Check out the discussion of Three Rules for Good Jiu-Jitsu. This post stems from that discussion and others elsewhere on the internet.
The two main arguments are that “train smart” and “have fun” are more important than “train hard”. And there is truth to that, but it also depends on how you look at it.
If you don’t enjoy training, you’re not likely going to stick to it, but you have to be careful about how you define “fun” and how much priority you give “fun” things. When I see people who are too intent on “having fun”, they’re more prone to indulging in things like this:
- Going with white belts they can toy with.
- Not working on their weaknesses.
- Ducking people who will make them work or give them a hard time.
- Only doing enough reps to “get the idea”.
- Stopping training to discuss something that happened.
- Complaining about going with bigger or stronger guys.
- Quitting when they get tired.
On the other end, there are a lot of things that aren’t fun but are necessary. To name a few:
- High rep drilling.
- Pushing your conditioning and endurance.
- Sparring even when you’re exhausted.
- Having competitive matches with guys who give you a lot of trouble.
- Getting put in really bad positions and having to fight out.
- Learning to deal with being smothered and crushed.
- Dealing with that spazzy white belt or that tireless wrestler or heavier opponent.
Those aren’t “fun” to most people (congratulations if they are to you). I know people who purposely avoid some of those things. Now it’s perfectly within your rights to disdain things you don’t find fun or not do something that you think will get you injured. But I know my personality and know I’m prone to avoiding hard work, don’t like being competitive, don’t like discomfort (who does?) so unless I really keep my discipline in and train hard, I’ll do too much of the stuff in the first list and not enough in the second.
jandaim on The Grapplers Guide forum posted this:
I think what some people are missing is that you can still have fun, enjoy yourself, and train hard.
As an example – I train for and compete in marathons. Let me tell you, to get to the point where you can run 26 miles takes a ton of hard work. If I took every training mile like a “flow roll” there is no way I would ever reach my goal. Does that mean I don’t have any fun training? Of course not. Does that mean that every run is at 100%? Nope, I take days off and run some runs at a very easy pace just to get the blood flowing. But the majority of the time, I am working hard.
To be honest, it’s the hard work that I put in that makes it fun and the rewards are more than just a good time – there is so much more to be gained than just that.
Many people prefer “train smart” because they think “train hard” means “get injured” and I’ve got a story about that.
Recently I took about 2 months off. When I came back, I was a little out of shape and I didn’t want stress myself out or get injured. So I rolled light, played a relaxed game, let stuff happen, didn’t go with big guys, called it a night when I got exhausted, etc. Just tried to train smart and have fun.
Yet in two weeks of doing that, I sprained my ankle, hurt my knee, hurt my back, popped my elbow and injured my neck/shoulder. I never even knew how it happened. I thought I was going light and not pushing myself too hard and then I’d end the night with a new injury.
So much for training smart and having fun.
When I talked to Leo about it, he said something funny. “If you’re going to get injured, you might as well go hard and beat people while you’re at it.”
So I started rolling with a focus on imposing my game, really working, not resting, not “taking it easy”, doing matches even when I was beat, not turning down anyone. Grabbing the bigger guys and fighting them when I would have avoided them before.
Here’s the interesting part: I’m not getting injured any more. And I’ve found myself having more real fun based on real performance.
You’ll all have your own experiences and personalities and semantics to deal with on this issue, but for me training smart means to train hard. The fun is in the performance and seeing myself improve.
What takes the most importance to you–smart, hard or fun? Can you have them all? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
When you “train smart”, your body is more relaxed. That’s good in a way because you conserve energy and you might be more technical, but you’re more at risk of injurie because you are in a “slow” mindset and take longer to react. If you maintain some tension in your muscles it’s usually easier to brace for impacts and avoid injuries.
Of course when going againt stronger or spazzy guys, being too tense just makes them tense up too, and pretty soon the guy is trying to tear your head off.
