What Should your Focus be in Training?
By Alec Baulding
A question that a lot of students have when starting out in Jiu Jitsu is what exactly should they focus on in their training? This will differ between less experienced students and more experienced students but the major concepts will be the same for everyone. Jiu Jitsu is an ever evolving art and as much as we would like to classify and categorize all the moves and concepts it contains, it is always changing. There is always something more to study. For a beginner, knowing what to focus on can be very overwhelming, especially without proper direction and experience to lead you. That’s why it’s important that the academy that you attend have properly structured basic courses that introduce the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu along with qualified instructors.
Learn the basic movements and drills early on because this will teach you how to move safely and effectively. Many new students injure themselves and their training partners simply because their movements are sporadic and unpredictable. There is this misconception that black belts are the most dangerous students of Jiu Jitsu but that honor should go to all the uncoordinated new students out there. They are way more likely to injure you than a technical higher belt. If you are ever in doubt or feel like you will get hurt or you will hurt someone else doing a move, listen to yourself and do not try it. Injuries to yourself and your partners are one of the biggest reasons for people taking time off the mat. So do yourself a favor. Learn the proper mechanics and movements.
Develop A System
Try to follow a system in your Jiu Jitsu game. If you attend a high level academy this will be very easy because they will already have established styles and strategies for you to learn. If not, you will have to do a lot of studying, which is not all bad. The best option is to find a high level competitor with a similar body type to yourself and build your game around theirs initially. Of course, you can base your game off of anyone but it will be easier if their body matches your own. Developing a system does not have to be very complex. For instance if you play closed guard, have two or three moves that you can chain together. If you go for a triangle and your opponent escapes, have some backup attacks like switching to an arm bar or omoplata ready. If you don’t have a system you will not be ready when the right opportunity presents itself.
A lot of students focus on winning far too much. They want to win in training. They want to win in tournaments. However, winning is the end result of doing everything right and a small amount of luck that we cannot control. If your only reason for training Jiu Jitsu is to win over everyone else, then you will really miss out on what makes Jiu Jitsu great. When you train there will be lots of times when you do everything right but still do not win, especially in the beginning of your journey. There is no easy way around it. To do Jiu Jitsu is to fail repeatedly until you learn the lesson that you need to learn. Instead of focusing on winning let us replace that thought with progressing. You could technically lose a match but make progress in a trying a new technique or developing a deeper understanding on a guard position. This is what will keep you wanting to train; not a medal. Train to improve.
More Experienced Students
For more experienced students with their technique already down, now is the time to put everything together. You should have a basic understanding of most of the guards and passing positions as well as how to approach them. You should be developing your strengths while also addressing your weaknesses. Maybe your guard is really great on one side but is terrible on the other side. There will always be something to work on no matter your level. Every day you should be asking yourself , “How can I get better?” Again, the focus should be on improving, even if it’s only a small amount. Over time it will pay off. At this point we can add more things like strength training, mobility work, specific sparring, etc. Don’t try to rush the process, enjoy it.
What do you like to focus on in training? Let us know in the comments!