Guest post from breakinggrips.com
The majority of Jiu-Jitsu academies have less than 15 people on the mat in a given session. At these academies most students will be white or blue belts with very few higher belts on the mat. These numbers are likely to be even lower if you live in a small town or a remote part of the country. The lack of higher level training opponents can sometimes make it more difficult to improve your skills once you reach a particular level.
Major gyms such as ATOS and Renzo Gracie’s that have dozens of black belts and lots of high level competitors on the mat at every session are extremely rare. People who train at these academies tend to move city and even country in order to train at these locations. However moving city or joining a new gym is not an option for everyone. Most people train BJJ for fun and do not wish to pursue it as a career.
Despite the lack of high level training partners you can still ensure that you are learning by training a little bit smarter. Here are some tips on how you can ensure that your rate of progress is maintained in such a scenario.
Creating a curriculum to follow is a great way to make sure you stay focused on getting better. Without a curriculum you are at risk of going from class to class without any significant improvement of knowledge. If you are not focused on learning specific new techniques there is the risk that you will continue to use the same few techniques over and over. This will help you perfect those techniques but it may come at the cost of your overall game.
A curriculum gives you a road map to follow. The curriculum can focus on positions, sequences, and submissions and have set periods dedicated to learning each different element/ A good curriculum will include constant revision and .
A journal is a great place to track your progress along the curriculum and is also a useful tool to help you remember what you have learned.
Compete (a lot!)
There is no doubt that competing helps to improve your skills. By competing you get a chance to test your skills against other grapplers at your level. You also get to put the things you have learned in training into practice to see if they actually work. Competition is also a great way of finding the holes in your game and giving you a clear direction on what you need to work on.
Another benefit of competition is that it gives you something for which to aim. If you plan on competing it will help to focus your training and keep you motivated to keep training and getting better. Try and book competitions a couple of months out so that you can do full training camps in which you aim to peak for the event.
If possible try and compete in different rule sets and formats. Competing in both Gi and Nogi with different rules will help you become a better rounded grappler. You can always choose to specialize in one format but initially it is a good idea to get experience in both.
Smoothcomp is a good place to check out upcoming competitions in your area.
Be prepared to travel
If you live in a remote location and are serious about improving your Jiu-Jitsu you need to be prepared to travel. You don’t need to travel everyday but you should try and identify training and learning opportunities and plan trips accordingly.
Identify high level training partners in nearby locations and connect with them on social media. This will allow you keep abreast of training opportunities and will also be useful if you want to organize your own training sessions.
Also try to keep an eye out for seminars and open mats. These are great places to meet other Jiu-Jitsu practitioners who may be in a similar situation to you.
Study the Pro’s
This is one of the best ways to improve in my opinion. When you see a high level black belt hit a move in competition on another black belt you know for sure that the technique being used works. YouTube tutorials can often be misleading and their effectiveness in live sparring may be limited.
The best place to start when studying the Pro’s is to pick a grappler that has a similar body type to you. Watch as many of their matches as possible and after a while you may begin to see spot sequences and moves that you can incorporate into your own game. Try to replicate the sequences and moves in your own training through trial and error until it starts to work. Keeping notes on your video breakdowns will help make the steps more clear and easier for you to incorporate into your training.
There is a ton of free competition footage on YouTube and when you run out of that you can look into getting a Flograppling subscription.
Train to your opponents strengths
This is a great way to fix gaps in your game and is a smart way to train when sparring opponents are limited. Take the example of when you face a strong opponent with good Judo. In this scenario your ground game is superior and it is tempting to simply pull guard and work your advantage. However in cases with limited training partners it is more beneficial to resist this urge. Instead take the chance to work on your standup and do this continually to point where your standup is equal to your opponent.
Every sparring opponent has their own strengths. Identifying these strengths and putting yourself in their favorite positions is a great way to improve quickly.
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