The first time I saw Yuri training, I learned a lot about myself before we ever even spoke. One of his biggest strengths was one of my biggest weaknesses. He knew how to train with intensity.
I Remember It Like It Was Yesterday…
It was 2015 and I was at Caio Terra’s gym at a training camp, preparing for the Pan American Championships at Purple belt. I didn’t honestly have much faith in my ability to win.
Previously in tournaments, I hadn’t performed well, largely due to a lack of drive to win. I would passively whittle away the time in a bad spot, waiting for my opportunity and lose on points with plenty of gas left in my tank. I should have done more.
A large weakness in my training for tournaments began to become noticeable. A strength in my Jiu Jitsu journey was keeping safe and preventing injuries. Often this meant slowing the action or proceeding cautiously. Staying safe on the mats and not being sidelined by injuries is the key to consistency, and without consistency, improvement is impossible.
This same caution caused me to falter in competition. I was tentative while my opponent was aggressive and I could never recover the momentum.
Coming in to Pans training, I realized, I couldn’t just turn up the intensity on game day. I had to train with drive, mindset and strategy as focuses to make them habits.
Leading up to the camp, I had some good focused training days, and some not so great days. I hoped the week of Pan’s Camp at Caio’s would get me the rest of the way to where I am.
A Difference In Training Styles
I didn’t expect to learn so much from Yuri though. Since he wasn’t teaching, I didn’t learn techniques. Instead from him I learned a new approach to training and a new concept to apply.
Every time Yuri trained, it wasn’t like he was at the tournament, it was actually more like he was in the last sixty seconds of the championship match. Every. Single. Round.
While I was being energy conscious, and trying to coast and sustain myself through the rounds of multiple sessions a day, he was pushing himself. I have trained with lots of great guys, and never shy away from a challenge, but I was thankful I was never grouped with Yuri.
Not because I was afraid of being hurt, but because I wasn’t prepared to go that hard. I didn’t feel like I could put up a fight that was worth his time. There isn’t another time in my Jiu Jitsu journey I can remember feeling that way.
Intensity For Nice Guys
After returning home from Pan’s and San Jose, one of my goals at the gyms to become a “Yuri” on the mats. If people rolled with me, they should know they were going to be training hard. If they wanted easy rounds they should pick a different partner.
1.) Just Start Training – Whatever The Reason
Yuri’s training evolved from learning a few moves for fun from his dad, to self defense, to living the lifestyle. Now he is an instructor, competitor, and oversees his own affiliate.
“It’s Never Too Late!”
Find one reason to train and start today. In a few years, that reason will probably feel “shallow” compared to all the meaningful ways BJJ will change your life.
2.) Intensity Can Be Trained
In the interview when Yuri said that intensity didn’t really come naturally to him, I was shocked. I just assumed that was part of who he was and that since it wasn’t part of who I am I would always struggle there. To learn that he has built that skill, gives me hope.
Off the mats, Yuri Simoes is a very relaxed, smiling, fun having guy. On the mats it all turns serious. I have suffered from being “too nice,” and was encouraged to see that I could still remain nice off the mats, and turn it on when training.
Through tournaments and situation training and practicing putting myself in that mindset I try to build the habit. I have felt the results of this in the past few years.
3.) All Intensity, And No Play Make Lucas Something, Something…
As I shared my experience later with Caio and other instructors, they all gave me a word of caution.
This advice came up 100% of the time that I talked about it with other experienced practitioners. The wisdom behind it was too strong to ignore, but I almost did. As I chained together more and more weeks in an intense mode, I started to see the truth of it.
Don’t train intense all the time. You will burn yourself out. You have to mix it up.”
Yuri re-iterated this concept in our interview and it seems the more he balances his fun and intense sides, the better the results.
People who just play the same game repeatedly get stuck. I have talked before about the “gravity of past success” and how it is easy to get lulled into periods without growth.
During the fun time, I focus on expanding as much as I can.
This experimenting gives me the freedom in order to have different gameplan options.
Understanding strengths and weaknesses is critical to diversifying. Build strength and variety. Don’t be one dimensional.
5.) When You Learn BJJ, You Learn Your Body
Until I really understand my body, I won’t know when to push and when to slow down and rest. It takes some time to build up technical knowledge and self awareness. Even, while training intensely it is important to not hurt anyone.
If a position becomes unsafe, I can still bail out at any time. If I have an injury, and a certain movement, makes it feel worse, I choose different movements and try to play around it to keep safe.
Wait until after a few years of training before you amp up the intensity
Learn a basic level of understanding.
- Have an open mind
- Be humble
- Drill the new moves you learn, don’t get stuck in a rut
- Find your weaknesses and make them stronger
- Have options from everywhere
“Once you learn BJJ, you learn your body.” You learn where to push.
Train like you compete (when it’s time)
Train to expand when it isn’t tournament preparation time
6.) The Mindset For Success – Turning It On
If I have been training a certain way, that comes out automatically when I compete. It is just another day on the mats.
Yuri also uses the cost he puts into preparation as a focus for results. This isn’t an anxious crushing “pressure,” but a motivation to make the sacrifices worth it.
I really loved when Yuri talked about being a normally relaxed person, but that when he is like that, he isn’t as focused on the details and how important that is in tournaments. This was a convincing argument to remind me how integral that competitive drive is to winning.
The ability to turn it off is intertwined with the ability to re-engage, so I have to keep balance.
The Rest of my Pan’s Story
So I stepped out on the mat at Pan’s and Yuri was actually in my corner. It was my strangest tournament experience ever. I felt so prepared, and at ease and not nervous. There was nothing about my training I would have changed.
The lack of nerves, left me flat and my mind wandering. I made a small mistake that my opponent capitalized on and I could never recover. My intensity didn’t get amped up, until it was too late.
I knew I had to go back and make some changes into that part of my training and I have. Now, years later, it has been awhile since my last competition, so I have been playful for awhile. I set my own fluctuations now of a few weeks or months at a time, to train intensely, and then a few to be back in the expanding mode.
I couldn’t be happier with how my training has been going!