The more time you spend on the mat, the better you get. But if you spend your time wisely, you can improve two or even three times as fast by following a few simple ideas.
Work with lower level training partners, not on them. When rolling with someone less skilled than you, take the time to show them how to correct their mistakes. Instead of seeing every roll as an opportunity to choke someone out, view it as an opportunity to help your partner improve. You’ll be amazed at how much better your game becomes when you start helping others improve theirs. You become aware of the little things that you are doing right, as well as some of the bad habits that you have probably developed.
Put your ego on hold when rolling with higher level belts. We all want recognition, and what could be more fun than tapping out someone who is one, two, or even 3 belt levels above you? But let’s say you do manage to tap this guy out, now what? It probably isn’t going to happen again. And that guy sure as heck isn’t going to go out of his way to teach you how to get better. Rolling with higher-level belts is an opportunity to develop trust and respect. If you take the time to develop good relationships with your higher-level training partners they will take the time to help you improve your game. Don’t trade a one-time ego boost for lifetime of good training.
Take the time to stop, review a position, or ask for help. It is okay to talk during training, and it is okay to stop for a minute and review a position. Sometimes if you wait it can be difficult to remember or re-create a position. If you’re not sure what to do, and neither is your partner, try playing what if. Go ahead and test different things and see what happens. Then when you get an opportunity, show your instructor or a higher level training partner where you got stuck and what you tried to do to fix it. They will be able to help you improve your thinking or validate what you did. The next time you get stuck you may be able to figure out for yourself what to do even if you haven’t been taught.
Jiu-Jitsu is an individual sport. But your training partners and your school are really like family. And in order to make the fastest progress you have to become a contributing member of that family. Just showing up isn’t enough. Take the time to help those less skilled than you and develop good relationships and respect those more skilled than you and your game is sure to improve a lot faster.
Peter Roberts