How To Actually Maintain An Illuminating Jiu-Jitsu Journal
If you train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I’m sure you’ve been told to keep a journal. I’m also sure that if you made the attempt to keep a Jiu-Jtsu journal, you most likely did it for a while, and then stopped (not abruptly… more like a slow fading stop). The best I’ve been able to do at my gym is about 50% – half the Advanced Class students were keeping regular training. So I know its not an easy habit to develop.
Black Belt World Medalist Tim Spriggs Talks About the Importance of Note-Taking
For the past 6 months, I’ve been keeping a journal. This is my fifth or sixth attempt at it now and its been sticking – so I wanted to share a few tips that have allowed me to succeed this time!
TIP #1 – Be clear as to what the purpose of the journal is.
A journal should be a study of your jiu-jitsu experience rather than a perfect how-to guide for the moves that were taught in class.
As a Blue Belt, I remember that the morning class instructor taught a bullfight pass differently than the evening class instructor. The point of difference was whether you push the knees down to the ground or to push the knees up to his chest. When I was looking through my notes a few weeks later, I noticed the discrepancy. I had the same technique listed but with one detail being completely different (I didn’t even realize this at the time I was writing the actual entry)
I was very focused on the move being “right” so thinking more about the difference causes a series of positive epiphanies.
A. I recognized there was actually a difference.
B. I began to make theories about why you would do the first one vs. the second one. Was it preference? Was it a particular situation? Is one “old school” and one “new school” ?
Examples of Two Different Types of Bullfighting
This contemplation is what you want to foster. As Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code writes, “What matters is not the precise form. What matters is that you write stuff down and reflect on it… a notebook works like a map: it creates clarity.”
TIP #2 – KISS: Keep it simple stupid.
The #1 problem that you face when starting a journal is getting into the habit. Which why its important to Keep It Simple.
Don’t write down everything that occurred in practice. You don’t have to be Jane Goodall; putting to paper and noting the specific behaviors of animals throughout the day for future scientific research. If you make your journal entry too complicated, you will create a lot of resistance to writing it. The most important thing is that you get into a habit of writing it – not writing it well.
Imagine that you have to compile your entire journal entry into a single 140-character tweet. It can be as simple as that.
TIP #3 – Focus on wins.
Focus on personal victories. I like to limit myself to three – this requires me to reflect on practice and focus on the positive. When you look back on your entries, you should feel motivated not overwhelmed.
I’ve found that when I focus on mistakes, looking back at the notebook can lower my energy level:
“Ugh, I have so much things I have to fix.”
By focusing on the victories, your mentality will shift to “wow, I’ve come a long way.”
Wins can be wide-ranging.
Submitting a person you’ve never caught before.
Helping a new student understand a particular technique.
Training hard each and every round.
Hitting a technique you have been drilling.
Getting in an extra 20 minutes of drilling that day.
I recommend focusing on processes as well as outcomes. In other words, putting in effort into the process of getting better is important. Submitting someone by putting your chin in their eye shouldn’t be considered a success unless your goal was “submit partner at all costs.” Drilling your sweep with full focus for 15 mins can be considered a success even if you don’t hit the sweep in live rolling yet.
Once a week, I compile a short summary of each of the daily entries. At the start of each week, I read through the previous weeks’ summaries to get an idea of where I am.
TIP #4 – Emphasize “positive counterfactuals” rather than “negative counterfactuals”.
WTF are these?
It’s a fancy way of saying Things you should have done vs. Things you shouldn’t have done.
Focusing on things you should have done makes you better. “If only I had grabbed my opponent’s ankle during the Berimbolo…”
Focusing on things you shouldn’t have done makes you worse. “I shouldn’t have gone for that single leg.”
I have a student – very strong guy. He loves Kimuras which always gets him in trouble. Everytime someone starts passing him, he reaches over the back and tries to roll them or get the Kimura.
I’ve been on him about it: Stop doing that. Recently, I’ve started telling him to frame and post on his opponent’s shoulders. The second way works a lot better.
These four tips have helped me keep my note-taking habit intact longer than ever before. If you don’t have a notebook yet, go get one. If you have any questions, ask me on Facebook by clicking here.