I've been training for a few months and feel like I'm not making a lot of progress. Is this normal?...Read Now
People often question whether or not they are making progress because ‘progress’ is almost never the straight line trajectory that we have been conditioned to expect. Progress in anything challenging, progress in anything worthwhile is a roller coaster. Ups and downs are a NORMAL part of the process towards long term growth & development.
On our good days, we can say that to ourselves and say that we understand that we will all experience low points. BUT, when you’re in one of those valleys, it’s tough to remember that another peak is right in front of you. As you’ll remember from my blog article last week. The jiu jitsu journey is a long one and not everyone makes it through.
Before I get into giving you three tips to help you measure your success, I want to address quitting really quickly. This isn’t something that people talk about, but I think it’s important to share with you my feelings on the subject. Not everyone makes it to black belt, most people quit. BUT, that’s not because most people can’t achieve black belt. I truly believe that every one of my students has what it takes physically to earn one. The test comes from the mental side. “Can you see the peaks, when you’re in the valleys?” If you can, then congratulations, you’re on the path to black belt. If the valleys, and your subsequent frustration, threaten to overtake your whole mindset, then you’re standing in your own way & creating your own road block to black belt.
So, here’s my advice about quitting, when it’s ok, and when I believe you should push through. If you’ve given jiu jitsu a fair chance, (see below) & it’s not for you, that’s fine. There is no shame in liking something else better. BUT, I believe that you’ve only earned the right to ‘quit on your best day.’ If you are training well, having fun, competing well, and everything's going right, and at the end of the day, you still would prefer to do something else with your time, then jiu jitsu is not for you, and you’ve earned the right to walk away. My wife, Amy, is a blue belt and doesn’t train anymore. She might pick it up again at some point, but right now, she’s raising our kids and training fitness kickboxing. She didn’t quit on a bad day, in fact, not long before her last roll, she earned a stripe on her blue belt.
But, If you have a terrible tournament or awful training sessions, you can’t turn your back on your training, or turn your back on yourself. Quitting on your ‘worst day,’ is giving in to your own roadblocks. There’s no growth there and quitting then is doing a disservice to yourself.
So, how do you cope when you’re in a valley & you can’t see the other side? What do you do when you feel like you’re not making any progress?
Here are three tips that I use to help move this from a ‘feeling,’ to a measurable metric that can guarantee growth & progress.
1) Do you have consistency in your training schedule?
As you’ll remember from last week, consistency doesn’t need to be 6 classes per week. Consistency means that every week, rain or shine, summer or winter, good days or bad, you come in to train in the same number of classes. For most of my students, 2 to 3 classes per week is the perfect, sustainable number of classes. If you want more growth, faster, take a look at your training schedule. How many times per week are you actually training? (Not just thinking about training..) This seems strange, but a lot of people think they train more than they do. I’ve heard it many times before. People say they train 5 times per week, but they usually train 3 at the most. (If you’re unsure of how often you really train, you can ask at the front desk, we take attendance.)
This is the number one reason why we use rosters and encourage consistency in your schedule. When your training schedule is set in stone, you arrange the other things in your life around it. When you try to fit your training schedule around your life, you rarely make it. When was the last time you randomly found a few hours in your schedule? Never.. Schedule your training like you schedule your job or your school & you’ll be consistent.
2) Are you training to learn or training to win?
When you roll, are you working on the technique that I showed in the class, or are you doing your own thing? Imagine doing that in a traditional classroom situation. If you’re paying and going to class to earn a degree. And when the professor gives you a syllabus, you take a look at it and say, “Yeah.. That’s probably good for a lot of people, but I’ll figure out my own path… I watch a lot of Youtube..”
I will never understand how people think that makes sense.. If you’ve never done something before, how can you be the person who directs your own course of study? When you choose an academy, that’s something you should be looking for. Is the Professor someone I trust to direct my course of study? Can this person guide my development in the sport? It’s a huge responsibility, one that I take very seriously. I call myself a “Teaching Pro,” because I think that’s a position that needs to cross over into our sport. In golf, they have ‘touring pros’ that you see on TV every week, and ‘teaching pros’ who are the men & women who train everyone from the pros down to the hobby golfer. When you choose an academy, you’re choosing an environment that you love, a place that’s clean & professional, where you feel comfortable.. But you’re also choosing your ‘teaching pro.’ So, assuming that you have a Professor that you trust who takes pride in creating the best possible curriculum, trust their course of study.
Another side training to win is straight ego. I know this side from my own experience. There was a time at purple belt where I tried to win every match. I always did the same thing. I like the guard, and I knew my favorite and best submissions. I always went for the same thing and I tapped a lot of people with it. It was my goal to tap my partner with that same submission in every match. While repetition isn’t a bad thing on its own, I was NEVER working on understanding anything else. So, once my training partners learned my game, I couldn’t hit my go-to moves as much as I could before. I felt like I was getting worse because I couldn’t tap people at will. My training partners were uncovering my weakness and I didn’t like it.
My professors told me that I needed to open up my game and try new things. I hated the vulnerability and the fact that I was getting tapped more. But through that, I was rounding out my game and growing. It led me to a huge breakthrough and I reached another one of those peaks. The mental breakthrough of being unafraid to try new things in my matches is one of the biggest advancements I made as a purple belt.
Its through experiences like that that have guided me in writing curriculum for URSA Academy. I want people to find their style, but I want them to understand a little bit of everything. If you work what I teach, even when it’s not one of your favorite positions, techniques, or styles, you will be a better jiu jitsu player than if you stay in your comfort zone and always go for the same wins.
3) Put some numbers to your training...
To truly take “feel” out of the equation, we need to put some measurable numbers to you training. Don’t get me wrong, “feel” has its place. If you’re in a tournament and you lose a match, but we talk about the points where you did well and we feel that what you did was a ‘win’ & a learning experience for you, then you should feel good about that. But IN the academy, ‘feel’ can lie. You can feel bad when you tap, when you’re really learning. You can feel great when you win, but not growing. So, let’s put numbers to it.
Everyone in the academy should have the goal of training 20-30+ matches per week. We train 3 min. matches in class. Your goal should be to train 10 matches per class. Assuming you are healthy, try to be the first AND last person rolling on the mat. If you find yourself taking unnecessary breaks, sitting out, walking in the lobby, grabbing drinks, or spending more of your time talking about rolling than actually rolling, than you are slowing your own development. If you increase the number of matches you roll per class, then per week, you will see your development follow the same path.