How To Not Quit Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (part 1)


By Ryan Fiorenzi

The Challenge

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is one of the hardest martial arts to learn.  But it is also one of the most rewarding.  There is something really honest about having to tap, and if you don’t,  something will break, or you’ll go to sleep.  But it can be hard to take.

Besides tapping, there are several other challenges in Jiu-Jitsu that trip up many students.  One is the sheer volume of techniques.  In boxing you basically have 4 punches, head movement, footwork, and other things to learn, but in Jiu-Jitsu there are thousands of techniques.  And new techniques are being created all the time.

And then there is rank.  In many McDojos (overcommercialized martial arts schools), you can earn a black belt in 2-4 years.  In BJJ, you are looking at more like 10.  It took me 11.

I have been thinking about this topic, and I guess anyone who may be thinking about quitting may have one specific reason- like bad training partners, a bad instructor, poor self-discipline, laziness, etc…  but I will address this question generally.

Cyclical Nature of Learning

I am a student of the game of money.  One concept I think is really important is R.O.I.- return on investment.  If you have an investment that you want to get more out of, you have to put more into it.  If a mutual fund is giving you a 10% annual return, and you want to make more money, you can either search for a higher yielding investment, or you can invest more money into the fund.

It is the same with Jiu-Jitsu.  I don’t have an easier answer, like take ginseng, pray to the Jiu-Jitsu gods, or burn some incense in front of Rickson Gracie’s picture, but the truth is if you want to get more out of Jiu-Jitsu, you have to put more into it.  There are going to be many times that you will feel like you are not progressing, but that is a test.  If you quit, you fail.  If you keep training, you pass.  You do not have to keep improving at a fast rate all the time  to get good at Jiu-Jitsu.  The only thing you have to do is not quit!

The secret of success in any endeavor is persistence.  You will get better if you continue to train, guaranteed.  And if you quit, you will get worse.

Everything in nature cycles.  And it is true in training.  You cannot always feel like you are growing by leaps and bounds.  You feel that in the beginning, then at some point it slows down.  You may even feel like you are going backwards.  But this is where you have to keep going.  You are strengthening your foundation.

If you give into your weakness of laziness, frustration, or boredom, you are letting yourself off the hook.  It is like telling a child, “You can quit if it’s no longer fun.”  That is the worst thing to tell a child!  You are your own parent.  If you give in now, you’ll do it again in the future.  Continue in this habit and you will never excel in anything.

This expansion and contraction cycle is partly your responsibility.  When your training is focused, you progress quickly.  After a while, you start thinking it is easy, so you don’t focus as much.  Then you may start sucking (I’m using the technical term).  After a while, you get tired of under performing, so you start to focus again.  The cycle starts over.

So what does it mean to put more into Jiu-Jitsu?  It can take many forms, or a combination.  It could be:

  1. taking and reviewing notes
  2. being more focused in class
  3. visualizing techniques outside of class
  4. setting goals
  5. doing a seminar or taking a trip dedicated to training
  6. watching dvds
  7. doing private lessons

Your victory during the trial times may even be to just keep going to class!

Having owned a school since 1997, I have seen how people quit.  It doesn’t happen overnight (unless something really negative happens).  A student will train 3 days a week for a while, then 2 days, then 1 day, then decide to take a break, and they’re done.  They will usually have an excuse, like “work is getting busy,” “money is tight,” etc., but the truth is usually something different.  The truth may be something harder to deal with, so they use a superficial excuse.

“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us.”            -Nelson Madela

In Yoga it is said that your outer reality reflects your inner reality.  If you have never seen yourself as extraordinary, you won’t be comfortable with even taking steps towards greatness.  The real issue that any student contemplating quitting anything may be that they don’t believe they can be good at anything, and anytime they make progress, they self sabotage.  It may be that no one believed in them when they were growing up. But now the ball is in their court, and they have decided to continue the self defeating behavior.


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