Every jiujitsu practitioner knows how big the game can get. BJJ is a human-like chess game with thousands of moves, each one carefully thought to inflict as much damage possible with minimum effort. Upon an endless sea of moves and strategies, any player can get lost and drown. If you want to start a difficult albeit amazing journey towards a Brazilian jiujitsu blackbelt, you cannot do so at random. You need to follow a plan. Otherwise, you’ll feel confused with nowhere to go, exactly how a white belt feels the first time he gets his back taken. If you follow these five tips, you’ll get on the right track in no time.

1. Bruce Lee had it right: how to approach each class.

If you want to become good at jiujitsu, you’ll have to become the man Bruce Lee claimed to fear. You need to choose one technique and practice it thousands of times. The only way to accomplish such a thing is to discover which technique works better for you and dedicate yourself to it whole-heartedly. When you step into the mat, you’ll have to remind yourself that when the time comes to spar, all your efforts will go towards one technique and that one only. Once you have mastered it, you can move onto another one. Eventually, you’ll develop a solid game plan.

2. Develop a foolproof game plan and stop using it.

It is not hard to develop a game plan. To do so, you’ll need two takedowns, a solid guard, and one go-to finisher from the top. Once you have achieved that, congratulations! It is time to let it go. Jiujitsu is complex and diverse. The moment you decide to stay in your comfort zone is the moment you become terrible. You might not notice it overnight, but it only takes one guy to shut down your entire game to realize how hopeless things can get. Jiujitsu is like stocks and bonds; you need to diversify to secure yourself.

3. Write down the good, the bad, and the ugly

After enough battles, your fingers will be sore from constant grip fighting. Past a certain point, you will think of your hands as gi-grabbing machines. You need to step out of that mind frame when you come back from the gym and use your hands to record your training sessions. If possible, use a pen and paper to avoid social media distractions. Write down your thoughts, accomplishments, failures, and what it is you need to work on. It’s the only way to clearly remember what you did in class. Otherwise, once the adrenaline starts to fade, so will most of your sparring memories.

4. Jack of all trades, master of one.

If you want to be truly great at jiujitsu, you need to train other martial arts. You shouldn’t follow this step before you get your blue belt. Once you have a solid foundation, you need to think about cross-training. Wrestling and judo are great for this, especially if your gym doesn’t focus on takedowns. If you thought you were a gi-grabbing beast, wait until you experience judo’s kumi-kata. New experiences will broaden your fighting horizons, kick your ass, and teach you invaluable lessons.

5. Stop altogether to get better.

Every once in a while, you need to take a break. Otherwise, you will burn out. Helio Gracie trained until he was close to 100 years old. You can do it too if you pace yourself. Take a couple of days off and let your body heal. In a week or so, you’ll be craving a sparring season. And then, you’ll be ready to go back, with a clear mind and better than before.

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