BJJ / Grappling Tips: busting plateaus!

How to overcome learning plateaus? What do I know, I'm a baby elephant!

Listening to an interview with Yamaksaki black belt Mr Luis Pantoja on the Fightworks Podcast where he offers some great advice on how to overcome your training plateaus in BJJ / Grappling, I started thinking about the subject with my own background in mind -learning karate, languages BJJ and teaching the same- and here are a couple of suggestions. For the best advice, talk to your instructor and of course listen to the interview with Luis Pantoja.

The opposite of stagnation, whether in BJJ or anything, is movement and change. That is the basis to my way of addressing any plateau. If you train BJJ in the gi every Monday and Wednesday (for example), why not try a Thursday no gi session? Or even book half a day’s holiday and attend a day time session (if your academy, like Fighting Fit and the Labs, offers those). You might even benefit from something as simple as changing your usual training partners. Here’s a trick I used with half guard: I changed sides! I stopped playing half guard on my right side in BJJ and grappling and totally focused on playing it lying on my left side. Result? My half guard still sucks, but a lot less than it used to and I broke thru a learning plateau!

One of the best ways to break through a learning plateau is to spend a brief period (2-6 months) specialising in something. How do you fancy totally immersing yourself in half guard sweeps or standing guard passes? Closed guard attacks with the gi? Self defence? To do that, I recommend you book a couple of private sessions where you tell your instructor exactly which position you want to immerse yourself in (it doesn’t have to be one that you are particularly struggling with) and take detailed notes from those private BJJ sessions. Next, get your BJJ books and grappling dvds (and don't forget YouTube!) and zone in on as much technical details appertaining to that particular position, but don't wander off aimlessly. Stay focused on your subject. Become a walking encyclopedia on that particular grappling topic, but a functional one! There is no use in just being able to gabble off technical details of the pendulum sweep if you can’t sweep anyone with it. Remember: burping the alphabet doesn’t count as talking.

A final word of advice: When trying out new BJJ shizzle, people like Kid Peligro recommend that you start with white belts smaller than you and then progress to slightly larger white belts and so on. Good luck.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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