So you have to find a balance between the two extremes. I usually picture a cat ready to pounce on a prey: although he might be moving slowly or not at all, you can see that he’s ready to react in a blink of an eye.
It’s important, I think,to do be happy in/having fun in/enjoying what you do and do what you enjoy/makes you happy. Grappling is a tough vocation, and while there are many different things you can incorporate into your training to improve faster and improve to a higher level, if you quite simply don’t enjoy doing many of them and can’t learn to enjoy it, you’re not going to become as good at it. That’s ok! We don’t all need to be Marcelo, Jacare, or Roger. Not even all the Gracies can be Roger and they are given every opportunity insofar as immersion and starting at a young age.
Some people love to formulate strategy and gameplans and work to put them into action (this is my favorite part). Some people like to roll a lot, some people like drilling, some people like crazy and exotic moves, some people like basics. Some people just like to get on the mat and not think all that much. That’s great! The most important thing is that we all walk off the mat better people than when we walked on. After that, it’s important that we get what we want out of it. For many of us who post on forums and blogs we want to be great and we want to get there fast. Awesome. The fact that this is our goal means there’s a potential for us to enjoy the steps that it takes to make that goal happen. For someone who really doesn’t care and just wants to be a club player and have some recreation time away from work/family/whatever, the “work” involved may not make him happy and it brings him closer to a goal he has no interest in. There’s no gain there.
As far as training smart or training hard, I differentiate the two because training “smart” implies to me logic and intelligence applied to your training regimen, and “hard” implies just toughing through it. If you never roll, that’s not training smart. That’s what training was like before judo, and that was a pretty easy distinction in skill levels. If you never drill, that’s obviously not training smart either. Everyone is a little bit different, and part of training smart is having the open mindedness to try new things and new mixes of things and evaluate them later to see if it benefited you.
I mean, it’s all semantics. We’re not really arguing whether or not flow rolling is bad or deathmatches are good, we’re comparing two very simple two word phrases without any specific general methodology attached to them. I think that for the best results you should establish a goal and use logic and reason, experimentation and evaluation to attain that goal. I respect the person who follows these tenets as opposed to one who ignores them while still “working hard”. I’ll always rather be called wise than tough.
I don’t think being wise and being tough are mutually exclusive. Same with training “smart” and training “hard”.
If you don’t enjoy BJJ, no amount of wasting time on the mat in the name of “enjoying yourself” will help. In fact, it may cause you to like it LESS because you will not progress. No one will stay for long in an activity that they stagnate in. Except marriage. I keed I keed.
Also, in regards to the “not everyone can be marcelo, etc, etc” – They got that way with heaps of talent as well as hard work so it’s not entirely applicable. I never finish marathons anywhere near the leaders (they frequently finish in HALF the time that I do) but again, I am still working hard. Very hard. I run smart (you have to in distance running), I have fun, and I work hard. Why is this not the same with jits?
I’ve noticed the same thing – that when I backed off I got injured. You have to know who you can roll light with, and in my experience it’s not a high percentage of white belts. If you roll with them, a tight, hard game reduces their movement and potential to induce injury. It’s difficult to get injured when you have them in a tight side control.
I’ve also noticed that size and weight are a factor in injury – if you are bigger you will have stronger joints and probably be doing a lot of the forcing, not being forced. I’d lay dollars to donuts smaller players have higher injury rates.
Being a bigger grappler is certainly easier. You win more, you get hurt less, you don’t get crushed to the same extent. A challenge is something to look forward to rather than an even more difficult event in a series of generally difficult encounters.
A lot of those things that you list as “having fun” are not for me – they all involve avoiding a challenge. With the exception of grappling further when you are gassed, that’s not fun for anyone and requires discipline.
