So you’ve just started training Jiu Jitsu, or you may have been training for years. Regardless of the situation, whether you’re a brand new white belt or a seasoned black belt, everyone always asks themselves “How do I get better?” This question comes up more often than not, so here are some tips that I think can help improve your game:

1.)    Trust your Instructor/Professor/Coach:

 Ernest Hemingway once said “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” When you train BJJ, it is extremely important to believe what your instructor tells you to do. After all they are the ones with years of experience. More than likely they will have years of competition and teaching experience and will have a lot to pass on to you. As the saying goes “A black belt is a white belt that never quit”. If a certain technique isn’t working for you, don’t think it’s the instructor’s fault, ask him/her what you can do to correct any mistakes, etc. Trust your instructor, if you can’t do this, it may be a while before you see any progress.

2.)    Be a good training partner:

This cannot be stressed enough. As I mentioned in a previous post, your gym family may as well be your real family. Most often people are very protective of their families. If this is the case (as it should be) then why not be protective of your training partners as well? After all, they are coming to the gym to not only help improve their game, but to help you improve yours too! Don’t crank on armbars, go too fast on kimuras, omoplatas, americana’s etc. Think of the Golden Rule: "So always treat others as you would like them to treat you”.

3.)    Drill:

So often you hear BJJ practitioners talk about drilling techniques but that’s just it, you HEAR them. Everyone should take some time during their busy schedule to drill techniques, set a time with a training partner, have one technique or a list of techniques that you plan on drilling, come into the gym and drill. Some ideas if you guys needed any:

a.)    Set a timer-one partner can drill leg drags for 5min straight and then you switch and the other drills the same for 5min. Just like sparring rounds but with drilling instead.

b.)    Perform sets- Like in weightlifting, oftentimes athletes will perform say, 3 sets of 15. Incorporate this into your drilling too. You can do more, you can do less.

4.)    Set Goals:

Setting goals is huge. If you look at the most successful people in the world they all set goals and have the persistence to achieve them. The difference between these individuals and others that set goals is some are lacking the drive, the motivation, the confidence to achieve these goals. Tom Landry, one of the most successful coaches in NFL history once said "Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan." So whether it be the long term goal of achieving you Black Belt , maybe even getting one stripe on a white belt or hell, it could even be learning the correct posture while in guard; Always set goals and make an action plan to achieve them. Some tips for goal setting:

I.    Make short term goals: This can be a one or two week goal. An example of this would be making it to the gym 5 times or drilling 100 guard passes in a week, etc.

II.    Make realistic goals: Not that you can’t shoot for the stars (please do), just make the goals achievable. For example, don’t expect to win Worlds at the black belt level when you’re a white belt, instead, set a more realistic goal, like winning at your current belt level.

III.    As mentioned earlier, make an action plan: When you set a goal you must look at the steps you will need to take to achieve the goal. For example, when you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you’ll need slices of bread, peanut better and strawberry jam (personal preference) and to keep the article short, I’ll assume everyone knows the other steps. Odd example, but the idea is the same. Set your goal and make an action plan.

5.)    Have Fun:

This one is easy, if you’re not having fun doing what you’re doing, then the chances of sticking with it is very unlikely. All adults have an inner child in them, like a kid that doesn’t want to play soccer, what do they do? They do something else. Adults are the same way. You can practice BJJ for fitness purposes, for self-defense or for the competitive aspect, but in the end you have to have fun with it!

AV: I hope everyone can take away some things from this article, these have all been successful from my personal experience and I believe that some of these tips can help others as well. Let me know how it goes!

Prior to starting BJJ I was a very un-athletic kid that lived a moderately sedentary lifestyle. Yes I played sports, dabbling in basketball, golf, tennis and the unique track and field event we know as pole vault, none of which I had any long term commitment too. There was always one thing that I wanted to do but never did try; I had always had an interest in grappling. Having just graduated from high school, I missed the bus on trying out for the wrestling team. So I looked up some places that had wrestling for adults, to no avail. I then learned of the sport of BJJ. I could explain my entire story on how I got started, but I’ll save that for a later post. But let’s cut to the point, I was one of the nerdiest kids that you could have met in high school. I a small 130lb kid that was lacking in confidence, had hardly any social skills, and other than the small group of friends that I had, didn’t have too much going on in my life. But after stepping on the mat for the first time, learning the arm bar and other basic movements, I felt like BJJ was something that I wanted to stick with.

There are so many things that BJJ can do for you. It’s been nearly 4 years since I started training BJJ, and to be honest my desire to learn and to train more in the sport is growing every day. I am now more confident in myself, and feel pretty sociable amongst a large group of people. My group of friends are still good friends, but BJJ has added to the list and now most of my “gym friends” have now become family even in different states! This was all possible because of BJJ. This is now what I do, my life has become immersed in this art and I cannot get enough.

So this article is for anyone interested in BJJ and thinking about trying it out. It truly has changed my life and I think it can do the same for you. For parents wanting to get there kids into a sport, definitely try BJJ, it can be the tool that helps your child succeed! For anyone else who has considered trying it out, please do yourself a favor and try it out, what’s the worst that can happen? You can feel better about yourself, learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones, and maybe lose a few lbs? Man that sounds awful! (sarcasm) So wherever you are, get online, find a gym nearby, and get started on your journey.

When you start your BJJ journey there are a few things you realize; who can tap you out, who you can tap out and how everyone is brought together by BJJ. With my recent travels and my personal experience training BJJ I have realized that you truly do create a new family within the gym. A great number of BJJ practitioners have two families, their real one and their gym family.

The camaraderie that is created when all are striving towards a certain goal is unbelievable. When training at the 4 months at Dark Horse BJJ, it was truly the environment that kept me there. Everyone there had a common goal; it wasn't to beat each other up but to make each other better. The blood that's shed, the injuries that occurs, and all of the other things that happen when training BJJ brings everyone closer.

I competed in November after training at DH for about 2months, I didn't expect anyone to coach me since there were others competing as well. But as soon as I was called to fight, everyone was calling our team over to coach me. Needless to say I was very surprised and it truly meant the world to me that they would do that for me. Recently I competed at Pan Ams and met up again with my team. It was like nothing had changed, everyone was still family even after being away for 4 months. They are more than a gym family to me. They are my real family.

I don't believe this is a unique feature within one particular gym. Watching Cobrinha, Lucas Lepri, Fabio Gurgel and other Alliance leaders interact at Pans also opened my eyes to this idea of family. They acted like brothers; with Cobrinha in LA, Lepri in Atlanta and Fabio in Brazil, from what I can imagine they probably don't see each other much, but it's BJJ that brings them together. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to me, and to many others is more than just a sport, more than just a passion, it's Life.