Refocus Your Focus

Phase Three: Embrace Being a Student

As your jiu-jitsu matures, sometimes what you do off the mat can have a big effect on the focus you have on the mat. You don’t have to treat jiu-jitsu like a full-time job in the way that a professional athlete would. You can, however, take training seriously, even if you have a career and obligations outside of the gym. Even with other commitments in your life, you can still be a dutiful student of the art.
Part of being a student is acquiring new knowledge, and most white belts quickly get good at finding and collecting a broad range of techniques, so that is likely not a problem for you. The other part of being a student is not acquiring knowledge that is completely new, but rather, finding greater depth in the knowledge you already have. To achieve this depth, try the following:

05• Note and explore your mistakes. When something in a roll does not go as planned, this is an opportunity to improve. Off the mat, work through what happened in your head. The next time you train, recreate the scenario with a training partner to start patching the holes in your game.

• Pick a long-term project. This goes hand-in-hand with coming to each training session with a goal. On the macro level, your little goals should be building toward a bigger goal. Are you going to spend the next six months on escapes? Maybe reverse de la Riva guard? Whatever it is, working on something for the long-term can help to keep you engaged.

• Pay attention to jiu-jitsu news. Staying plugged into jiu-jitsu news—the newest techniques and the latest high-profile matches—can keep you interested and give you inspiration for exploring new techniques and strategies.

• Spice up your training. A facet of focus is interest. If you find yourself feeling bored, take a road trip to train with a friendly gym, or take a private lesson with your favorite instructor. The variety can keep training fun.

With these three phases, you should have the tools you need to take control of your training and to supercharge your learning. Your enhanced focus will make you a better grappler. Not only will you acquire knowledge more quickly, but you will roll better, too.


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Marshal D. Carper is a purple belt under Sonny Achille. In addition to owning Artechoke Media, Marshal is the author of books like The Cauliflower Chronicles and Marcelo Garcia’s Advanced Jiu-Jitsu Techniques. His latest project,, a free open-source resource devoted to making BJJ more accessible for beginners.

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