Friday, March 18, 2011

What does it mean to win in the gym?

I post on a lot of BJJ forums. In other news, the sky is blue. I know. This is not news. Every week or two, there is another new post from a grappler, talking about "winning" in the gym. The post is usually one of a few different types. First, the grappler is brand new and wants to know when *he's going to start winning rounds. Normally, he means he wants to know when he's going to start submitting other grapplers. The second type is from the grappler who's been training for a few months (usually 4-6) and has "caught" an upper belt. He doesn't know that the upper belt is working on something new or is letting him work, etc. and foolishly brags about it on an internet forum. Then, there's the "I should have my X belt" or "how long will it take me to get my X belt" folks.

So, after seeing all of these threads (and at least a hundred variations of each one), I thought I'd talk about what I think it means to 'win' in your academy. First, winning is reserved for places where cash, medals, trophies, belts, or even swords are on the line. Hands are raised, referees are involved, etc. When you're training with your team, you're both winning. You're both getting better at jiu jitsu (ideally). That's sort of the point here. You actually can lose in your academy. Read on to find out how.

Ways to lose in the academy:
1) Only play your A game (which means you never develop any other game)
2) Only train with people that you are better than
3) Hang out in safe positions (hello, half guard of desperation!)
4) Take no risks

Are you seeing a trend here? The best way to lose is to never put yourself in a position to LEARN. You're paying good money for those ass kickings. Take them with a smile. Learn from them. Stopping someone from passing your guard by holding them in your half guard (I am so, so, SO guilty of this - so much that I'm pretty sure I'm the reason for a new rule in our academy) doesn't mean you 'won'. No one won. You had a boring round where no one got better at jiu jitsu. If you're stalling in half guard bottom, give up the pass and figure out how your opponent got there so you can stop him next time.

If there's, say, a 130 lb brown belt woman (hi, Marissa!) in your academy that armbars you 82 times in 5 minutes, don't avoid rolling with her. Learn to keep your arms safe. "Win" by making her switch to a triangle to tap you next time. (This is how I "win" when I train with Marissa, anyway - it's the little things in life.)

Set attainable goals for yourself that constitute a win for the day. Hit the sweep you've been working on against someone 1 belt above you. WIN! Work out the details of a new guard pass or the bow & arrow choke. WIN! Successfully defend an armbar against Marissa. DOUBLE WIN! (Trust me.)

If the only way you think you can win is by tapping someone out, you're going to spend a long time and a lot of frustrated hours losing. The academy is your home. Your teammates are like your big, dysfunctional family. Learn with them. Learn from them. If someone keeps doing something to you that you just can't puzzle out, ask them how to defend it. If they show you the defense, you BOTH win. Know why? Now you both have to get better at jiu jitsu. It's awesome that way.

*I'm saying he/his for ease of typing. Women want to win just much as men, though.