To excel in jiu-jitsu is not a short-term endeavor. The Gentle Art requires many years of experience before things start to click and you finally start to understand jiu-jitsu in all of its glory. The adage that a jiu-jitsu practitioner only begins to learn after receiving their black belt is telling of the need for a long-term commitment and dedication to the craft.
Unfortunately, for those of us hoping to endure a life-long jiu-jitsu practice, there are many obstacles that arise. Physical and mental challenges will consistently pose threats to our abilities to train. The ever-changing landscape of life also presents obstacles that force us to take time off or skip training in order to handle other priorities. In all cases, however, there are some important do’s and don’ts you must exercise in order to maximize the possibility of training jiu-jitsu for the rest of your days.
Take care of your body
This might just be the number one thing on anyone’s list. Your body is your vehicle for jiu-jitsu practice. If your body does not function, you cannot train. There are ways to train around or through physical limitations and other disabilities, but ultimately, your body must be functional. Too often, jiu-jitsu practitioners make the mistake of not scheduling recovery into their training schedules and frequently omit preventative maintenance such as mobility work, stretching, and massage. Furthermore, a healthy diet and consistent sleep schedule are critical for increasing your longevity in the sport. Neglecting to take care of your body may not matter much in the short-term, as you push through minor ailments, but in the long-term you will be setting yourself up for failure.
Always be humble
Having an open mind and realizing that there will forever be an exponential amount of information you do not know is one of the first steps in the learning process. Having a closed mind narrows your worldview. In an infinite and complex practice such as jiu-jitsu, you must have an open mind to the limitless number of techniques and positional nuances you are oblivious to. An open mind is the product of humility. You will notice that every black belt you meet seems to be the most relaxed, open, and humble person in the room. They have mastered the art of humility. You should too.
From a logistical standpoint, creating a consistent training schedule can be a major challenge. Motivation waxes and wanes and thus your mental capacities to get you on the mats will come and go. Furthermore, responsibilities such as family, school, and work all come into play. The more demanding of your time these responsibilities are, the less you will be able to train. This can be immensely frustrating. The trick is to establish a consistent training plan. Schedule times to train when there is the least amount of possible disruptions. Communicate these plans to loved ones, bosses, and friends. If you miss a class, always attempt to reschedule. Consistency is key for long-term success.
Keep your emotions in check. Being discouraged is how most people tend to quit early. Jiu-jitsu is a life-long lesson in humility and you
are forever going to have rough days. The trick is to always have a positive attitude regardless of how harsh the road becomes. Do not pay attention to the destination because in jiu-jitsu, there is never really an ending point. This is especially true for the life-long practitioner. Jiu-jitsu is a journey. Embrace the ride and have fun along the way. Don’t worry about where you are going because you will get there if you continue to put one foot in front of the next.
Training aggressively poses an enormous physical risk to you and your training partners. Remember, your body cannot be functional if you are injured. In order for your body to endure years of practice, you must learn how to be calm and relaxed during training. Training too aggressively increases your risk of injuries and can cause many more complications, such as mental health issues and burnout. Furthermore, research suggests that injuries and mood disturbances are linked, and even the most minor injuries can lead to chronic pain, depression, anxiety, and a loss of motivation. A large majority of jiu-jitsu practitioners quit because of injuries, even long after the injury is no longer medically relevant. Take care of yourself and your training partners.
Take extended time off
Most people think that they need to “take a break” for whatever reason. Short of rehabilitating an injury,you should not be taking time off the mats. Taking any period of time off the mats turns into taking an extended period of time off the mats. Taking a break from training is the lazy decision when you are not feeling motivated or struggling with some minor aches and pains. If you expect to train jiu-jitsu for the duration of your life, you will need to cultivate resilience and resolve. If you need to take time off training for medical or personal reasons, then that is a choice you will make, but always be mindful of how hard it will be to come back. Take breaks as necessary, but do so at your own risk. The longer the break, the less likely you will continue the course.