Every once in a while I like to reevaluate how my training is going and take a look at what I can do to improve. When I really hit a slump in my training late last year, I took some time to figure out what was bugging me, and more importantly, come up with a plan as to how I was going to make things better. Now that I’ve had some time to implement the changes I wanted to make, I have to say that things are a lot better.

1. Take notes during class – After receiving permission from my instructor permission about taking notes during class (he was totally supportive), I started to diligently take notes during each session. Maybe it’s the academic in me that was happy to finally find a place on the mat as well, but it really helped. I didn’t write too much – just the basic steps of each move with a bit of detail – enough for me to be able to reread my notes and do the technique if I wanted to practice it at a later date. I didn’t obsess over making it neat like I would normally do. I had to be realistic – sitting on the ground and scribbling with your notebook balanced on your knee wasn’t the right setting for good penmanship! The biggest benefits from doing this: a) my drilling in class was better; since I had just written down the moves, I was able to work through the steps more diligently; b) I didn’t feel overwhelmed by the details or the number of slices that were taught in each class because I knew that I had a reference I could use to go back and review whenever I needed; c) I felt engaged with my learning. Writing my notes helped me understand the sequence of steps … the techniques made more sense to me.

JitzChick GJJ notes

my jiu-jitsu notebook

2. Choosing a focus each week/month – This has also been great for me. I think it’s easy to get disheartened on the mats if you feel like you didn’t have a good rolling session. It’s especially tough when you don’t really know what you’re judging your session against. However, having a focus gave me something to work on and apply. If I got it, it was great. If I didn’t, then I knew I needed more practice. What’s also great about this is that it gives you something to measure your progress by. For months I would get swept left, right, and center! So, the first thing I focused on was maintaining good base. I’m so happy now when I am able to maintain my base and posture and not get swept. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something. I also sometimes choose a specific technique that I want to achieve during my sparring session. Whether it’s a specific submission or transitioning from one position to another … or just practicing something like safe hands – having a focus has been good for me.

JitzChick MC Posture

this week’s focus: posture

3. Watch training videos – I still haven’t really spent time watching training videos. I do sometimes review some the techniques before class (that’s the beauty of the Gracie University curriculum!!), but I haven’t explored other jiu-jitsu videos even though I know there are thousands out there. What I have started doing, however, was recording both the lesson and my drilling/sparring. That in itself has been a HUGE help. Seeing my movement helps me understand what I’m doing wrong (or am doing right so I can apply it to other moves!). Jiu-jitsu is a game of inches, so sometimes just seeing that my hip angle is slightly off or my grip is a bit too high makes a massive difference.

JitzChick GJJ bag packed

my Polaroid Cube+ is the latest permanent addition to my jiu-jitsu bag

4. Get more mat time – Coming to class with a plan of attack has helped me feel like I’m getting more out of my training. Every move that is learned requires hundreds (thousands!) of reps before it is smooth and can be applied without hesitation. So, choosing a specific set of moves to practice each class has made a big difference. Nothing is going to get better without practice — so I take the time to put in the effort and I’m pleased with the results. I’ve also been doing more drilling and training at home. That’s also made a big difference!

GJJ Home Guard Prevention Roll

drilling at home in our garage: practicing my back roll to prevent a guard pass

5. Change my attitude – Taking the time to come up with a plan and then implement it has made all the difference in my training. I’m enjoying it so much more. The extra diligence with studying, analyzing, and practicing means that I see improvements, even if they’re small, and that of course builds my confidence.


Since my plan has been working for me so far, I’m going to continue doing what I’ve been doing. I have one new element that I am going to try and incorporate in my training … but I’ll write more about that later on this week.