Learning BJJ is a long process that takes place over the course of several years, and sometimes it can be difficult to keep that in mind when you’re at the beginning or even right in the middle of that experience. Almost everyone comes into the sport with similar expectations of rapid improvement and some might even have the impression that they might reach a high level at some point soon. That’s not to say that isn’t possible, on the contrary, many elite competitors have reached something like ADCC after just a few years of training in the sport. It’s worth remembering though that not everybody’s training schedule looks the same and not all mat-time is equal.
It’s especially easy to see elite competitors burst onto the scene one day, perhaps at a very young age too, and get the impression that this development has happened suddenly. It hasn’t though, every impressive performance on the mats is actually the culmination of thousands of hours of hard work on a consistent basis. Any significant improvement to a grappler’s skillset is made over the course of weeks or months and not inside of a single session. If a young grappler has come out of nowhere after just a few years, they’ve probably condensed decades worth of what most people consider a regular training schedule into that space of time.
Top young prospects like Kade Ruotolo, Cole Abate, and Tainan Dalpra all spend more time learning and developing their BJJ each week than most people will over the course of a few months. They’ve been doing that since they were small children so by the time they reach adulthood, the experience gap between them and other competitors who started in their teenage years is already gigantic. It’s a huge part of why Art of Jiu-Jitsu are such a successful team in fact, because they invest heavily in the development of their young students.
While elite competitors can walk into almost any gym on the planet and be the best person in the room, this wasn’t always the case. Every single one of them has spent plenty of time being the worst person in the room and will have spent the majority of their career being somewhere in the middle. Even when they rise to the top of their current academy, moving gyms in order to experience tougher competition in training is a very common process in the development of BJJ competitors.
Anyone who’s devoted enough time to BJJ will be able to tell you that the learning never actually stops, it’s a constant process of honing your skills and adding new elements to your game. It’s tough to really understand that at the beginning when improvement is rapid and simple adjustments can be made in a matter of minutes that will provide huge benefits. When all of the basic principles are ingrained and there aren’t any more silly mistakes being made, improvement slows to a crawl and it becomes a long-term project instead. That revelation can be tough to deal with, and it’s one of the reasons behind the fact that so many practitioners quit at blue belt.
Instead of hitting the wall hard at that point, the best approach is to understand that learning BJJ is a long process right from the start. Get the most out of every single minute that you have on the mat and make sure that you’re always looking to work on improving your skills. Whether that’s practicing something new or trying to perform something to an even higher level than you were previously capable of, that should always be the goal of training. Focus on training to learn and improve in every session and over the course of months or even years, progress will happen. If you expect instantaneous progress or progress without the necessary hard work, you’re only going to be disappointed with reality.
For more of our opinion pieces on various topics, visit our opinion piece archives.