Keeping A Jiu-Jitsu Journal
If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
STUCK IN A RUT?
Have you ever had goals that you wanted to achieve, but never quite did? Lost motivation for training, competing or staying healthy at times? Ever felt stuck at a certain level or felt like you were going backwards in your training? Can’t quite grasp a technique? These are feelings I believe all of us have experienced at one time or another during our jiu-jitsu journey. You may be wondering why you haven’t been promoted, feel as if your game isn’t progressing, are suffering from injuries, are juggling outside stressors that are pulling you away from the mats, or you’re so busy competing, teaching and running a business that things sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Regardless of your belt rank, you will probably deal with some type of adversity during your jiu-jitsu journey. However, a useful tool to help you stay on track would be to journal/log your experiences on and off the mat.
LEARN OFF THE MAT AS WELL
Think about this… Nic Gregoriades (who is Roger Gracie’s first black belt and earned it in 4 years) wrote “The Black Belt Blueprint,” which touches on various aspects (taken from his journals) that can both positively or negatively affect your training. He goes far in depth and detail about subjects, like breathing. Kit Dale loves concepts and finding the best way to do anything. Andre Galvao’s “Drill To Win,” as well as other books by high-level practitioners are available so you can learn and review information as you see fit. We use guides to show us around, directions to figure out how to get where we want to go and read instructions in order to put things together; so why not jot down all of the above in order to map out your own personal experience?
THIS IS YOUR BRAIN… ON JIU-JITSU
When you perform repetitive movements over time, you gain muscle memory, as well as subconscious thinking that will allow your body to adjust accordingly to different circumstances. For example, when we’re driving a car or riding a bike somewhere, our subconscious goes into work and directs us. You may not have ever been on a particular road before, but you are able to direct your vehicle in the proper direction or react to unforeseen circumstances because you’ve grasped the concept, ie. you don’t think about driving, you just do it. The same goes for jiu-jitsu; once you firmly grasp a concept you’ll have more memory that you can utilize to learn more techniques until you grasp those concepts.
HOW THE JOURNAL HELPS
When you document these experiences in a journal/log and then go back to look at them repeatedly, you can focus on re-engaging your mind with those techniques or details that you “only sorta” remember or don’t remember at all. You’re able to do this because you can store techniques within it that you’ve come across (but don’t yet grasp) until you’re ready to internalize them conceptually and retain the technique.
If you’ve ever taught a class before, the perspective is a lot different, and more often than not, you realize you’re learning just by viewing others, responding to questions and demonstrating adjustments. Seeing is believing and the impact visualization can make on your game is invaluable. By reviewing your notes and playing out scenarios in your mind you can see how you would execute a technique, adjust a grip, angle, foot placement, etc. to radically alter the move, or provide yourself with back up options to counters from your opponent and more. With this in mind (literally) you can further add to your notes for adjustments.
Providing that you’re completely honest with yourself, a journal/log forces you to evaluate yourself head on. It allows you to plan your time more effectively, monitor your progression, help push through plateaus and set you on a path toward your goals. You can make it as personal as you like and record info like when you feel at your best based on factors such as weight, diet, what time you’re training, if you’re training too much or too often, how well you handle a certain position, if you’re not sleeping enough or too much and many other things. This allows you to alter your methods, make elements of your life come together and help you achieve your goals. Chances are that techniques you wrote down in the past will be more understandable than when you first put ink to the page as well.
Things that you want to keep in mind while journaling are to use whatever works best for you. Whether it’s brief notations, charts, abbreviations, graphs… the list is endless as to how you want to document your journal. There is no right or wrong way, but find a format that works for you. Be sure to date everything and post your thoughts on how you felt and why you felt that way.
What makes a useful journal?
You’ll need to consider what best suits your wants, your bank account and ultimately what will keep you involved in the process, but a plain notebook will give you the freedom to write your excerpts about training however you see fit. You can easily purchase one from a variety of retailers and prices vary. If you want a notebook with something relating to jiu-jitsu on the cover you can find a variety on www.cafepress.com.
Follow The Leader
Pre-printed options are great because they set you on your path based on the questions or logs inside. Essentially, they are helpful guides that can provide direction into details you may have otherwise not thought of. Here are two great options that we found handy.
The front cover illustration of “Jiu-Jitsu Journal” sums up how most practitioners live. It’s a Meerkatsu drawing by Seymour Yang of an octopus juggling items, such as a gi, kettlebell, protein shake, journal, etc. The early pages are broken down into four steps to show your present state, where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. The journal touches on other personal interests, such as school, work and if you have a family, etc. This allows you to list your highest priorities in order. After all, not everyone is training to be a world champion, MMA fighter, or a bad ass. Some practitioners enjoy training for exercise purposes or for the sport. Whether you’re a hardcore competitor or an individual who trains once or twice a week, this works nicely. Other sections include an area where you can list your short and long-term goals, mind maps and a cool motivational quotes section from some of the best jiu-jitsu competitors. Most of it is a weekly planner allowing you to track the amount of water you drink each day, your goals on the mat, the techniques you’ll use to achieve those goals, what you should do more/less of, a to-do list and a drilling section. For more info and/or to order go to www.thejiujitsujournal.com; it’s $29.99 plus shipping/handling.
Fight Log Media’s “The Jiu-Jitsu Log” has a plain front cover with the title and a black belt running down the side. While it may not be as nice to look at, it has more available pages for you to write in. It contains pages that explain how and why you should use a journal/log, sections to develop a well-rounded game, goal planning, obstacles that may limit you or maximize your strengths and improve your weaknesses, etc. It contains 10 sections of 18 day increments where upon completing one you can re-evaluate yourself based on positive/negative contributing factors and make adjustments going forward into the next 18 days. An open notes section, private lessons, seminars and competition sections are also included. You can find more info and/or order it at www.budovideos.com for $14.99 plus shipping/handling.
For The Selfie Addicts
Some of you may hate the idea of lugging around another item in your gear bag. Thanks to technology, phones are essentially mini computers now. Now you not only can take that selfie with the newest issue of Jiu-Jitsu Magazine, you can also download apps to journal your progress as well.
One of the best apps around is “BJJ Training Journal.” This app is very comprehensive as it allows you to record techniques from your phone straight to the journal, then saves and catalogs them. It can also do this with videos that are on the Internet so you can further analyze the same technique from another person’s teaching. Other features monitor your training and mat time, provide advice based upon these factors, track your competitive win/loss ratio, allow you to take daily notes and more. It is available on iTunes and works on any computer, tablet and smartphone should you not have an iPhone, iPod or iPad. More info is available at www.bjjtrainingjournal.com. The app is free. I recommend taking a look at their YouTube page.
Another app available is the “Jiu-Jitsu Trainer.” It allows you to log your training, mat time and notes about techniques. This lets you build training logs by tracking techniques you more commonly use. A database of techniques is categorized by position, type and difficulty. Those listed have videos that are contributed and found across the Internet. Android 2.3.3 and up is required. The app is free and more info can be found at www.jiujitsutrainer.com.
YOUR 15 MINUTES OF FAME
You can further supplement your training by utilizing a camcorder. The camera won’t lie to you, so if you don’t like something, work to change it. Check with your instructor or the person teaching the seminar first prior to clicking “record” as some individuals don’t allow this. As you can see, you have a variety of options available that can help improve your game. Happy hunting.