How to Deal With Periods of Doubt & Plateaus in Jiu-Jitsu

How to Deal With Periods of Doubt & Plateaus in Jiu-Jitsu

Written by Cesar Oliver Olleres who trains at Silver Fox BJJ in New Jersey under Karel Pravec, who is one of Renzo Gracie’s 1st U.S. students.

First of all, I am honored and yet humbled, that my fellow jiujiteros will randomly ask me for advice. As if I can provide the guidance they seek when I myself is on the journey that they are on.


Not too long ago, an unnamed Bjj practitioner asked me several questions, although I forgot how it was exactly worded, I do recall the underlying purpose of the questions. It seemed that this person was in doubt of a lot of things, the legitimacy of the teachings, the effectiveness of the art in general. This is how I answered it, generally

– I assured the practitioner that our master is one of the best practitioner of the art. That the belt Renzo gave him accurately reflects his skill. That he does and still routinely train with the best grapplers, and fighters (amateurs and pros) over there in the Mecca of Bjj in the tri state, Renzo Gracie academy in New York. I forgot to tell him the multiple stories of men of greater physical stature than my master that he wiped the mats off with back when gracie challenges were still common… that would have to wait for another time.

– I assured him that techniques passed down to him sometimes might not work as well because 1) it might not fit his particular body type, there are moves that a practitioner prefer overtime as he learns the art because it is much more effective due to his natural build and/or frame. For example, I have always had difficulty with triangle chokes mainly because I’m a shorter guy (5’3) with majority of my length compose of my torso, which makes my legs kind of…Stubby. That doesn’t mean I can’t do triangles, I just have to all the little tricks and angles to lock one in.

-You are practicing moves on resisting opponents, some who have put in more time than you have and are well aware of your attempt to lock down a move way before you think of it. All that means is that you have to refine your techniques or develop more tools in your bag, there is nothing more dreadful for your opponent when he knows you are doing a move that he knows is coming and he can’t stop.

– You need more mat time, you are trying to substitute athleticism or brute force for technique and expecting the same outcome. I understand that you are a naturally big guy and power comes instantaneously but trust me, it took me a while, but I have learnt how to make your superior physical prowess mean less in our sparring and turn it against you strategically, if need be. I am 32 years old now, I can’t go 100% all the time as my recovery time in between is longer so I would appreciate it if you relax a bit and try using superior technique instead, I would be more impressed by your performance (I always wanted to say that).

– Like a fellow jiujitero (Hector) said, you have to work outside your comfort zone, I personally have to drastically change my body type and my game to accentuate the advantages my build offers. I used to be a strong, fast, top guy with poor passing skills but aggressive leg locking abilities. My instructor, the Silverfox gave me advice that I would remember to this day: that if I worked on sweeps and passing, that it would take my game to another level. I took that to heart and changed my diet (Im at a heavy, 135 lbs right now) and my game is focused on sweeps/backtakes from the bottom, high and low guard passing and pressure or dynamic top game and submission. I have seen those who made a mental change further enhance their abilities while those who kept the same routine quickly became stagnant in their game.

In the end, what I wish I told him was, to never give up because you have doubts in your training partners, your teacher or your own skills. We are all on the same journey, which is like a story: defined by the beginning, the middle and the end. When you feel like your are stuck or in a plateau enjoy this moments (this was told to me by another Bjj Blackbelt), because that means that you if you keep training, your are bound to either get past, around or through that force field and break through into another chapter of your Brazilian jiu jutsu journey.