Thursday, October 25, 2012

Why am I not improving in BJJ? (plateauing)

di・min・ish・ing returns
      A yield rate that after a certain point fails to increase proportionately to additional outlays of capital or investments of time and labor.

 What does that mean?  How the hell am I supposed to know?  I usually sit at home sitting on the couch in my underwear eating Cheetos and sticking things up my nose.  Someone on Sherdog once asked, "Why am I not getting better at BJJ"?  Someone replied that it was the law of diminishing returns;  meaning that the more you put into something (like training), over time, the less positive results or progress you are going to see. 

Well then what about guys who train their asses off six days a week, basically live at the gym and excel at an amazing speed?  Take the Miyao brothers for instance.  It doesn't seem like all the hard training that they are doing is hurting them.  My instructor told me that one of our brown belts really started to blossom when he started training six days a week basically twice a day.

I think there is some truth in this theory, but I think a lot of what we see as insufficient progress is really only in our head and largely mental. 

Over the last couple of weeks, I felt like I have finally gotten over some hurdles in my training that I have been trying to overcome.  Chiefly, passing half guard, top pressure, and movement.  A couple of concepts have finally "clicked" in my head and have been working during live sparring (still no knee bar success, though).

   Wednesday night no gi class

For the last four or five months I've been feeling like I haven't really been progressing even though I train four times a week religiously.  Even when I tore my MCL recently, I only took a week off BJJ.  After that, I was back at the gym taking notes and working out with weights and doing conditioning on an exercise bike. 

BJJ is fun.  I love it.  If it wasn't fun, I wouldn't do it.  As a BJJ practitioner, don't ever forget the #1 reason why you are on the mat. 

Having said that, I still get down in the dumps from time to time when I feel like I am stagnating.  It's only natural to feel a little sad when you feel like you aren't getting what you want out of something you are putting 100% into. 

I've come to the realization that there are two very important things that one must do to keep improving and to maintain a positive mindset and they are simple:

1.  Go to class-This seems like a no-brainer, but I'm always surprised at the guys who say they want to get better, but never come to class.  If you are going to class two times a week that's fine (BJJ isn't the number one priority for everyone and we all have commitments) but don't expect to make the same leaps and bounds as someone who is training five times a week.

Equally as important as going to class, is making the most out of your time at the gym.  My BJJ really started to improve when, as as white belt and blue belt, I would stay an extra couple of hours after class and just spar.  If you can't do two hours, do one hour.  Can't stay an hour or thirty minutes after class?  Well, make sure to roll with everyone during sparring time and don't sit out.  If you have a couple of questions ask your instructor or a higher belt after class.  Work your strengths, work your weaknesses, and work on things you want to learn.  You know, train!

2.  Don't compare yourself to others-I think this is one of the most important things to remember when evaluating your own progression.  Don't worry about why someone else is getting better and you're not.  Try not to think about who is tapping you in class, who you are tapping, or why you can't submit a certain person.  It's perfectly natural to compare yourself to other people and your teammates, but don't get stuck in that mindset.  It really does nothing for you and is a waste of time. 

There are so many intriguing and enjoyable aspects to BJJ besides your own progression:  the theories behind why things work (and don't work), the dedication it takes to excel, the different mental and physical barriers one has to overcome.  Lately,  I have really started to appreciate and enjoy BJJ theory and the minute details (specifically, the small movements and placements of your body) that can make or break a passing game. 

I'd like to close with an awesome quote from John Danaher that I found really inspiring and one that really resonates with me:

"I should walk off the mats knowing in my heart that in some small way,  I'm better than I was when I walked on the mats.  And that should always be the focus of your training especially day by day".

   Wednesday night was great and I feel I walked off the mat a little more knowledgeable


  1. Awesome, awesome blog mate. Very inspiring.

    If you've got time, have a read of my blog too:


  2. Thanks for reading! And thanks for the complement. It means a lot. I checked out your blog tonight. Congrats on getting married.


    It will be interesting to see your development as you progress. BJJ is amazing, and you will become addicted very quickly.

    I left a comment on your last post, but I'm not sure if it went through. I will be reading!