Our lives are governed by the simple fact that we all operate using a limited resource: time. If a person does one activity he/she is necessarily neglecting another. The intent of this article is to shed some light on how to get the most progress in Jiu Jitsu out of the time you have to train and will examine the opportunity costs in Jiu Jitsu from different perspectives: from setting aside training time to opportunity costs while training, to opportunity costs when sparring. Successful people in any discipline have dedicated an enormous amount of time to their craft. Research done by Malcom Gladwell suggests that 10,000 hours are needed to master a discipline, equivalent to training 3 hours a day 7 days a week for 365 days in a year for almost 10 years. This should not be of much surprise as part of a definition of mastery is not only to be able to perform a task but to perform a task at a high level, namely better than that of others. The definition of great relies on an understanding of what is standard. A white belt performs an armlock differently from a blue belt and differently from a purple belt , etc. If one desires to be better at Jiu Jitsu than others, one must be willing to spend more time more efficiently training than others. I encourage you to answer the following questions:
1. What are your Jiu Jitsu goals?
The loftier your goals, the more time and the more efficient your time will need to be to achieve your goals. If your intention is to become a Black Belt World Champion, you need to be dedicating your life to the craft as that is exactly what those at the top of the game have done. It will also help if you are physically gifted and if you started training when you were a child. If your goal is to lose 10 lbs in a year then your time and dedication can be considerably less.
2. What are you willing to sacrifice to ensure that you have time to achieve the stated goals?
How much time are you going to need to achieve your goals? Is it wise to sacrifice other goals that you have set for your life in order to try and achieve your Jiu Jitsu goals? The more time you spend on the mat, the less time you will spend off of it.
3. What techniques are taught at your academy? How does the instructor decide what techniques are taught?
A large portion of your progress will be determined by your instructor and his or her decision as to what techniques are taught, and thus selecting an instructor who will help you maximize your learning is one of the most important decisions in your Jiu Jitsu education. While training partners will have significant influence, and choosing them wisely can help to maximize your progress, your instructor will generally provide the inspiration for the techniques used in the sparring sessions. At my academy techniques are taught based upon our tournament schedule which is usually a three- month cycle. Just after a tournament we look at positions that we did not do well on, a phase generally consisting of three weeks of instruction. This is followed by more innovative advanced techniques and positions during four weeks of instruction, followed by standard tried and true techniques leading up to a tournament for a five -week duration. We generally focus on a theme or position for a week at a time with the intent of giving a complete strategy from the position rather than simply piecemeal random techniques that are not connected to one another.
4. How will you use your training time to maximize your learning?
A major part of this will be determined by the academy at which you train. How long are classes? How is the time used? At my academy each class is 1.5 hours long to accommodate a warm up (10 minutes) , some sports specific conditioning (10 minutes), technique (30 minutes) and lots of sparring (two 20 minute sessions). The other component is influenced by you, the student. How are you using the time? I encourage students to maximize their learning from the drilling of techniques slowly and with little to no resistance at first for memorization of the technique, and then with increasing resistance to feel the pressure and tension they will experience with a resisting opponent. How are you spending your sparring time? If you are competing soon you should be sparring differently than if you are trying to add new techniques to your game. I encourage students to spar according to tournament schedule. This applies to all students , not just to those who choose to compete. During the first phase where we refine techniques after a tournament, I encourage students to put aside their egos and put themselves into these positions to work on their weaknesses. During the innovation phase students are encouraged to play a more open game, trying out new techniques with the understanding that their game may initially not be as effective as their tournament game, and with the intent of hopefully making these positions and techniques tournament ready for the future. During the five weeks leading up to the tournament, students are encouraged to focus on polishing the techniques they are best at with a focus on forcing their opponent to play their game. How are you training with less skilled training partners? Lower belts are great for trying out new techniques and working on weak positions. By limiting his or her physical attributes, a student can use a lower belt training partner to begin work on a new position or new strategy. Out- muscling a less skilled opponent or using a student’s strongest game will result in diminished learning during the session. How are you training with more skilled training partners? More skilled training partners are great for working on your strongest game. This will help refine what you already do by having to come up with counters to the more skilled opponent’s attacks and solutions. Trying out a new game on a more skilled training partner will result in less learning as the student will not have the refinement to make the new techniques work against skilled partners. Students should also not limit their strength during the session so as to add realism to the training.
5. Are you studying outside of the mats?
Studying video and Youtube Jiu Jitsu can be a great source of inspiration to your Jiu Jitsu. One of the great benefits is that while your body is resting you can still be learning. There are a few problems with Youtube Jiu Jitsu, however. You very likely will see disconnected techniques and isolated moves rather than a complete strategy from a position, the source may be unreliable, and the style may not fit with your or your instructor’s game. Therefore, I recommend that Youtube Jiu Jitsu be used as an inspiration tool that can provide an enhancement to your already established game rather than a revolutionary tool that is used to completely change a game. During sparring a student has many options on where to move but will only choose one. Knowing a million techniques is not as valuable as knowing a few techniques very well, as you will only choose one move in any given position anyway. In this way Youtube can be a hindrance to a Jiu Jitsu practitioner’s learning, overwhelming him/ with options rather than inspiring refinement. Instead of trying out a new Youtube technique, it might be more beneficial to refine an already established technique. Now stop reading this article and get on the mats to push your game forward as much as possible with the time you have!