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Friday, January 21, 2011

DSTRYR/SG EXCLUSIVE: THE PLATEAUING EFFECT IN JIU JITSU by KENNY BOND

Art by Marc Scherer
Kenny Bond is a BJJ black belt with over 15 years of experience in the sport and is a longtime teammate of mine.  For the past few years he's been co-head instructor at Simi Valley Jiu Jitsu (Simi Valley, CA).  He's of of the best coaches I know and has at least a decade of experience competing in BJJ and submission grappling, with many accolades to his name (including a Pan-American Gold Medal (brown).  As much as I hate  to admit it, I'm still learning from him to this day.  I love it when he drops some knowledge for us here at DSTRYR/sg.


I’ve been teaching BJJ for several years now. And here’s a sampling of the same questions I get asked almost weekly. My answers usually resemble those on a Magic 8 Ball.

“Kenny, Can I ever be as cool as you?”Answer: No. You cannot
“Kenny, when will I be able to pass your guard?”
Answer: Not in the foreseeable future.
“Kenny, when are you going to be on Facebook?”
Answer:  Never.  Actually, 12/30/2010
But one question that I have to stop and give a serious answer to is,
“Kenny, why do I feel like I’m getting worse at jiu jitsu?”
Answer: It’s called plateauing. And it’s common to many sports, not just BJJ.

Plateauing has happened to me countless times over the years. I think its more mental than actual, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. As they say, perception is reality.Your jiu jitsu game is and will always be a work in progress. No one will ever completely master jiu jitsu, not you, not me, not even Marcelo or Rickson Nolastnamesnecessary.

Our sport is an evolving sport with far too many variables. All we can do is make an honest effort to evolve, improve, and keep training hard (don’t forget to have fun!!).

One reason for the perception of plateauing is that most of your training partners are also evolving, improving, and training hard. This makes it difficult to gauge your progress and objectively evaluate your own game, which leads you to conclude that your jiu jitsu sucks worse than it sucked 2 months ago. One thing I suggest to my white belt students when they complain of plateauing is to roll with the newbie students as I watch. 9 out of 10 times, the white belt student completely dominates a newbie without much effort. Then I ask them if they could have dominated anyone like 6 months ago. The answer is always no, and they feel a little better.

For my more experienced guys, I ask them to change up their training up for a couple of months. For example, if they’re a top game guy, ask them to pull guard 100% of the time for 2 months when sparring and vice versa if they’re already a butt flopper. Or I’ll ask them to put themselves in bad positions for a week and only work on escapes. This way, you are not trying to focus on your jiu jitsu as a whole, but focusing on improving only specific pieces of your game. You can do this with any part of the game; passing, open/closed guard, half-guard, escapes, subs only, controlling only, hard pressure, etc. You get the idea.

One “easy” way to turbo charge your progress is to compete in a tournament. Read my article, “Why Compete?” Win or lose, the journey you take in preparing for and competing in a tournament will serve your game well, guaranteed.

But really, the bottom line is to keep getting out there on the mat on a regular basis. Make jiu jitsu a consistent part of your life and you will be rewarded with much more than just improving your BJJ.

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