Jiu-Jitsu New Year’s Resolutions

6 min read
How can we stick to our New Years Jiu-Jitsu resolutions when 91% of us stop just after a couple months… Answers below!

Jiu-Jitsu New Year’s Resolutions

How can we stick to our New Years Jiu-Jitsu resolutions when 91% of us stop just after a couple months… Answers below!

Location: Texas

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Photo by: Tim Mossholder 

Something about the new year makes us feel like it’s time for a fresh start. We see that 1/1 on the calendar, and the New Year’s resolutions start rolling out of us like our whole life is one big open mat. And we work hard, really hard, at those resolutions for, like, a month, maybe two. Then, those goals just slowly fade away into oblivion… like a blue belt.

The reasons that 91% of people don’t stick with their New Year’s goals are few and fairly simple. And, yes, those reasons are similar to why I think so many folks leave jiu-jitsu not long after tying on their first color belt: unreal expectations, unrecognized limitations, and progress without consideration. We will look at these downfalls and how to avoid them so that our New Year’s resolutions will become end-of-year accomplishments. We’ll go through them from a jiu-jitsu perspective because, well, this is a jiu-jitsu magazine, and, after you start BJJ, you basically compare everything to jiu-jitsu anyway.

What Holds Us Back….

Unreal Expectations

Any black belt will tell you that jiu-jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint. But hearing that and understanding it are vastly different. We live in a “right now” world. Waiting has become a vexation rather than a natural and necessary part of life. So, when the grind of jiu-jitsu hits, when we don’t get that technique right away, when the stripes don’t happen, and we get submitted before we know what’s happened, we feel entirely inadequate. When, in truth, we are an absolutely normal jiujiteiro with altogether abnormal expectations.

Expect to love jiu-jitsu. Expect to hate it. Expect to be at every belt for a couple years. Expect to work very hard for very small gains. Expect for every insecurity you did and didn’t know you had to be laid bare on the mat. Expect soreness, injury, and for your fingers and ears to get weird. Expect to have some great days. Expect to have some days when you drive home in wounded silence. Expect to see others promoted before you and expect for that to sting a bit. Expect for your family and friends to not understand why you do it. Expect some days when you don’t even know why you do it. Above all, expect that quite unexpectedly, you will one day see that no matter how much you gave the mat, it gave back far more to you.

Unrecognized Limitations

In his book Limitless, Jim Kwik writes that if you fight for your limitations, you get to keep them. Without even recognizing it, we limit ourselves all the time with negative thoughts. I’m a slow learner. I’m just not a natural. I’m not as good as everyone else because I can’t train as much as everyone else because of my job/kids/responsibilities. And then we argue for those limitations by saying, “I’m not being negative. I’m just being real.”

The truth is that those thoughts are not real. They are simply electrical impulses in your brain that you are using to protect your ego. If you have an excuse for why you aren’t performing to your expectations, then your “poor performance” isn’t your fault, right?

Consider this: Maybe your “poor performance” isn’t poor. Maybe the “mistakes” you are making are good because they teach you something no drill or technique can. And, perhaps you aren’t doing as well as you want because you are comparing yourself rather than just being yourself. Unless you are a professional and make a living in the art, training isn’t about being the best. It’s about being your best, and just a little better than you were yesterday. Your rank isn’t a reflection of your worth. It’s where you are, not who you are. But I can guarantee, if you embrace where you are, it’s a whole lot easier to be who you want to become.

Progress Without Consideration

A bad day on the mat will convince you that you aren’t getting anywhere. You aren’t progressing. Remember that progress isn’t just a thing; it’s also an action that, by definition, requires forward movement. Forward movement isn’t measured in a static place. It’s measured from a static place. Progress has to be considered as a whole, not as a moment.

Learning jiu-jitsu is not a linear, upward trajectory. It’s more like an ascending mountain range with ups and downs. You will have a great week, then a few that aren’t, then one that makes you wonder where you are and what cult did you join that required such weird clothes! If you stop there, in that awful moment, you will miss the breakthrough moment where you permanently improve. You will also miss the fact that your low-performance today was your best performance six months ago.

What Can Move Us Forward

Success with New Year’s resolutions is a lot like jiu-jitsu. It’s all about the technique. Here are a few tried and true methods that will help you achieve your resolutions.

  1. Define your goals.
    Getting better at jiu-jitsu is a great goal, but it’s not well defined. Know specifically what you want to do in jiu-jitsu, and be sure you are in control of the outcome. You are not in control of getting stripes or going up in rank. You are not in control of winning a gold medal. You are in control of how hard you work, what you focus on, and your inner monologue.
  2. Start small to achieve big.
    Create small, attainable goals that move you forward. If you want to improve your spider guard, aim to hit the setup just once in class. Don’t worry about whether your spider guard is successful. Just hit the setup one time. After you get good at getting the setup once, aim for twice, then three times. When you find it easier to hit, attempt a sweep. You don’t have to accomplish it. Just attempt it. Then go for a triangle or a spider/lasso combo. Add a bit more each time. When you create small attainable goals, you set yourself up for success immediately and, ultimately, overall.
  3. Chart your progress.
    Keep up with your progress in a way that is visible to you. When you accomplish any part of your goal, put a checkmark on a calendar, keep note of it in a journal, or, and I know this sounds crazy, put a sticker on a piece of paper that hangs on your wall. I was a high school teacher for years, and, let me tell ya, a sticker goes a long way. Why do you think collegiate and pro football players have stickers on their helmets? It’s a visual reminder that they are accomplishing goals and progressing
  4. Give yourself grace.
    Give yourself permission to be human. Messing up isn’t a reason to give up. Allow yourself to start again, again and again. If you go off course for a month or two or six even, you will only stay off course if you choose to not get back on track.
  5. Know why you are resolute.
    A resolution is something you work toward with determination and purpose. Know why you are determined. Know the purpose. Above all, know that working toward a goal is, in and of itself, a worthy endeavor. Even if come December 31st you haven’t accomplished your goal, you accomplished something simply by giving the effort. Corny as it sounds, it’s true.

May the year 2022 find you achieving your goals. And, if those goals are related to jiu-jitsu, please make one of them to simply enjoy the art. We don’t have to do jiu-jitsu. We get to do jiu-jitsu. And how blessed are we that we have the opportunity and means to make goals that center around a recreational activity? How blessed are we to have the health of body, mind, and spirit to keep at it? The fact that we even have the option to make a resolution for the coming year makes 2022 wonderful before it even begins.




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