From time to time, you will find yourself struggling to make some progress on the BJJ mats. This is especially common among beginners who find themselves stuck at low levels. Honestly, we’ve all been there, and there’s nothing wrong with it. At the end of the day, if jiu-jitsu was that easy, everyone would wear a black belt around their waists. We don’t have to mention that Brazilian jiu-jitsu requires perhaps the longest time to get good at and the progress through the ranks is very slow.
The truth is, each martial arts requires great effort and dedication in order to achieve proficiency and highest ranks. Like everything in martial arts, being stuck is a test you must pass and show the ability to grow both as a person and a student. Regardless of the combat style, we all share similar desperate feelings of wanting to improve.
There are many ways to break the chains of being stuck and boost your jiu-jitsu progress. That said, we’re bringing you the 10 popular reasons on why your jiu-jitsu isn’t getting better and how to step on the right track today.
Here are the 10 reasons:
1. You don’t spend enough time on the mats
Let’s kick off with the most common and obvious reason why some people get stuck at certain levels of jiu-jitsu. Although this may sound formal, you can’t expect much progress by training once or twice a week.
There is nothing wrong with training once a week as some people don’t have time for more. Yet, you need to be realistic and realize you will not experience significant gains anytime soon. Look at it this way, you can learn some new techniques on Monday but you will not revise and practice them through the rest of the week. Instead, you will show up next Monday failing to recall all the moves from the previous week. It’s the same as in school, would you be able to earn a college degree by showing up once a week?
If you are serious about becoming a black belt in jiu-jitsu, then training at least three times a week is a must. Everything below that will make you stuck at one point and stop from further progress.
2. You are spending too much time on the mats
The more time you spend training BJJ, the less time your body has to recover and avoid injuries from happening. Although it’s better to train more than less, giving twice as more doesn’t mean you will experience twice as gains. We know this may sound odd, but you need to pull the handbrake at some point and manage your time on the mats better. Being stopped from further progress due to overtraining is the worst thing that can happen to any BJJ practitioner. There is no logic behind pushing your body and mind over its limits. At one point, everything will start to break. You will begin experiencing injuries and pain that will make every session very hard and progress impossible. This is common among beginners who don’t know their limits yet. The key is to listen to your mind and body and know when its the time to give it a rest. Trust us, spending time off the mats and going to massage can be as productive as rolling in some cases.
3. Your BJJ dream has become boring
Although this is hard to imagine, jiu-jitsu can become boring just like anything else in life. If you don’t approach it the right way and have the right mindset, you can quickly get lost and bored during the classes.
The thing is, many students are focusing on learning as many techniques and moves as they can. We agree it’s always good to have a great desire for learning, but, it can be counterproductive at times. There is no point in putting the entire focus on developing new moves without the essential knowledge of the basic techniques. As you may expect, this is a sure recipe for disaster and the reason why BJJ may become boring. If you don’t have a solid base and an understanding of the technique, you will never experience any progress. It’s simple as that.
On the other side, there are students who are so familiar with certain moves that they have a hard time moving out of the comfort zone and adding new moves. Despite the fact that the instructor is pushing them to learn new stuff, their instincts always go back to those basic moves during the sparring.
4. Lack of conditioning and strength
While you can get away with some other things, a weak body and poor endurance can instantly stop further progress. This especially stands for pupils who find it hard going through exhaustion and pain. If you are inflexible for example, carrying out the moves and keeping up with the endless rollings on the mats is very hard. What’s more, you will experience injuries at some point that will push you away from the mats for some time.
Although it maybe doesn’t look that hard, BJJ sessions require good cardio, high flexibility, and strong muscles. That said, a student with top conditioning will learn the moves much faster and go through sessions without hurting himself or experiencing pain. So, focus on adding more muscles and enhancing endurance.
Begin by adding some of the aerobic or anaerobic exercises in your weekly training regime. This will boost the conditioning in a short period and make the BJJ experience much more pleasant. Also, there are plenty of great stretching and yoga exercises for improving flexibility and mobility on the mats. You can find some of the best ones here.
5. Set the goals and pursue them
Brazilian jiu-jitsu requires a lot of self-awareness. In order to improve through the rankings, one needs to focus on improving the weaknesses. It doesn’t matter if you have a hard time improving those areas, the key is to acknowledge that you are aware of them.
First thing first, always listen to the instructors! A great instructor is there to follow your progress and point out the stuff you’re missing. What you can do on your own is to create a plan and set the goals you want to achieve in the future. If you’re new to the BJJ game, begin by setting yourself some short term goals. If needed, write them down into the training journal and stick to it. This simple trick will help you keep a focus on mastering and improving certain areas of your game.
