A question I often get is “What can I do to improve my Jiu Jitsu?”. The question usually comes from someone looking for some previously unknown path to success. Sure, I swim and do Yoga for recovery, and I deadlift and squat for strength, but these are not the answer. The somewhat less than magic answer is more Jiu Jitsu. Not kettle bells, not Cross Fit, not gymnastics, not Yabusame. Jiu Jitsu. These other things will help your general physical preparation, but we’re talking Jiu Jitsu here.
For the extra curricular activities I do, it is never at the expense of time spent on the mat. If I am heading into over-reaching/over-training territory, then I’ll drop the other activities first, followed by the more intense Jiu Jitsu sessions if I’m still not recovering.
But what do you get from more Jiu Jitsu? As I have said many times before, you have to be a very special case to keep turning up consistently and not get better. Not better immediately, not immediate success, but one day you’ll realise you have achieved a goal you previously thought beyond you.
How do you get better just with more time? You face the same problem more times. You subconsciously start to internalise the things that work, even a little, when you face the problem multiple times. You get the opportunity to visit that problem with multiple different opponents, all with their own specific attributes. Bigger/smaller, faster/slower, heavier/lighter, stronger/weaker, you get to adjust your response to each of these unique situations consolidating your technique to work in more situations.
You will also almost certainly be exposed to more training partners, and this is key to getting variation and inspiration into your game. When your partner does that unexpected thing, and you don’t even know where you went wrong, but are now doing your best impersonation of a pretzel, that’s a new problem for you to solve. What was it? How do I do it? How do I defend or counter it?
And by stronger, I don’t mean bench double your body weight strong. I mean Jiu Jitsu strong. All the muscles you need will be continually worked, improving the attributes needed for Jiu Jitsu. As you progress in Jiu Jitsu, I believe you move from generating power through individual limbs, and move to generating power with your whole body. It is this core strength that allows you to attack your opponents arm, not with your arm, but to attack your opponents arm with the strength of all the major muscle groups in your body. In addition, all the stabiliser muscles will also strengthen with more time on the mat, improving your control and ability to escape.
When you have been training more, it feels like you are faster, and being faster can be the difference between being on the bottom and being on the top.
Earlier this year, due to a change in circumstances where I took on more responsibility at the gym, I started training Jiu Jitsu 6-8 times a week. I regularly track a number of parameters including Central Nervous System score, reaction time, resting heart rate, weight and sleep using an iPhone app. From the graph of reaction times, you can see the trend line and the obvious decrease in reaction time.
This one came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only do you feel faster, but you are faster.
So what increases reaction time? Alcohol, is one thing, so easy on the booze.
There is an interesting article here on the Sport Science of BJJ:
“Accounting for a whopping 70% of BJJ ability is technique.”
To hijack the quote from Henk Kraaijenhof, Olympic track coach:
“Do as little as needed, not as much as possible. Except when it comes to Jiu Jitsu, do as much as possible.”
Go Train! More!