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3 Ways to Become Happier with Your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Training

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Me training with my students

BJJ training
Credit: Image courtesy Revolution BJJ

Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has to be viewed as a lifelong journey.  You're simply not going to become the best at catching the berimbolo overnight, nor will you pass the guard of the most athletic young guys at your gym in any kind of short order.  It's important to realize that this stuff is going to take a very long time to "master" (and I really hesitate to use that word in anything other than tongue-in-cheek; I've been training in grappling and BJJ for about 17 years and I don't feel as though I've mastered anything yet).  Having said that, it's not simply becoming good that's the fun part.  Here are three things you can keep in mind that will help with your BJJ training experiences.  

1.  Smile while you're rolling.  Seriously, give it a shot.  BJJ is not a streetfight (although there are obvious applications to street self defense), and while it's an incredibly effective art for choking and breaking limbs and what-not, it's just plain fun.  Jiu jitsu is a chess game, and your opponent (or partner, if you prefer) is likely to show you some things you've never seen before while you're training.  Whether you see these things or not will be determined largely by whether you are in the right state of mind.  At my gym in Richmond, VA, we often play music from the 80s in order to get people laughing while they're training.  It doesn't mean you're not training hard, just that you're not taking yourself too seriously while doing it.

2.  Slow down!  This tip actually has a double meaning, but both are extremely important to prolonging your BJJ career.  First, literally slow down while you're rolling.  Stop trying to win with speed and start trying to win with technique, and you're going to see so many more things you're doing wrong as your partners oblige you by catching you with things you might otherwise get away with.  You don't have to do this every single time you roll, but I recommend it at least 75% of the time.  Second, take time off in between training sessions when you need to.  Learn to listen to your body!  There is no race to black belt other than silly self-imposed guidelines, so why not enjoy this amazing journey at each belt level?  I very fondly remember my blue belt days as being an incredible age of discovery (only since repeated for me at black belt).

3.  Set aside one training session a week to drill.  Pick one move and drill the crap out of it, whether it's an escape from side control back to guard, a basic armlock, or something more complicated, this is your time, so make the most of it.  Get with a partner who is willing to do the same thing, and repeat one move for five minutes.  Then it's your partner's turn for five minutes.  Then switch back and do the same move (if you can stand it; otherwise do another) for the next five minutes, and so on.  Typically, a 30 minute session like this is ample to get not only mentally sharper at the move you're doing and train muscle memory, but also to get you physically exhausted.  Note:  this is not "figuring out how to do a move" time; that's for class.   

Above all else, make it a conscious point to have fun training.  What's going to keep you coming back isn't some fear of a self defense scenario gone wrong or dreams of winning the UFC, but the tremendously fun habit of training itself.  Enjoy the journey, and I'll see you on the mats!

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