Class Stories: The Fast Track To Getting Good At Jiu Jitsu

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CLASS STORIES

Discover Your Way

They started training together as dedicated partners after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, their rolls were even, but when Matt took a short break in August for the birth of his daughter Madelyn, (congrats Matt and Jordan!) Jeff paired up with another partner and kept training. When Matt returned to Jiu Jitsu, he was shocked at how much better Jeff had become. How did Jeff improve so much, so quickly? How was that possible? 

I remember the day Jeff started to discover his way, his own individual style of Jiu Jitsu. I had been watching him train for several weeks. What I saw was didn’t match with what I knew about his ability.

I told him, “You are strong, fast, athletic and smart, but you don’t train like that.” His knees were on the ground all the time and he crawled from position to position with his head down. I suggested that he not worry about technique but focus on being agile, athletic and comfortable. I told him that there is no right or wrong way to do things; there are tons of ways to accomplish different goals. Jiu Jitsu is a creative martial art. Your training doesn’t need to be rigid and structured. Discover your way and you will create real progress. 

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SCIENCE SPEAK: One of my primary goals at Zenyo is to create an environment that supports autonomy. In simple terms, autonomy means the freedom to make your own choices. Research shows that autonomy in training leads to improved motivation, performance and learning retention. Of utmost importance, autonomy positively effects self-efficacy — a persons' confidence in their ability to perform a certain task successfully in the future.

Immediate Difference

The changes were almost instant.

“For me personally, the biggest difference has been an overall increase in confidence and creativity,” Jeff told me. “Embracing the fact that there are multiple ways to address most situations has helped alleviate a lot of the apprehension that came from trying to recall and then utilize a specific technique in a specific situation and the confusion/disappoint that would come with failed attempts.”

In discovering his way, he found techniques that came naturally to him, like the head-and-arm choke. He also started to understand Jiu Jitsu on a deeper level. 

“This process has certainly reinforced the idea that while they may not always be ‘wrong’ answers, there are definitely better answers,” Jeff said. “Spending the last few months doing things without mostly solid technique or efficiency has made me appreciate both things now more than ever.”

“Letting go of constantly worrying about technique has helped me tremendously.” 
— Matt Sibol

Jiu Jitsu Training Partners

Matt Sibol And Jeff Wise 

Return To Training

Matt was in for a surprise when he returned to the gym. 

Jeff was a different person. He had started discovering his way. He changed from being slow and tentative to bold and adventurous. An even back-and-forth turned into Matt getting tapped consistently during each roll. 

As I watched Matt train, I noticed many of the same issues Jeff had struggled with. But when he practiced kickboxing before the start of training, Matt’s movement was light, quick, relaxed and athletic.

I knew what he needed was not more technique, practice, or thoughts in his head, but to let go of this idea of Jiu Jitsu being like “chess”—which commentators love to say.

SCIENCE SPEAK: The science of movement and learning is incredibly strong on this point: Overthinking leads to degraded performance. Skilled athletes actually think less about their actions than novices. According to Gabriele Wulf, a kinesiology professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, your nervous system is designed to focus on the outside world, self-organize around a task or goal and control movement through non-conscious processing. Your conscious mind can focus on about 40 pieces of information a second; your non-conscious mind can focus on 11 million.

Technique Will Find You

Jiu Jitsu is not a magical endeavor; it is a sport, an athletic event. The more athletic you are, the better off you will be. When you learn to be athletic in the Jiu Jitsu environment, you develop your own best qualities. Just like with Jeff, I suggested Matt think about being athletic first. Technique should be an outcome of your movement, not a guide for it. Let yourself move and create and the technique will find you. 

This idea is so important and Matt immediately understood it. He used to gas out in a short time, struggling as hard as he could against resistance. He would fatigue long before Jeff. As soon as he started moving, all that changed. Matt was the one pushing the pace and their matches became an even back-and-forth. 

The Fast Track

“Letting go of constantly thinking about technique,” Matt told me, “while concentrating on being more active has helped me tremendously. In the very beginning of my training and until a few weeks ago, I would just wait for far too long, thinking about what my next move was and wondering if it was technically sound. While all this thinking and overthinking was happening, I was not moving and was allowing my opponent to gain advantageous positions.

“What has really helped is reintroducing action and athleticism. Staying busy, even off my back, has allowed me to breathe, gain advantageous positions, and become calmer during a roll. Ironically, I think this activity has also improved my technique overall and has even helped me learn new submissions/techniques from the trial and error of focusing on being active.”

Meaning Of Education

I’ll leave you with this: There are two meanings to the word education. One is to “fill up.” This is the normal method of learning—here are things you need to know, get to work copying and practicing. 

The other definition is to “lead out.”

By working to discover your own unique way, you “lead out” the best qualities inside you — your inner athlete. 

This is the education I’m envisioning for all of you. It’s the fast track to getting good at Jiu Jitsu. 

Matt And Jeff Training At Zenyo Jiu Jitsu In Baltimore

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