What is really fun to me is having my ability improve. What is not fun for me is to see someone who has started later than I have pass me up in skill. So to improve at the fastest rate (given outside commitments) requires a constant challenge. There is no point in “killing boars”. As to the un-fun stuff:
# High rep drilling.
– no other way to hone a technique. This should also be done against progressive resistance, and worked into practice as much as possible. The way I look at it is, if what I am drilling is a “solution” to a “problem” posed to me by another grappler (which it usually is), I eagerly anticipate the next encounter with that person knowing I have a tool in my inventory to specifically beat one of their tools. Whoever they are, they have a finite set of tools in their gameplan. Usually the tools they get you with are the ones they know inside and out, which won’t be a large number. If you learn counters to those tools, there is only upside.
# Pushing your conditioning and endurance.
I find this happens if you roll enough not to worry about it. Riding a bike to and from training helps too, and saves money. Of course, if you are training for competition as opposed to increasing skill, this will be important. This can be ramped up as necessary. In the process of grappling regularly you will already be better conditioned than 95% of the planet, which will be enough to allow you to get better technically.
# Sparring even when you’re exhausted.
# Having competitive matches with guys who give you a lot of trouble.
How are you going to identify your weaknesses if you don’t identify them? How do you measure your progress if you don’t have a benchmark? And what’s the worst that can happen, they tap you out? So what? The fear should be in their eyes, seeing you gain on them and extrapolating the curve of your progress.
Of course, it’s good to go against a variety of people that give you trouble, not just the same one over and over again. I guess you gotta do what you gotta do.
# Getting put in really bad positions and having to fight out.
Let’s face it, if you are wanting to beat superior players, you will find yourself on the receiving end of dominant positions as you go up against them. If you get enjoyment out of improving relative to others (which I think you have to do in order to be honest in this sport, even if you have no talent and have to compare yourself to weak white belts, this is a sport about what works in actual combat fighting), how are you going to learn to beat superior opponents? Hoping you magically end up in side control? I don’t think so.
Personally I love this, this is where the real challenge is. For me, BJJ is first about plugging up weaknesses in the castle walls, not finding novel ways to execute a coup de grace. I guess it’s just my personality – to be ultraconservative when planning so that there are only upsides when it comes to facing reality. A risk averse nature can be a blessing or ultimately a curse depending on the game. It is usually a guarantee of doing well, usually far better than average, but it may not be enough to win at the highest level.
And note that although I am ultraconservative in planning, it does not mean that I don’t go for my techniques, as this will slow down my learning. My game is getting more mobile as I get better, especially as I realize that by doing so I am getting inside the opponent’s OODA loop. Provided that I can think more quickly than the opponent, I guess this method will work. (I am starting to actually see the OODA loop in action as I hop from side control to north-south to side control on the other side, to knee ride, to mount etc. Their hands start in the right place to defend, and then end up in the wrong place. You can feel their mind whirring with indecision if you transition fast enough.)
# Learning to deal with being smothered and crushed.
# Dealing with that spazzy white belt or that tireless wrestler or heavier opponent.
See above. I always follow the advice of whichever Gracie says that he likes wrestling people fresh off the street because they aren’t afraid of trying something novel. I think part of the key to understanding a spaz is that they have an unsustainable rate of energy expenditure. If you can get yourself in a position where you are somewhat safe from their flailings and even encourage them to expend energy, they will gas and you will win.
Anyway, I think by definition if you are training smart you will train hard if it makes you improve, otherwise it’s not training smart. Every sport or game I have played requires a minimum of effort (training hard), done in the right ways. I guess there are two evils here, which are more important concepts than “training hard” or “training smart”.
1. Someone who is telling themselves that they are outworking everyone else by “training hard” while doing stupid things – e.g. drilling with wrong technique (or trying to rush the techniques before you learn them), treating every roll as a competition where you stick with what you know because you want to win so bad, not resting with injuries. As a result, getting injured, discouraged, burning out, ingraining poor form, not learning quickly enough.
2. Someone who is telling themselves that they are “training smart” while really just being lazy, weak or cowardly.
One other thing I forgot to mention – I think it makes sense to segregate classes into weight classes, for benefits of injury reduction and student retention, not to mention so that the bigger grapplers are forced to learn technique.