When someone approaches me about starting to train Jiu Jitsu, one of the first things I try to impress on them is the time commitment required. My strong suggestion is to not even consider signing up unless they can commit to at least two consistent ninety minute sessions per week. Anything less than twice weekly and it would literally be impossible to make any gains or progress. I also suggest that new students don’t consider more than three times weekly to start off with.
I am realistic in the sense that most people who get on the mat are essentially hobbyists, which is perfectly fine as not many people are going to go down the path of professional competitor. But starting off with a high expectation (“I’m going to train every day!”) is a sure fire recipe for failure for new students when the inevitable bumps in the road come it will be very difficult to continue forward if expectations aren’t met.
The first balancing act that everyone has to figure out is how your hopefully newfound life long journey with Jiu Jitsu coincides with all the other areas of your life that demand time: family, career, education, relationships, etc… You still have obligations and responsibilities and those don’t go away when you start training Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu is meant to enhance your life and when used responsibly provides many wonderful benefits, but after the blissful escape of being in the dojo for however amount of time you still have to return to the real world. If your new passion is taking away from other areas of your life, it may be time to revaluate your passion.
Fortunately much of this balancing act can be accomplished by prioritizing your time, to focus on what really matters and not to waste moments. Jiu Jitsu as much as any other pastime will force you to figure out what you truly value and make a place for it, conversely this will force you to reduce your time on things you don’t have a high value for. Time is a commodity that must be spent wisely. In addition to budgeting time, an investment in Jiu Jitsu will force you to be disciplined, as some of your activities may not only take away from your time on the mat, they might actually decrease your performance on the mat.
Our old motto with OntheMat (one of the first American brands in the Jiu Jitsu space) was “Train Hard, Fight Hard, Party Hard”. While I certainly lived a life to my full limits, I found out that the “Party Hard” element could affect my ability to “Train Hard” and “Fight Hard”.
Once you have become more fully dedicated to a “Jiu Jitsu” way of life and you invariably make more time for training, you’ll find that you have to balance that training time as well. It’s not as simple as simply adding more hours to the mat, but how you spend those hours is important as well.
Everyone at all levels has three areas they need to focus on with their mat time: Learning Jiu Jitsu, Training Jiu Jitsu, and Physical Conditioning.
Learning Jiu Jitsu is the actual craft of learning and refining techniques. This can take the form of learning new techniques, refining current techniques or self reflection and study on how to improve your craft. In academic terms think of it as lecture work, although in this case the definition is a bit more broad.
Training Jiu Jitsu is going out an applying what you learned of Jiu Jitsu and testing things out. In academic terms think of this as field work. You can get this through competitive drilling, sparring or even competing.
The Learning Jiu Jitsu and the Training of Jiu Jitsu go hand in hand and when one is ignored in favor of the other stagnation is what will follow. You need both.
The deeper you get into Jiu Jitsu, and the more important the time you dedicate to physical conditioning off the mat becomes. Folks that are essentially hobbyists can probably get away with just training two to three days per week of typically structured class time and can get great effects. Folks who want to take their jiu jitsu to another level such as competitors are going to need to allocate separate time for physical conditioning. Mind you, that strength and conditioning isn’t necessarily going to get you better at Jiu Jitsu. To be clear, learning and training Jiu Jitsu will get you better at Jiu Jitsu. Physical conditioning will allow you to continue to learn and train jiu jitsu at a high rate.
Something Ii figured out relatively late into my Jiu Jitsu career is that while training Jiu Jitsu does a wonderful job of building up certain areas physically, it can actually leave other areas underdeveloped. By example, for years my pull and grip strength was very high, but my pressing actions were not and I attributed it to not being necessary for Jiu Jitsu anyway. Now I realize that Jiu Jitsu really over developed certain areas of my physique, so I need to spend time making corrections and building out the other areas that are not as strong. Specifically in Jiu Jitsu our core strength and contractions are very strong, but lack of development on the extension core strength (lower back) is the cause of many issue at all levels of Jiu Jitsu practitioners.
I know enough to know I am no expert on physical conditioning however, so I am not going to write an article on that, but instead encourage you to seek out professional advice on that. My expertise is on Jiu Jitsu, but I recognize that in order for my students to be at their most effective they must rely on the expertise from different viewpoints and fields and create a balance for themselves.
Ultimately Jiu Jitsu is about creating balance in all areas of life. Much life walking the tightrope, that balance will need to be constantly adjusted and felt out to continue progressing forward.