So you’ve been struggling with your Jiu Jitsu lately? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. If I had a dollar for every time I felt like I wasn’t progressing in BJJ I’d be a rich man. It’s an awful feeling when you’re doing everything right however your progression feels slow or non-existent. That desperate feeling of wanting to improve so bad that you’re willing to do anything that it takes.
I’ve experienced this feeling after the first week I started training, after the first month, after the first year, and so on. It’s very common to feel like a failure, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is one of the hardest things to get good at. The good thing to know is that you’re not alone in this feeling, many BJJ practitioners have felt this way, even your favorite instructor or black belt has felt like they weren’t progressing.
There are ways to speed up your Jiu Jitsu progression that don’t involve over-thinking and making yourself stressed and anxious. Eventually I broke through that horrible feeling and became much better at Jiu Jitsu. I’m going to give you 10 reasons why I wasn’t progressing so that hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes I did. If you’re currently making these mistakes it’s never to late to change!
10 Reasons Your Jiu Jitsu Isn’t Getting Better
1. You Don’t Train Enough
This may be obvious enough, however you would be amazed of how many BJJ practitioners only train 1 or 2 times a week and wonder why they’re not progressing.
Although training once per week isn’t just a complete waste of time, it also isn’t going to turn you into a black belt anytime soon. Although you may learn useful things during class, a seven day gap between sessions is too long. The problem with only training a few times a week is that you’re likely to forget a majority of the things you learn.
Training twice a week is enough for maintenance of your current skills, but it will be hard to get much better with such little practice. I go by the rule that training twice a week is enough to maintain, three times a week you’ll see a little growth, however four times a week or more you’ll see a good amount of growth.
You need to realize that training is different for everyone. A young person in their twenties will be able to train much more than someone who is forty or fifty years of age. There is different energy levels in different ages, as well as different life responsibilities. It’s ultimately up to you to figure out what you’re perfect training amount is, but if you’re not seeing much progression this is the first thing I would look at.
2. You Train Too Much
Although this is very unlikely, it does happen in some Jiu Jitsu practitioners who train so much that they continually injure themselves. Many people think “if training four times a week is good then training 8 times a week will be twice as good!”, it doesn’t necessarily work that way.
With everything in life, time management is so important in BJJ as well. The more you train, the less time you have for your body to recover, physically and mentally. Being injured can be a horrible outcome from being overtrained.
It’s also not just the amount of training you do during the week, but also the intensity of those training sessions. Light rolling with a partner is not the same as going 120% live rolling during a week sparring session. This is another example of needing to take a step back and look at how much you’re training as compared to how much you’re resting.
3. You’re Bored With Training
This has happened to me more than once or twice. Most Jiu Jitsu guys are constantly trying new moves because they also feel bored, however this can also be detrimental to learning. Many times BJJ practitioners try far too many new techniques that they never master the basics, this can be horrible for someone who is trying to get better. Don’t get caught up in all the flashy moves (a lot of blue belts have this problem).
But at the same time, many other people get really good at certain moves and then we become reliant on them. This can also be detrimental to our learning because we constantly find ourselves in a bad position so we’re consistently using that one move. This won’t allow you to grow either, don’t let your ego get in the way of learning. It’s okay to be tapped out by a lower belt, don’t always rely on one single move to escape from everything.
It’s important to continually seek out better training partners, always search for the best in yourself. No matter your belt or level of ability, there is always room for growth in jiu jitsu. There are so many new and interesting techniques that boredom should never be an issue for long. At the end of the day it’s your job to keep searching and growing, please remember that Jiu Jitsu is a journey.
4. You Haven’t Started Competing
This is a huge one that I constantly struggled with. It wasn’t that I was too nervous to compete, I just never thought I was ready. I didn’t want to embarrass myself or my coaches by failing. This is a common thing to see around gyms, many lower levels don’t want to compete, while other white belts naturally are eager to compete.
If you’re a new BJJ practitioner who is nervous to compete, check out our guide on how to prepare for your first BJJ tournament. Competing in BJJ tournaments is a huge part of growth, testing your skills out against a similar skill-set is one of the best things you can do for your Jiu Jitsu journey.
There are many benefits to competing in Jiu Jitsu, even if you don’t win any matches you will still learn many great things that you can use for your next competition. There is no losing in Jiu Jitsu, you either win or learn.
5. You’re Not Conditioned Enough
Although I wrestled in High School, there have been times where I would be so tired during lives rolls because of drinking the night before. This is a problem that I dealt with for a long time until I started prioritizing training over my social life (something we’ll talk about later).
It’s important to train your cardiovascular conditioning while you train Jiu Jitsu techniques. You could know all of the BJJ techniques in the world but if you don’t have the proper stamina you won’t do well against tough competition.
