With Sally Arsenault
It’s time for New Year’s resolutions, but as people who regularly train BJJ, we don’t need a special day to get off the couch and hit the mats. Sometimes, though, we find ourselves just going through the motions and putting in time. I see a big difference between those times when I’m dragging myself to class, and those times when I am really motivated to get the best out of my training.
So what can we do to stay motivated and be the best BJJ athletes we can be? I have ten suggestions.
1. Figure out what’s important to you. Sometimes people work hard towards goals that other people have set for them. It’s easy to quit when you’re running towards something you never really wanted.
Let’s say there are two roads in front of you. Both roads are exactly the same but at the end of one road, there’s a salad. At the end of the other road, there’s a plate of perfectly cooked bacon. All of your friends are salad fanatics and you want to fit in so you start running towards the salad. But you’re thinking about the bacon. You start getting tired and you never really wanted salad anyway so you stop running and walk back, too tired to try for the bacon, either. So you end up with nothing. Or you keep running until you get that salad and everyone is happy but you.
Decide what your goals would be in the absence of any other influence but your own and find out what you have to do to achieve them.
2. Are there techniques that you always seem to get… almost? If you’re coming close to that tricky submission frequently why not find someone who is very successful at it and ask for advice? Investing in a private lesson or a BJJ instructional that focuses on parts of your game you’ve struggled with might be a great way to polish your game. If you’re lucky, you will have a teammate in house who might help you along. Suggestion: Ryan Hall, Marcelo Garcia, Matt Kirtley, Stephan Kesting, Emily Kwok, Brendan Mullins instructionals
3. Improve your strength and conditioning. If your game is faltering because you’re tired, why not add strength and conditioning training to the mix? Or try to roll more. The people who don’t get tired are the ones who are rolling every roll and the ones who are rolling every roll are the ones who don’t get tired. Suggestions: Breaking Muscle, 8 Weeks Out, Powering Through blog
4. Research nutrition resources to develop a diet that provides you with the energy and recovery fuel you need, when you need it. I’ve noticed a big improvement in my health since I started baking or preparing my own snacks and cooking all of my own meals instead of depending on more convenient options. Suggestions: The Grappler Gourmet, foundmyfitness.com
5. Sleep. Nothing on Facebook or television will make you feel as good as getting those extra hours of sleep. Try to force yourself to get to bed in time to get eight hours. If you don’t sleep, your reflexes aren’t as good and your body doesn’t recover properly from training. It’s the easiest way to be kind to your body. Get a good mattress and pillow, block all light sources, wear ear plugs and if all else fails, take some melatonin.
6. Make sure you roll with a variety of training partners. More technical partners will improve your defense and expose holes in your game while less experience partners will allow you to develop weaker areas. The big strong people will help you to develop timing and the squirmy little buggers will help you to develop your positioning.
7. Do some reading. How do high level athletes motivate themselves? How do they get in the zone or flow? Learn about emotional intelligence to help you deal with the mental aspects of training including motivation and dealing with setbacks. Subjects like social intelligence and mindfulness might not seem as though they will help your BJJ but understanding yourself and the people around you will reduce stress and make life and training so much easier. It will help you to keep everything in perspective during competition as well. Suggestions: The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance by Steven Kotler, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
8. Prepare for a competition. Whether it’s a local tournament or you travel to a big event, tournaments are a great way to motivate you to train your hardest. Make sure you get video of your matches so you will know what to work on for the next one.
9. Watch other people roll. Watch innovative athletes like Garry Tonon spin people around or Michelle Nicollini flipping people over. Study what the greats do and pick the parts of their games that you can learn and develop in your own game. Sometimes we are so used to the games of our teammates that we develop tunnel vision. Suggestion: BJJ Scout
10. Help others. A while back I was helping a teammate get ready for a tournament and one of the things she wanted to work on was armbar defense. All of that spinning up for an armbar really came in handy at my first tournament. I got two submissions by armbar. It doesn’t always have to be about you but sometimes even when it isn’t, it still is. Life is funny.
Hopefully there was at least one thing on this list you didn’t already know but if not, that means you’re already doing great. Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you on the mats!