If you want to get better at jiu jitsu faster, change the way that you look at “problems” in your game. STOP looking at them negatively, as obstacles and hindrances in the way of your gradual, linear progress in jiu jitsu. START thinking of them as valuable opportunities to make large strides in your game.
Think of Jiu Jitsu as a machine. Every day, you’re putting work into the machine, trying to make it better. Some days, it works. Everything runs smoothly and the machine does what it is supposed to do — that’s fine. However, on other days, the machine breaks down. It could have been running well for most of the day, doing what it normally does, but suddenly, it runs into an unforeseen problem.
This is, of course, frustrating. I don’t know about you but I want my machine to run perfectly one hundred percent of the time. This is the default mindset of most people. They want everything to go well, all the time. If things are going well, that means I’m doing everything right and I’m continuing to steadily improve. HOWEVER, THAT IS NOT THE REALITY.
The reality is that there is something wrong with my machine. Furthermore, since I was the one who built it, the flaw was probably already there, I just hadn’t discovered it. Now that I’ve encountered the flaw, I have a few options available to me: I can
A) Sit here ruminating on what a terrible engineer I am or how annoying it is that it isn’t working, OR
B) Maybe I can just ignore it. I was doing fine before I discovered the problem and I can probably get by decently without addressing it, OR
C) I can go start fixing my machine.
In my opinion, the absolute worst thing to do is Option B. Put it this way, it’s like purposely leaving a critical failure point that anyone can exploit to break your machine (Think Thermal Exhaust Port of the Death Star). Option A isn’t much better. While I’m admitting that the problem is there, complaining or beating myself up isn’t going to do anything to fix the problem. That leaves us with Option C: fix the machine.
What sucks is that fixing your machine (or jiu jitsu) is usually a pain the ass. First, you have to admit to yourself that something is going wrong. This is the hardest part. You’ll be (as I was, and still am) tempted to make excuses and rationalize the problem away. RESIST THE TEMPTATION.
Then, you have to go back and reverse engineer your failure. In other words, ask yourself: “what am I doing wrong and how do I fix it?” This is the second hardest part, especially because of how difficult it is to objectively self-diagnose your problems. Thankfully, having a good instructor to guide you makes this much easier to accomplish.
Finally, you have to do the work of drilling and refining your technique and timing.
If it sounds like a lot of work, it is, but the cool thing is: once you start fixing your machine, you’ve already started down the road to improvement.
Even if your performance during live rolling takes a short term hit, spending the time to fix a breakdown in your game will lead to greater long term gains. Problems expose the gaps in our games. The process of learning how to fill those gaps and solve those problems is the true driver of growth in jiu jitsu. It follows, then, that the faster someone can find and solve problems in their game, the faster they can improve at jiu jitsu.
In other words, the “problems” that we encounter in jiu jitsu are not “bad” or “good,” they simply “are.” They limit the effectiveness of your jiu jitsu and they exist whether you like it or not. Fixing these problems makes you better, both by filling the gap in your game AND through the lessons you learn through the experience of fixing the problem.
If you want to get better at jiu jitsu faster, actively look for problems in your game. Hunt them down and solve them. The more you do this, the better you get at it, which further accelerates the rate you learn. We can never put an end to the problems we must solve in jiu jitsu. The best we can do is get really really good at solving those problems.
There’s lots of work to do.