Eduardo has three rules for good jiu-jitsu:
- Train hard.
- Eat right.
- Sleep well.
Let’s assume you have quality instruction already. (If you don’t, you’ve got other issues). You can fuss over the details: what and how to study, gi or no-gi, drilling versus sparring, top game or bottom first, basic versus advanced and so on into infinity. But whatever combination of those you choose, you can’t get away from needing to put in serious, focused time on the mat and racking up training hours. That’s a no-brainer, yet people still miss it while searching for the secret easy path to success.
Diet is always important but especially when you’re an athlete (and that’s what you’ve become if you’re training hard). Nutrition is well researched and there’s a wealth of information out there. I’ll leave it to you to find what’s right for your body.
The importance of sleep is easy to overlook (which is why I asked if you’re getting enough). Your body needs time to rest and recover after working out. But there’s also a mental aspect that you may not be aware of but that scientists are learning more about. The superb radio program Radiolab (iTunes) did a show on sleep that you should listen to. It explains the topic better than I can. Scientific American Mind also has good articles and podcasts on sleep and its effects on learning:
- Sleep on It: How Snoozing Makes You Smarter
- Slumber Reruns: As We Sleep, Our Brains Rehash the Day
- Multiple Studies Confirm Importance of Good Sleep
- Rest Assured: The Brain Practices the Day’s Lessons as We Sleep
If you want to discuss the details of “the secret easy path to success”, or if you have any more good sources on nutrition and sleep, leave a comment or send me a message.
There is some good information abut circadian rythms in this episode of the ABC’s Science Show podcast
After Marcelo began teaching here I had a conversation with him about training. This is how it went:
Me: Marcelo, how do you think someone should train at my age? (I’m 47)
Marcelo: You have to train hard.
Me: But do you think there is a point that you need to pace yourself?
Marcelo: You have to train hard.
Me: But isn’t rest just as important?
Marcelo: You have to train hard.
Initially I thought he didn’t understand the difference in a 26 year old world champion and a 47 year old with family, jobs, and responsibilities outside BJJ. But that wasn’t what he meant.
He believes when you are in class you are there to train. If you want to hang out after and talk that is fine. But in class you are there to train and you better train hard.
But to him training hard is also about how you roll and where your mind is. I was wrestling him a couple of weeks ago and he got mount. I was tired so I rested for a few seconds, then tried to escape. He told me no matter how tired you are, when someone gets mount you have to explode to escape before they have the position locked in. He said “I promise you, if someone knows what to do in mount you will not be able to rest there.”
I think this is what he means by training hard as much as anything else. It isn’t about winning every match or going so hard you hurt someone or yourself. It is about being intense, knowing what your goals are, and trying to improve.
I came from a very laid back gym where competition was not very important. It was really just a bunch of friends rolling around. There is nothing wrong with that, but I think just the level of intensity and Marcelo’s concept of “Training hard” makes a huge diffence in my game and in the games of other people that I see improving so much at our gym.
We have two people from Canada visiting. Both are good but the blue belt was very easy for me the first two times I wrestled him. He told me he wasn’t used to the level of training where he came from.
He picked up his pace and the last two matches I have had with him have been very tough. The real difference is just the intensity in the level of training that he has seen the last couple of weeks.
Very interesting post.
In terms of attracting people to the sport, I think it’s important to give newbies both options (recreational roll, protect yourself, have fun vs. roll to win) without imposing a value judgment on them if they choose the initially easier way out.
It’s not a question of explicitly laying out a fork in the road, so much as figuring out how to encourage the underdogs while situationally toning down the top dogs (as in, go harder with other top dogs but don’t relentlessly crush the underdogs – roll appropriate to your opponent).
I passed up on BJJ in 1999 when I stopped in to watch a class at the Ralph Gracie San Francisco Academy, it was too rough and intense. I lost 7 years of BJJ opportunity, because in 2006 I did sign up at the Ralph Gracie Berkeley Academy, simply because Big Dave over there is a natural “coach” as opposed to “tough guy” and makes both tough guys and mat wimps feel welcomed.
Since then I have gradually grown tougher and more spirited, but it has taken time to get there, and I’ve had to seriously re-think my approach.
If we view BJJ as a potentially lifelong activity, not as the equivalent of a high school wrestling program where the school is out to produce champions right away and to hell with drop-outs and to hell with injuries, then I think there is room for both Canadian I as well as Canadian II (your training partner from Canada who was dialed down on your first few matches – Canadian I – but has now dialed it up – Canadian II).
Yes, I agree MG is ultimately right and what he said to you is probably the message you needed to hear on that particular occasion. I just want to see BJJ start bringing in a more varied group of participants, I’ve met lots of people who are interested but who think BJJ will be too rough or they will get seriously injured.
I think you missed the point. Training hard does not necessarily mean that you train like a high school wrestling team or that you have to be “rough.”
As a 47 year old light weight that is not the way I train most of the time.
But I think there is a real danger in just slow rolling, or flow rolling or “recreational” rolling. That danger is that you might get a false sense of what you can really do and what really works, not unlike people who practice kata and think it is really going to help them in a street situation.
Here is an example: I know to defend the guard pass I need to sit up, hand fight, strip the grips. If I am just playing around, laying on my back, paying no attention to where he puts his hands, it is fairly easy for him to pass. What have I learned? Of course I may be wanting to play from a bad position so I let him pass, but that is a different issue.
I mean, if I just hang out and roll easy and don’t pay attention to what I am supposed to be doing while rolling I can create a lot of bad habits. On the other hand I can sit up, strip grips, try to keep both hooks inside, try to keep from being put on my back and really work something to improve my game.
I don’t have to be going at 100% to do this and I don’t have to kill myself. But I am still training hard. I have an agenda. I am trying to accomplish something.
I have had the experience of training with people who believed that you just “let things happen” and I have had the experience of training with people who have competed at the top levels of the sport. There really is a huge difference.
The people I trained with who believed you could just let things happen never tested themselves against the best people in the world. They competed some maybe as blue belts or purple belts, and they have some students who compete, but it was never something that they were going to commit themselves to long term.
Yes it was good recreation. Yes a lot of people like that. But really, why bother with what we do if that is what we are looking for? Guard passes that only work when you are playing around with friends on the mat? Why not just do tumbling? What’s the difference?
And I don’t mean you have to compete. But I do think there is a certain intensity level you need to have if you really want to improve.
On the other hand, if you don’t care about getting better then I agree with you. Just roll around and enjoy yourself. You will reach a certain level of expertise just from time on the mat and you will create a lot of really cool things and that might be fine for a lot of people. But does that really mean it works?
I think my classmates roll between 80% and 100% intensity. They are a tough crew. When we are preparing for competitions, the intensity level definitely goes up, particularly when we are having in-house “matches.”
Let me put it this way: I can survive our regular training sessions. When we are in competition mode, I am holding on by my finger nails.
And I’ll add: a few – not the majority – of my classmates are in competition mode (for lack of a better expression) ALL THE TIME.
“You are what you eat” goes the same for sleep.