When I started Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I set myself a challenge:
I would train 7 hours of deliberate practice a week for a year and win a gold medal at White Belt at Brazilian Jiu-JItsu
At the end of the year I hadn’t succeeded in either getting a gold medal or in averaging 7 hours a week.
It was a bit of anti-climax. I got injured a few times. Started travelling and spent quite a lot of time in cities without any BJJ clubs. And (to be honest) I got a bit embarrassed by the whole thing. I started off filming my progress but stopped after a couple of months because of the weird looks I’d get. “what is this white belt doing filming himself”.
I trained 262 hours that first year. And got 262 hours good at BJJ. That’s less than half as much training as I did when I set the same challenge in table tennis (and presumably I got half as good).
But despite that, I achieved something in BJJ that I never did in table tennis.
I Am Still Training Regularly 2.5 years Later
And not only am I still training regularly now, I imagine I will continue training regularly for many years to come. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has become a part of my life, a habit that I just keep plugging away at at a level I enjoy.
That didn’t happen with table tennis. By the end the year I had put myself through so much that I was completely burnt out. Yes I got good at table tennis, but I also lost any desire to play table tennis.
I finished the challenge at the end of 2014 and barely touched a bat since. I’ve only started to play again in the last couple of month ago. And even that is only once every other week.
With BJJ the opposite happened. After the year ended the amount I wanted to train just kept going up and up. Now any time there is a class on and I am free I’m there. Unfortunately that isn’t as often as I’d like (because I’m very busy with my businesses). But what a great situation to be in, wanting to train more than I can!
At the end of year one I was much better at table tennis than at BJJ. At the end of year two I was probably similar at BJJ to table tennis. Now at 2.5 years I am better at BJJ than at table tennis. And at the end of year ten there isn’t even going to be a comparison.
I always come back to a famous quote in BJJ:
It’s not who’s best, it’s who’s left
Finding The Balance
But that quote is a bit too simplistic and this post isn’t me trying to convince you to only train occasionally. You need to find a balance because BJJ is rubbish if you’re rubbish.
Don’t overtrain and worry too much about being the best. But don’t be afraid to throw yourself in and train a lot, as long as you’re enjoying it.
BJJ is not much fun when you know nothing. You spend your life being crushed and confused as to what is going on and sparring is an experience for all the wrong reasons. There is so much to learn it can often take new people a few months before they get their first submission.
You don’t need to get amazing to start enjoying BJJ. But you do need to know the basics and have an idea of what is going on.
If I hadn’t trained a lot I doubt I would have continued training BJJ. A lot of gyms are sparse on beginners and if you are only doing one day a week it can take a long time before you know enough to even understand what you’re meant to be trying to do.
I think I am now on the wrong side of this balance.
The challenge was great because it gave me something to work towards. Something I am missing now. I have got comfortable in BJJ and although I am loving it I have also got lazy about learning new things and I’m still afraid to look the fool.
So therefore I am going to rename this project. BJJ in a Year is long over. But the journey has just begun.
BJJ in a Lifetime
For BJJ in a Lifetime I am going to relook at the parts of the BJJ in a Year challenge I think worked well, and start doing them again. And I want you to make sure I do and keep me honest.
I Am Going To Start filming myself Again
It is probably my biggest regret.
Here is a video from my first week during Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu:
And a video after six weeks:
And then that’s it. I have a couple of videos of me competing but apart from that, there is no record of my improvement. And looking back at your progress is one of the most satisfying part of learning any skill.
I am going to start filming myself again.
It’s not just about having something to look back on with nostalgia. But also by watching yourself you can really see what you are doing well and badly. Reviewing your matches and rolls is really valuable.
One of the problems with BJJ is that you can’t really train on your own. But you can review yourself.
I Am Going To Record My Hours
My training timetable was public, you can access it here. It was great because if I had a week or two off I would get emails or texts telling me to get back to work! Accountability is great.
But I haven’t updated it since March. It takes just a few minutes a week and just couldn’t be bothered. What laziness!
I am going to go back and try and work out exactly what days I trained. But it’s just going to be a guess at best. What a blip on my journey.
I AM GOING TO Set Myself Targets
Originally I had just two targets.
- Average 7 hours a week.
That was useful. But I think it would be better to split my targets down into more simple tasks. For instance:
- Learn Berimbolo by x date.
- Master footlocks by x date.
- Try only armbars for a week.
- Do at least x competitions.
I need to think through what exactly those targets will be, but you get the idea!
I am going To Start Blogging About it Again
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a good community and I actually get quite a lot of people emailing me asking how progress is going. It is both encouraging, motivating and fun. I won’t be blogging every day, but plan to do an update every month or so. After all, this is a lifelong journey. There’s no rush.
And I look forward to the day when I can update it and say I’ve earned my blackbelt. And you’ll be able to look back at all the ups and downs of the journey. What a great journal that will be!
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Sam Priestley is a business owner with a love of learning. His experiences learning table tennis caught the public imagination and was featured on many news channels. His YouTube table tennis videos have been viewed over 8 million times. He blogs about life and business at sampriestley.com.