Written by Mike “Spider-Ninja” Bidwell is a BJJ Black Belt under Phil Migliarese and Ken Kronenberg (Team Tai-Kai / Balance). Mike is a full time Jiu-Jitsuka, blogger (check out his great blog BJJafter40 and ‘Like’ his Facebook page), freelance writer, content provider, teacher and Ninja-for-hire!
As a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor and black belt I have seen a ton of people come and go over the years. You always try to dissect ‘why students’ quit, etc. and try to figure out the elusive why? I always feel it is my duty as a teacher and ambassador of the art to help everyone ‘stay the course’ no matter what the obstacle! Why? Because BJJ is so awesome and if you stick around long enough it will literally change your life. So here’s my top five tips on how to be a ‘good’ BJJ student! (For the sake of this blog we will define ‘good’ as longevity. As BJJ pioneer Chris Haueter says, “It’s not about who’s good, it’s about who’s left.”)
What does it mean to be ‘coachable’? It means that you are open to listening and learning at all times. Remember, your coach is your biggest fan and they care and believe in you so much that they are willing to push you beyond your own limits! (That’s huge by the way) A good coach invests in you as a student, while a great coach invests in you as a student AND human being! If you feel that your coach is fully invested in you, then be sure you are doing your part too! Part of being a coachable student also means that you realize it’s okay to be vulnerable enough to know you’re not perfect and you have a lot to learn.
2.Nourish your body for BJJ
I’m always in awe of the student who comes to class without even a simple water bottle or some form of hydration? BJJ is very intense and you have to have some form of hydration before, during and after your training. In addition, whether you’re 20 years old or 40 years old you need to fuel for training. You can’t go to Taco Bell and expect to come in and have a good training session. Conversely, you can’t go to a morning class after a full nights sleep, skip breakfast and expect to have any energy for training. It’s called ‘break-fast’…as in you are breaking-a-fast. I like to keep my pre-training meals really simple. I like water, bananas and a boiled egg. I have a sensitive stomach and this just seems to work for me. Experiment and see what works for you.
3.Be a good partner – we don’t need your ‘beast mode’ here!
Nobody wants to go to work with a black eye or broken nose! That kind of goes without saying…But alas injuries happen. Part of being a ‘good partner’ means that you can grapple at more than one speed. I always think of the speed and power you grapple at as being like a dimmer switch, not a light switch. Here’s what I mean, with a light switch it’s one speed…kind of all or nothing (regardless of your partners size, skill level, etc.). A dimmer switch implies their are many different levels and you can make small or big adjustments on the fly. For example: you may grapple a new beginner different that you would an experienced purple belt. A good student recognizes the differences and makes adjustments accordingly. Save your ‘beast mode’ for a street altercation (or video games).
4.Being a grateful learner.
In the era of google and instant information it’s easy to forget that your instructors and coaches have spent a large part of their life studying and practicing their art. Their accumulation of knowledge didn’t just happen over night. A good student realizes that the opportunity to learn is always available. Your instructor and coaches have your best interest in mind and are looking out for you…listen to their feedback and apply the lessons. If feasible, explore doing private lessons with your instructor. The one-on-one, focused time with a black belt is priceless! When I was coming up back in the 1990’s we would have done just about anything to train with a BJJ black belt. Take advantage of all opportunities for learning and stay open-minded: seminars, private classes, videos, books, etc. never stop learning!
5.Consistency breeds success.
If you want to be even moderately good at BJJ you have to get on the mats and train! There’s no way around it in BJJ. You just can’t fake your skills (or lack of). BJJ is a testable skill; like learning a language or reading. When you grapple you can tell if someone knows what they’re doing…they’ll either tap someone or get tapped! In BJJ it’s actually pretty simple, “The amount of effort you put in is in direct proportion to the results you’ll achieve.” If you train consistently over time you will get better…if don’t, you will not!
It’s not about who’s good, it’s about who’s left.
-Chris Haueter, Dirty Dozen – One of the first 12 American’s to receive a BJJ Black Belt