Is Your Approach to Practice Deliberate?

By Alec Baulding

Many students go into training and even tournaments with a very unstructured approach. They have no strategy or game plan, only wishing for the best. They often say to themselves that they will “Give it their all”. This is all fine and well and you should definitely aim to keep a positive mindset because Jiu Jitsu can be a very tough sport. It takes a long time to reach a competent level and even longer to get the feeling that you are good at it. There will be no shortage of negative feedback and emotions, especially if you allow them to take control. But your mindset is only one part of the equation on improving in your practice. If you want better performance on the mats the rest of the work is going to come from how you train. Again, many students go into training with a very free mindset. They dabble in a few mixed techniques. They learn a move from half guard one day and then the next day they start working worm guard. However, there is no structure to this style of practice.

If you were to ask a normal student at almost any academy around the world what they need to work on, you would be left with many vague answers like, “I need to work on my guard” or “I need to work on my passing”. Those are very broad topics that don’t really help us get to the root of what’s giving them a hard time. That’s like going to your doctor and saying that your body hurts. You have to be more specific in what area the pain is coming from as well as what factors might be causing the pain. The same goes for Jiu Jitsu. If you want to progress you need to focus more on the specifics. Specifics like: what guard games do you play? What sweeps do you use from those guards? If your opponent defends those sweeps, what other options do you have, and what attacks can you do from you guard? These are all basic questions that you should ask yourself if you want to develop a better understanding of your own Jiu Jitsu. One easily implementable step that you can add to your training right away is to pick a position that gives you a hard time like passing the De La Riva or playing spider guard and lightly spar from that position. I assure you that after a few minutes of this training you will start to see areas that you will have questions on. Maybe your partner keeps taking advantage of an opening in your game or maybe there is a technical issue that is giving you problems. Whatever the case, this specific style training will show you if you are on the right path or not. This is the deliberate practice that the best competitors use in training instead of just straight rolling all the time, which can lead to a lot of injuries and the development of bad habits. If you introduce more specific rounds into your training, you will actively work on the problems in your game and develop the feeling that you are making progress. This progress is what will keep you motivated and excited to go to your next training session. However, if you just go to your academy and only roll, there are a lot of positions and situations that you simply will never put yourself into because they are hard and not very fun, but that is where the real learning will come.

How do you like to implement deliberate practice into your Jiu Jitsu training? Has this type of practice led to big improvements? Let us know in the comments!