How to properly add to your jiu-jitsu is a question I get asked a lot by white and blue belts. There are many answers to that question but the main ones are as follows: don’t quit trying and perfect your fundamentals. Everything in BJJ builds upon the fundaments in one way or another.
Too often, I see a student fail at a technique they recently learned. Instead of trying to figure out what they are doing wrong, the student will write off that technique as something that does not work. The old idiom “Rome wasn’t built in a day” applies here.
You will not perfect a technique or be able to add it to your jiu-jitsu by practicing it 5 times. The technique should be drilled over and over until the movements are down. Following this, you can start to try it against people while rolling. If you are not successful against a more experienced person, try it against someone smaller or less experienced than you. Eventually you will be able to make progress against your more experienced partners.
Malcolm Gladwell explores a similar concept in his book Outliers. Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule;” claiming that the key to achieving world class expertise in any skill is to practice it for 10,000 hours. Without putting in the time, there’s no way of knowing if something is going to work for you by hardly practicing it.
Try and fail. Then fail again. The only way to become successful at anything is to fail at it first.
When I was a purplebelt, I worked for over a year on my half-guard. My good friend and training partner, Joe D’Arce, used to tap me with darce chokes constantly. I used to joke “that choke was perfected on my neck.” Moreover, I would also get flattened a lot.
One day during a training session with Fabio Leopoldo, he fixed a small detail for me to win my underhook and not get flattened. From there, the position took off and became a strength in my jiu-jitsu. It then opened up other options like arm drags and sweeps. The point is, I failed for months before it became one of my strengths.
Don’t give up. Keep trying.
I always tell my students that you are only as good as your worst position. Keep trying the techniques until they work and turn your weaknesses into strengths.
Professor Chris Savarese is the owner/head instructor of Savarese Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Lyndhurst NJ. If you would like to try a free class, call 201 933-5134 to set one up.