Well-conditioned athletes learn faster, recover more quickly, and are overall less likely to get injured. Stop making excuses as to why you can’t pick up a weight or do some sprints and get in proper shape for the sake of your BJJ progression. Conditioning isn’t only about cardio either, it’s important to work on your flexibility for BJJ so you can stay injury free.
6. You Don’t Have A Plan
Jiu jitsu is just like so many other areas of life: without goals you can become directionless. If you’re dedicated and have a great instructor, you can train just four times a week and will improve greatly. But if you have a plan, you’ll improve much faster.
Writing down your goals in your training journal can be very beneficial for you in the long run. It will also allow you to look back on your previous goals and see if you met them in the time you wanted. This can even include non-bjj goals, it’s always best to write down your future goals so that they are now known.
The main idea is to have long term goals that you feel very passionate about, those long term goals should align to your lower level goals so that they all point you in that one direction. Achieving your lifetime goals will be the result of you reaching smaller benchmarks again and again. Those days will quickly add up to months, and then eventually years. Having goals in BJJ is just as important as having goals in life. Goals help you stay on the right path in your journey.
7. You’re Not Practicing At Home
It’s no secret that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is best learned while rolling on the mats. The problem is, many BJJ practitioners think going to practice is enough. As silly as this sounds, it’s important to train off the mats as well. You can train at home in many ways and not all of them involve physically practicing Jiu Jitsu. Visit our article for more tips on how to get better in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at home.
You can train at home by reading BJJ books that talk about strategies and techniques. I wouldn’t know what I would do if I never read Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro. There’s just so much knowledge in that book from someone who has studied BJJ their entire life. Another book I highly recommend is The Black Belt Blueprint by Nicolas Gregoriades. If you’re not into reading books, I recommend signing up for an online Jiu Jitsu training site or watching Youtube videos from some of the best BJJ practitioners in the world.
My favorite BJJ Youtubers:
Great Grappling has black belt Jeremy Arel, who puts tons of amazing BJJ content for you to learn from.
BJJLibrary run by the legendary Ribeiro brothers, this channel also features videos by the top guys in the world of BJJ.
Ricardo Cavalcanti BJJ the Carlson Gracie black belt Ricardo Cavalcanti runs this amazing youtube page filled with BJJ.
Stephan Kesting (AKA GrappleArts) Is there ANY other channel on YouTube that puts out as much free and high quality content as GrappleArts?
8. You’re Not Taking Notes
This might seem elementary, but some of the top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners keep a training journal to help them reflect and grow after a training session. A training journal for BJJ is very helpful if you struggle with retention. Recall all of your struggles throughout the previous training session, this can be done directly after the session, or after you’ve had time to reflect. Truth is, the active memorization it demands of you is actually more important than whatever ends up on the page. In fact, I can’t make much sense of my old notes, but they still helped me solidify the lessons in my mind at the time.
Taking notes is one of the pillars of accelerated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu growth. The newer the grappler, the more beneficial notes are. When I was a white belt I took notes after almost every single class. These type of notes allowed me to progress through my bjj off the mats. Like I said earlier, you don’t need to take the notes directly after class, go home and relax, allow yourself to have time to reflect.
9. You Don’t Have A Good Gym
For the vast majority of people this is not an issue. The majority of coaches who teach Jiu Jitsu are committed and passionate teachers, and your lack of progress is something you should take personal responsibility for. However, there are a few rare cases that a bad gym or an even worse instructor could be the reason why your development is slow.
There are many instances where a gym doesn’t have the correct discipline, this can trickle down to the coaches not having respect and the members not being good training partners. If you find yourself questioning whether or not your gym is right for you then you should seek advice from outside sources.
Many academies can find themselves caught up in drama that distracts from the training. Take for example the American Jiu Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu debate. Try to find a gym that not only has excellent instruction, but doesn’t get too tied up in off-the-mats drama.
Teaching Jiu Jitsu is an active endeavor. A good coach demonstrates and corrects. A great coach demonstrates, corrects, and motivates. This is important to remember, the next time you plan on joining a gym make sure to watch a normal practice and see how the instructors act with the students.
10. You’re Being Too Hard On Yourself
It’s important to remember that it’s okay to be discouraged with your Jiu Jitsu growth, however don’t let it completely dominate your thoughts. No matter if you tap out to a lower belt or if you fail in a competition, don’t let it ruin your entire mindset.
People think success can be measured in accomplishments and awards, however this is not the case. Success is a constant climb of failure and mistakes that eventually will help you grow in the long run.
Think about it: If you continually show up to practice and continue to work hard, you’re bound to get better. Stop worrying about your fellow classmates progression and be focused on yourself.