Instead of being all over the place, constant analysis of the progress will keep you on the right track. Also, achieving those personal goals no matter how small they are will affect the mindset as well. They give you an extra boost of motivation to chase even bigger ones in the future.
Naturally, reaching smaller benchmarks gives you the courage to go into the unknown and set the bar even higher. This is the only right way to grow both as a person and an athlete. Jiu-jitsu is a journey that will help grow into a person with good manners and great fighting skills.
6. You’re wasting your time at the wrong gym
Jiu-Jitsu training facilities and gyms are among the most positive places in the world. The instructors are always there to follow your progress and provide you with everything you need to know. Also, they are very passionate about their job and clearly love what they do. So, the purpose of jiu-jitsu is to walk into the gym with a smile and leave with the one.
But, as in everything in life, there are some bad gyms and coaches that will slow or stop your progress. The first sign you’re in the wrong gym is the lack of discipline in the class. If everyone speaks at the same time and the classes don’t have a strict order, there is something wrong. Yet, the biggest reason why many people have a hard time progressing is the lack of the instructor’s attention. If you find yourself being in this situation, began questioning yourself whether this gym is right for you or not.
Inside the good and productive gym, there is a lot of discipline and respect. A good instructor will equally spend the time with every student and have a unique memory of each student’s progress.
7. The lack of confidence and motivation
The lack of motivation to train is perhaps the biggest reason why many students get stuck in the jiu-jitsu classes. We agree, being submitted by a lower belt or a relatively new student is very discouraging. But, don’t be too hard on yourself, sometimes these things help you regrouping and getting better. If you’re a beginner, focus on surviving the opening month, your time will come. Being dominated by a bit more experienced students is a regular thing and we’ve all been there.
If you want to succeed in any martial art, especially jiu-jitsu, you have to go through the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs before you become proficient or a black belt. That said, feeling like your ground game is bad or that you’re worst at the gym is completely normal. In some way, it forces you to stop for a moment and refocus.
The truth is, we’re always looking at the others, their accomplishments, and progress. Instead of being jealous or criticizing yourself, concentrate on your game and your BJJ dream.
8. Start challenging yourself
Challenging yourself in many areas of jiu-jitsu will allow you to improve at a rapid pace. It doesn’t matter if you’re a blue belt or a black belt, throwing yourself into the fire from time to time is very beneficial. In the world of jiu-jitsu, it’s very easy to fall into the comfort zone and stay there for a long time. Although this makes you feel safe, it will certainly destroy your progress. If we look at any successful person, they’ve all stepped into the unknown at some point and said: “Let’s try this and see what happens.”
That said, you’ve to have an innovative and challenging mindset during the jiu-jitsu classes. If you’re not sure if you can execute some moves during the rolls, be sure to perform them! It doesn’t matter if you lose the position by doing so or get submitted. It’s all about trying and learning. Also, feel free to play your guard against the bigger partner and force yourself outside the comfort zone. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t fell in love with jiu-jitsu if you haven’t challenged yourself to give it a try.
9. Don’t be obsessed with the progress and belts
We can all recall the moment we’ve walked through the gym doors for the first time thinking we’re the future Gracie. At one point, we’ve all been there and there is something funny about that overconfident mentality that all beginners share.
Every gym has the guy who is obsessed with the belts and asking questions like “When will I be good enough to receive a blue belt?” or “in what time have you earned a black belt?” The truth is, constantly thinking about this stuff can slow down your progress.
In the eyes of the instructors, this is very bad as well. If you only care about the black belt and getting promoted, that will raise a red flag in his mind. It’s actually weird to think that having a great desire to achieve something can slow you down in it. But being obsessed about the belts means you don’t appreciate the art itself and that is what actually slows you down.
The best thing you can do is to pull the handbrake in your mind and enjoy the journey. Once you reach a black belt status, you will certainly miss these early days of progression and growth.
10. Be productive outside the gym
We all know that the biggest progress is made through work and sweat on the mats, but, you can be very productive outside the gym as well. Although it may sound odd, it’s very important to learn outside the gym, especially if you attend the classes twice a week. While sitting at home, there is a lot of things you can do to improve your BJJ game.
You can always find some time to read a great book about jiu-jitsu techniques and philosophical approaches. In case you’re not into books, there are plenty of instructional videos all over the internet explaining the secrets behind the techniques. These videos are a great way to evaluate the previous sessions and memorize the moves. This way, you will come prepared for the next class and ready to move forward and learn new techniques.