Welcome back!

I recently had a comment on my blog that I wanted to address:

I just started Bjj […] I’m almost in my third month. I can’t seem to get a submission, though I get caught plenty. I don”t get it. I have some strength, so flexibility, and I try my best to listen to what i am told. […] One class I get close to hooking a Guillotine and the next, I seem more dumb than when i started. I don’t want to be a quitter but I think I might be wasting my time and money.

I’m 100% certain you are not the only beginner who has felt that way, so I wanted to run through some thought exercises. I hope that those who have personally addressed this with others (and even themselves) reply and add to this, and those who are feeling this way respond in the comments.

Why do you think you’re wasting your time and money? Possible responses and my reactions.

I’m bad at doing jiu jitsu.

Of course you are! You’re a beginner! Everyone is terrible when they begin something. I’ll share something awful with you right now:


The cat is out of the bag. I have begun learning trumpet. I am AWFUL. I have a teacher, and this video was taken on my 4th day playing trumpet. Jiu Jiu’s note: I stopped writing and practiced trumpet after posting that video. heh.

Accept it, keep going to class, and you WILL improve.

I can’t remember anything I’m taught!

There reason I have actually learned the music and don’t forget my fingering, even though it’s only been one week since my first lesson. It’s because I have only learned 3 notes, and for 20-30 minutes a day I literally play only those 3 notes. Every day I play “Merrily We Roll Along” and winners like this: GGGG (rest x4) GGGG (rest x4) FFFF (rest x4) FFFF (rest x4). Sigh.

Compare that to your journey in jiu jitsu. You’ve gone to how many classes? How many new moves have you learned? How often have you repeated the same move?

I wrote this over on jiujitsuforums.com and I think it applies here.

…Imagine you’re taking a Chinese class and you’ve been to 9 classes. In each classes, you are exposed to 2-4 new words. You don’t review them in any of the next classes, so by class 9 you’ve sort of practiced 18-36 new words. During the conversation portion of the class, your classmate might use the words quickly, but you don’t even know how to really listen during a conversation.

That class would suck, right?

This is how most BJJ classes are taught. […] Most BJJ classes I’ve seen are NOT designed to help beginners retain what they’ve learned, or to do it in a systematic way.

In this situation, accept you will feel confused. The longer you stick with class, the more exposure you will get. You will eventually repeat techniques or patterns, and you’ll start to recognize pieces. Stick with it.

Remember that execution is one aspect of learning. Recognition, and even a glimmer of recognition, is another aspect. …

Most jiu jitsu classes are NOT  taught in a methodical, systematic approach. There is a decidedly lack of repetition, by which I mean that each class generally teaches a new move rather than spend one week on the same 2-3 moves. When it DOES happen this way, students unfortunately get bored. The reality is, this is more like learning by moving to a country – you learn by exposure rather than like in a “proper classroom.”

Accept it, keep going to class, and you WILL improve.

I can’t pull off moves in sparring.

First, you’re a beginner, which means you have a tiny vocabulary. Sparring can be the equivalent of a conversation or an argument or even a debate. Unfortunately, because of your minuscule vocabulary, you don’t have an appropriate response to what people throw at you.

Second, everyone else is in there learning, too. This means that as you learn a move, they’re learning the counter move.

Third, your partners are actively trying to prevent you from using your vocabulary. They’re TRYING to shut you down. This is quite different than a compliant partner who helps you when you drill.

Accept it, keep coming to class, and the moves WILL come.

I feel dumber than when I started.

I would broker a guess that you may feel dumber than when you started because you should all over yourself. “I should remember this.” “I should know this by now.” “I should be able to do this.”

It's nothing but crazymaking.

It’s nothing but crazymaking.

Second, it’s also a mark that you’re starting to learn – you’ve become more aware of how much you don’t know.

Accept where you’re actually at, keep coming to class, and you WILL get better.

To recap:

You suck because you’re a beginner. You suck because you are a beginner in a non-methodical learning environment. You suck because you’re a novice in a room full of intermediates and advanced. You suck because during sparring you’re trying to do moves that are new to you while someone is actively trying to shut you down. You suck because you’re really hard on yourself.

Guess what – sucking is the first step at being sorta good at something.

This is true in so many ways

This is true in so many ways

One of our black belts said at our promotions: what makes jiu jitsu so valuable is BECAUSE it is hard. If it comes too easily, it is not worth doing.

So, if you’re thinking that you’re wasting your time and money because you’re terrible at jiu jitsu, I think you’re wrong.

Upcoming – Part 2: When you ARE wasting your time and money.

Jiu-Jiu’s Questions: For those who have been in the position of advising folks down on themselves, what advice have YOU given? For those of you really down on yourselves right now, what piece of advice has felt very helpful?