Overcoming Training Plateaus
Definition of a Plateau
A period during which the level of something does not change, especially after a period it was increasing.
As we all know, sports and martial arts in general are very physically and mentally demanding. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu definitely falls into this category. During my journey from white belt to black belt I have hit many plateaus in my training along with my training partners. A lot of hard work and learning must be done if your plan is to compete and one day have a black belt around your waist. The process is slow for most, but if you stick with it, it can change your life. The main focus of this blog is to talk about getting past these plateaus when they occur. I always tell my new students that learning BJJ is like learning a new language. You have to practice it over and over before you are able to use the learned techniques effectively. The first few months are kind of overwhelming since a lot of people aren’t sure what their objectives are. Try to take something from every class you attend, and bring that with you to the next. Three to six months down the road everything will start making more sense. At the end of the first year you should have a good understanding as well as what your objectives from each position. After this, it’s up to you to keep improving and trying to learn. The BJJ road has many ups and downs that need to be dealt with in order to keep improving. When people hit plateaus they tend to get discouraged, which causes them to not attend as much. The longer period between classes, the longer it will take to improve. A few things that can help overcome plateaus are staying positive, keep training consistently, and watching others roll.
Getting Over Plateaus
Keeping a positive attitude and an open mind will help you get to the next step. Remember, you probably aren’t the only person at your academy going through this. Keep attending class and try to pick something up that will help you with whatever you are struggling with. Every time you get tapped, get your guard passed, get swept, etc; learn from it and try again. When you feel yourself starting to get frustrated, relax and continue to be persistent on your next move. Even if you continue to fail over and over, don’t give up, one day it will click and make sense.
The only way you will get past your plateau is to keep training. You can’t attend BJJ classes sporadically and expect to improve. My advice is to figure out what you are having trouble with, and focus on a few techniques that will help you when you are put in those specific situations. When you start to move up into the higher ranks of BJJ you can even purposely put yourself in these situations in order to practice. Also, ask your coaches for some help. That’s what they are there for. A simple little detail or variation might be the answer you are looking for.
Watch Others Roll
Whether you are watching tournament footage, instructional videos, or teammates rolling, you can always pick something up. You will be surprised who can teach you something just by watching them. This same situation happened to me while I was teaching class not too long ago. I was demonstrating a takedown in which we landed in side control with the partner turned away setting up a good opportunity for a bow and arrow choke. The hand by the hip was looped in between the opponent’s legs stopping them from re-guarding. I was telling the class to remove that hand quickly and feed the lapel to the hand under the head in order to hit the choke. As the groups got to work, a fourteen year old stopped me and asked “Hey would it be okay to feed the lapel while our arm is still in between the legs?” I watched him do it and them I tried it myself and realized that it’s a much better option. Right away I brought the class back together and demonstrated it and had them try it that way.
When the Plateau is Passed
Once this happens, you will probably notice your game improving. All you can do now is continue to work and get better. Just keep in mind that one day you will probably hit another plateau. When that time comes you will already have some experience and maybe even a strategy on tackling this new plateau along with any others in the future.