As soon as someone starts bjj one of the first questions that comes to their minds is wondering how to get better at jiu jitsu faster.
I have struggled with this myself and have come to collect 5 beginner jiu jitsu tips that have been effective throughout my time across the jiu jitsu belts.
So whats the answer?
Is it mat time? studying technique? competing? A combination of all of the above?
To answer the question, how to get better at jiu jitsu faster, you should focus on the basics of learning, retention, and application. To do so, you can structure your learning, train with intent or focus, build off already learned techniques, drill and perform techniques live as often as possible, and compete whenever possible.
All of which involve these main three concepts of:
- Learning – acquiring more knowledge about a position, technique or submission
- Retention – being able to recall these techniques
- Application – being able to apply these moves under both circumstances of relaxed drilling and within the extreme duress of live sparring
I will break these down and provide practical strategies that you can apply to your own training immediately to learn faster, retain more, and hit more techniques successfully.
These are heavily researched methods that I’ve used to help my own training as well as several others students at my gym.
How to get better at jiu jitsu faster
To start, it’s important that jiu jitsu be framed as just learning another skill like playing guitar, painting, or learning a new language.
Everyone learns differently so if you are serious about improving at bjj it’s extremely important if you understand how you learn as an individual.
Some people learn better with visuals or by performing an action themselves.
Additionally, some need constant reinforcement of what they are learning, otherwise they may quickly forget it.
There have been many outliers in brazilian jiu jitsu who have improved very quickly, each with their own particular method, but above all, they knew themselves, and they had the discipline to stick to their plan and goals to get there.
5 Beginner Tips for getting better at bjj
These 5 beginner tips assume that training is consistent as in 2-5 days a week and include the following:
- Structuring your learning
- Focused Training
- Building off BJJ Techniques
- Drilling and Live Repetitions
1. Structuring your learning
One of the most difficult and frustrating things as a white belt is coming into class and seeing one specific technique or position at a time and not knowing how it fits into bjj as a whole.
I understand that this is done because a bjj class cannot cater to any specific student and has to be accessible to all across the jiu jitsu belts, but relying only on these moves learned during class is an extremely inefficient way to learn.
To work around this you must consider what ways you learn things best.
As an example I’ve found that I learn mostly by frequent if not daily reviewing of a specific subject.
Say we are learning side control escapes, instead of seeing a knee elbow escape just once in class, after class I would take notes on what I learned in a notebook or on my phone, review them either later that day or just before the next training session.
This keeps it fresh in my mind and the ability to know what to work on during the next live sparring session.
This leads into the next tip,
“Learning how to learn is absolutely one of the keys to success in life in general and sport Jiu Jitsu in particular”John Danaher
2. Focused Training
Before each class, I will usually physically or mentally note down 1-2 techniques that I want to hit during that session. In my mind, if I perform those techniques effectively in that class I have had a successful training session.
Instead of just slapping hands and just going with the flow of a roll.
I would put myself in specific circumstances where I can perform the technique I’m aiming for.
As in the example above, I would purposefully put myself in bottom side control as much as possible in order to work on my knee elbow escape.
3. Building off BJJ Techniques
Once you start to learn the basic positions, it’s time to start building off those techniques.
Just like a puzzle, it’s much easier to work on one related chunk of puzzle pieces at a time.
If you find you’re able to effectively hit a certain sweep, for example, a sumi gaeshi sweep from butterfly guard, begin to focus on common reactions that an opponent might do to counter this sweep and then have an answer for those counters.
Additionally, building upon a chain of attacks will boost your efficiency across all jiu jitsu belts. For example, if your sumi gaeshi sweep fails since they post their leg out wide for base, you can immediately enter into their legs with an ashi garami or single leg x entry.
Beyond that, it is important to be aware of your weak points.
Immediately begin chipping away on those positions to bring them up.
If your wrestling is lacking (I know mine was and probably still is), make it a point to show up to wrestling classes, to start standing, and to consider the class a win if you are able to get a takedown or successfully defend a takedown.
4. Drilling and Live Repetitions
Drilling and live repetitions is integral when trying to get better at jiu jitsu faster.
Drilling should start out slow and with little to no resistance from your partner. Go through the motions and focus on the specific details that make the move work.
Often, there are 1 or 2 main points that make a technique work then if you look deeper there are specific, further details. Start with the larger basic points then dig deeper after gaining a general understanding of a technique.
Once you are comfortable drilling the move effectively on a non resisting partner, it is time to work on live repetitions.
Live repetitions are reps of a specific technique that you are able to effectively perform while live sparring.
The way to properly work in live repetitions is by first aiming to hit a new technique that you are learning on someone who is less experienced than you.
From there you can then work toward being able to execute said technique on someone at/around your skill and experience level.
When considering how to get better at jiu jitsu faster, this is often something that many students want to avoid at all costs.
If I’m being honest, the one cheat code to getting better at jiu jitsu faster is by competing as often as possible.
For a bjj student, there are little things more daunting than considering your first competition especially if you have no experience with competing in other sports such as wrestling or judo.
Competitions will effectively skyrocket your learning. For me personally, the two main reasons why they boost your bjj is that:
- During the time you are preparing for the competition your learning is focused and you are training with intent with a goal in the near future. You will spend more time on the mats and more time mentally thinking about bjj off the mats.
- Competitions effectively expose both your strengths and weaknesses. If you are able to perform a certain technique under the extreme duress of a competition you can almost guarantee that it has sunk deep within your muscle memory.
On the other hand, you will make mistakes during competitions, whether they be because of your nerves or knowledge, but I guarantee you will not make that mistake again and will be all too aware of it through your training across the jiu jitsu belts.
“Losing is never a pleasant thing, but losing and not knowing why is completely intolerable since it takes away the value of losing as a learning experience.”John Danaher
Not Getting Better at Jiu Jitsu?
Frustrations within bjj are very normal.
There are times where someone who is less experienced than you may catch you in a submission, or when there’s someone who you usually submit runs circles around you.
“How you deal with frustration will directly affect how far you go in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”Xande Ribero
The most important thing to do is make it a point to show up immediately to the next class after such circumstances. Don’t sit and wallow in your misery by being submitted by a spazzy white belt.
You’re not going to leave the gym feeling like a bjj god every class.
There are days where you will leave and want to never go back.
Those dark days are the ones where you have to push harder and come back with intent to the next class and have a plan for how to deal with that sneaky submission that the new blue belt should have never hit on you.
Does Jiu Jitsu Get Easier?
The good news is that yes jiu jitsu does get easier. After ~6 months – 1 year you will get most of the basics down and you will find it much easier
For many, like myself, the first day was the hardest. Please hang in there.
After the first couple months it will get easier and overtime, your body and mind will get used to bjj training.
To reiterate how to get better at jiu jitsu faster, you should focus on the basics of learning, retention, and application. To do so, you can structure your learning, train with intent or focus, build off already learned techniques, drill and perform techniques live as often as possible, and compete whenever possible.
The point is to focus on your learning.
There will be good days and bad days, but every class you will learn.
If you put in the time I promise it is worth it. As simple as it sounds, just keep showing up and I hope to see you there one day! – Zack