One of the best parts of my day is sitting around talking with training partners after a tough training session. We talk about a lot of different things, but at some point in the night the conversations always return to a central theme: how do we get better?
It’s the topic that gets us the most fired up. A lot of the time we break down technique, give each other feedback, and strategize for the next training sessions. We get giddy talking about it. We’re obsessed with improving, and we’re not alone.I’m going to make a generalization here but I’m almost certain that I’m correct: Most people who train jiu jitsu are obsessed with getting better.
Talk to an enthusiastic white belt after his or her first class. They’re almost always hungry for improvement. You’ll find that same hunger in seasoned upper belts and professors of the art.
People come to a BJJ gym with a myriad of different goals in mind: getting in shape, learning self defense, developing confidence, and success in competitions are just a few, but something that everyone who has a goal in jiu jitsu has in common is a focus on improving.
The most common way that people try to address that goal is to look at the best in the world. It makes sense on the surface. They’re the best, so why wouldn’t doing what they do lead to similar results?
The problem is not all of us have the time or means to optimize our lives for jiu jitsu. While many of us would love to train twice a day, every day, the reality is that this is unrealistic for most people. On the other end of the spectrum, not everyone WANTS to train that much in order to get better.
So what can you do? Well, if you can’t do what the pros do, all you have to do is take a different approach.
Enter the “program minimum,” a concept I heard about from reading Pavel’s book on training with kettlebells. Basically, a program minimum is a bare bones approach that focuses on squeezing the maximum amount of gains out of the minimum amount time.
There are a lot of different ways to apply this concept to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Personally, I rotate between the two I’ve outlined below, but feel free to experiment and apply this concept in your own way to make it your own. Enjoy 😉
Program Minimum A (Minimum Knowledge)
If your training time is limited, simply focus on taking just ONE piece of knowledge off the mats every time you train. That’s the “minimum.” This way, you avoid the pitfall of lukewarm training – the kind of practices where you just go through the motions and aren’t mentally engaged.
Mental focus and engagement is the key to getting the most out of every practice — something that is particularly important when the number of practices you can attend is limited. By focusing on gaining a single insight each practice, you help yourself to engage your mind during your training.
I find it helpful to reflect on the ONE thing right before I step off the mats at the end of the night. For me, this helps the lesson stick in my mind better. I also make sure to record it in my BJJ notebook before I go to sleep.
Program Minimum B (Minimum Practice)
Another way to make sure you get quality training is to decide on a minimum “workout” to perform at practice that night.
For example, on a night that I want to push my cardio I’ll decide on something like this:
5 Rounds x 5-6 min
On a night that I want to focus on drilling l’ll choose ONE move and set something like this:
5 x 10 of (insert move)
5 rounds x 5-6 min of (insert positional)
Simple, right? The point is not to overcomplicate things and go in with a plan. This way, even if we don’t have time to train EVERYTHING (no one does), we are making sure that we are getting better at SOMETHING.
Consistency is key.