Your Individual BJJ Journey – The Quest For Answers

White belts are always asking questions about how to improve their Jiu Jitsu.  There is an underlying insecurity to these questions.  They don’t want to go down a wrong path, they don’t want to learn it wrong.  They don’t want to “waste” mat time.  How do I know?  Because I did it too.  They are puzzled when the upper belts say “it’s your individual BJJ journey, just spend more time on the mats.” 

This type of answer seems like some type of cop out.  Why are they withholding this information?  Are they afraid I’ll get better too fast and give them a hard time on the mats?  Is it some sort of fraternity of suffering?

White Belt Getting A Stripe

Not really.  I have found myself saying this now, after promising myself I never would.

There are two types of questions.  There is the question that has an easy answer “Why didn’t that pass work?” (Answer: “You forgot to get the underhook or wizzer”).  Then there is a question that the white belt assumes has an easy answer but the answer is actually complex.

 Jiu Jitsu isn’t written down in some holy text.

Here is something interesting the white belt must learn.  No one has it all figured out.  Even the very best in the world will solve certain problems in ways that will NEVER work for you. The best in the world typically break rules when they execute moves.  These are the rules that you were told are steadfast commandments.  Throughout your journey, the moves you perform should evolve and change over time.  Jiu Jitsu was created from evolutions and adaptations to Judo’s groundwork.  They don’t just lazily break rules looking for shortcuts, they consciously make trade-offs because they evaluate the pay-off as worth more.

Magical Helio's Book Of Rules For Your Individual BJJ Journey

When people say Jiu Jitsu is for everyone, what is really meant is that there is no optimum body type.  People that have long legs, stocky, muscular, skinny, male, and
female all have proven dominance in the sport.  Each one solved the problems of their individual BJJ journey in a completely different manner.

Liz Carmouche TrainingThe more you discover on your own, or seek out answers for yourself, the more personalized your game will be.  The more you are vested in your individual BJJ journey, the deeper your analysis of things that work well for you and things that don’t work.  The things that don’t work will haunt you on your journey until you finally find a way to avoid or overcome them.

I like to say that if you and a friend were stuck on a remote island with no weapons and had to figure out to fight, you would figure out Jiu jitsu.  You’d figure out chokes and armlocks and control positions on your own.  The way our bodies are put together lend us to using them in these ways.  That’s why it feels “effortless.”

We each fight our own battles.

A Warrior of the Light knows that certain moments repeat themselves.

He often finds himself faced by the same problems and situations, and seeing these difficult situations return, he grows depressed, thinking that he is incapable of making any progress in life.

‘I’ve been through all this before,” he says to his heart.

‘Yes you have been through all this before,’ replies his heart.  ‘But you have never been beyond it.’

Then the Warrior realizes that these repeated experiences have but one aim: to teach him what he does not want to learn.”

The Warrior Of The Light - Paulo Coelho
(pg 10)

When I think of Jiu Jitsu I hear a story Alan Watts told of the Buddhist Zen Masters.  People would find them seeking enlightenment and expecting assistance finding it.  The teachers, in a very Mr. Miyagi-like approach, would set the pupil on series of useless, sometimes impossible tasks like “desire nothing, daily for 1 year, then come back and see me.” (This is impossible because wanting nothing is wanting something…)

Anyway, the pupils would often return for future guidance and he would give them a new task, on and on.  His goal was always to finally get them so frustrated disappointed in the guru’s methods that they rebelled and decided they would do it on their own, and he wasn’t needed.  And THAT was the lesson. We are the one’s that must save ourselves.  (That’s part of what is all about!).  We are the one’s that must build our own Jiu Jitsu game, and learn our own lessons on our individual BJJ journey.

Jiu Jitsu Buddies

Embrace your individual BJJ journey.

Never stop asking questions, but also never let someone else be in charge of your progress.  Take ownership.  Actually critically THINK through your positions.  WHY isn’t that sweep working?  Are they overcompensating their defense to especially defend against it?  What consolations are they making that would allow other options to attack a more exposed pathway?  Use your questions to build your framework of understanding. The more you develop you will still have questions, but they will come from an empowering place instead of an insecure place.

The journey has to be based on passion.  Put yourself in something you love to do.  If you love what you do, you’re able to dedicate yourself and overcome obstacles.

Rickson Gracie
Rickson Gracie

I think the moment when people realize their journey can’t stay on autopilot is when they are at extreme risk of quitting.  Taking control of our own journey is scary, but it should also be empowering.  Build your own Jiu Jitsu

Your coach will teach you amazing Jiu Jitsu.  It is up to you to process it, and build it in a way that’s right for you.  That’s one of the most amazingly fun parts of Jiu Jitsu.


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