Two students start training Brazilian jiu jitsu at the same time. One student attends class because that is what he or she thinks needs to be done. The other student shows up to the gym ready to train. While both students are attending class, the mindsets of these students are different – and their mindsets will determine their progress over the long haul.
Mindset Makes a Difference
The BJJ journey is filled with peaks and plateaus, sometimes even dips. Everyone goes through all of these periods. How you respond to adversity is the important part. Some of the top grapplers in the world talk about the struggles they had early in their BJJ lifespan. What makes them different from everyone else?
Some would argue natural talent. I agree talent helps. But it is not the most important factor. Mindset is. The best and most successful grapplers approach BJJ from a mental standpoint that is different. Some students just attend class. Others train.
Attending vs. Training Mindset
Attending class is important. There is no way to get better at BJJ without attending class. But some students do just that. Day after day, and sometimes year after year, they show up to class and go through the motions. Then they wonder why they are not getting any better.
Students of this mindset display a few distinct characteristics:
- First they spend half of the time during drilling or technique talking with their partners. You can talk after. Your instructor just showed you a technique. Your job is to practice it then support your teammate when it’s his or her turn.
- Second, students with an attending mindset look at rolling or sparring at the end of class like a competition – keeping score in their heads or getting upset when they get submitted. In their eyes, they are competing and not training. I am not against hard training. It is needed especially for competitors. It’s the mindset that makes the difference. One competitor gets upset every time he or she gets submitted. The other wants to know why he or she got submitted. In the long run, the competitor who looks at getting submitted as a learning opportunity is going to be better off in the long run.
Someone with a training mindset looks at every class as an opportunity to get better. His or her goal is to leave class better than when he or she walked in. That does not mean submitting everyone. We all have days where nothing is going our way. It’s those days that are the most frustrating. Someone with a training mindset learns from the bad days instead of getting frustrated by them.
Students who show up to the academy to train have a goal in mind for each class. It may be something as simple as, “Every time I get in someone’s closed guard, I am going to try and stand up to open it.” During training is a great time to practice weaknesses such as these without worry. Students are people who show up to train and do not care if they get submitted or swept by another student. If you are working on a new technique it is going to happen. When your ego gets in the way, then you will never try new, learn, or master techniques.
How to Change Your Mindset
I remember being at a team meeting years ago with the head instructor of New Breed Training Center, Mark Vives, and he asked the team what their game plans were. It was a simple question, but difficult to answer. Then he challenged the team to write down their game plans and bring them to class. It was a humbling experience.
A game plan does not have to be complex. Just write down two or three techniques you would like to do from every position. Then write down how you will link them together. When you write down your game plan, it is easy to see any missing pieces. Everyone wants to practice what they are good it. It’s what you are not good at that is going to hurt you the most. Your game plan is going to change as you learn more techniques. When you learn a new technique that you like, then add it into your game plan.
Once your game plan is complete, it’s what you do on a daily basis that is going to lead you closer or further from your goals. Based on your game plan, and more importantly your weaknesses, you can set goals for training. Pick two or three techniques and try them out every class during rolling. Then, after training, write down the things you want to work on next class.
By doing this your training time will be specific to your needs. Remember, the goal is not to leave the class as the best grappler in the world. It’s to leave better than you were when you walked in.
Mindset Over Matter
It does not matter if you are young or old, male or female, athletic or non-athletic. You can do Brazilian jiu jitsu. What matters is your mindset. Over time with the right mindset people who once thought they had no athletic talent can turn themselves into grapplers who can hold their own against any athlete.
Photos 2 & 3 courtesy of Shutterstock.