, and you ultimately get what you want, just with less force.
And that is ultimately what jiu jitsu is all about. It’s the tool that you can use to reflect on your life and your patterns and how you approach different situations. The leverage will be there, only perhaps with a different perspective, or approach, or means to an end, and this is what makes all the difference.
So take your jiu jitsu time, and decrease the expectations of performance and increase the fun and do jiu jitsu for a lifetime. It’s by far the best way of doing it.