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A Decade: Lessons Learned

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

I recently hit a decade of training Jiu-Jitsu, this accomplishment made me look back at my journey and the many lessons I’ve learned both personally and through others. My hope is that this resonates with some of you.

Protect Yourself At All Times

This is first as it’s the most important. My first goal in everything I do is to protect myself at all times. I’ve seen too many students go against a spazzy student and decide to match that level of intensity, only to get hurt in the process. Longevity is everything, so understand when you’re risking injury and avoid it.

Size Matters

Jiu-Jitsu might be great for the undersized but at the end of the day, when all things are equal, size does matters.

Welcome Failure

Failure is bound to happen, it’s part of the process so welcome and learn from it. In fact while you’re at it, learn from other people’s failures too.

Ask Questions

Early on, while I was attentive during instruction, I didn’t ask enough questions. Doing so could have sped up my growth. Ask questions all the time and be a spouge. These days I find myself asking more and more.

Some Ego is okay.

Everyone has ego. Everyone. Even the most humble of students will carry themselves internally with the idea that they’re skillful and are prideful of their past accomplishments. The challenge is not allowing that ego to obstruct your ability to be honest with yourself or the way you view and treat others.

Jiu-Jitsu itself, will not do this for you. This is something you have to do.

Not Everyone Who’s Here Now Will Be Later.

Ten years and two Academies, I’ve seen people come and go. Value what people have meant for your journey and appreciate the time they shared with you. It’s invaluable.

Manage Expectations.

If you can only train a few times a week, understand that someone who trains far more, will more than likely make better progress. Accept it and run your own race. Second part of this is, don’t get suckered into training more out of the guilt an instructor may give you. That’s the quickest way to burn yourself out or grow resentful.

Managing Burnout

Burnout is real. Listen to what your mind and body are telling you. There is absolutely nothing wrong with skipping a training session or even taking a week off. This marathon you’re in is going to test you, and sometimes the best thing you can do is just step back, catch your breath, and jump back in.


Find the pace that best suites you, whether that’s smashing down on the gas or slowing things down to a glacier’s pace. Understanding which needs to be used and when, will open your game up in ways you may not have anticipated.

Find A Mentor

Depending on your school, you may not have the kind of one-on-one access to your head instructor that you feel you need. Find someone who can fill those shoes. This person doesn’t have to be a Black Belt, but they do have to be knowledgeable, kind, truthful, and have the ability to motivate you when needed.

Let Others Run Their Race.

Don’t judge others for the decisions they make for themselves. Whether that’s the amount of time they train, if they compete or not, and even if they decide to train elsewhere.

At the end of the day, we’re not in a gang, you can still be friends with people who have switched gyms.

Everyone runs their own race, let them.

Live According To Your Heart.

Guard your identity and your heart and move accordingly. If you don’t think something is right, voice your concerns in spite of what the repercussion might be. While this may cost you some friends, promotions, or favor in the gym, some things are worth it.

Help Others With No Expectations.

Don’t help someone because of what you may get in return, or with the expectation that they’ll do the same for you or even someone else. Give because it’s something that comes from the heart and let it go.

At some point, I’m sure someone did this for you. Your goal should now be to willingly and unselfishly pass that on to those around you.

Everyone is Flawed

This one is a big one. Everyone is flawed, so don’t idolize teammate or instructors. If you get to know most people long enough, you’ll find something you don’t like about them. We have this tendency to think that instructors are naturally great people, just because they are great at folding people in half.

In all honesty, some people are just garbage human beings who are good at Jiu-Jitsu.

Don’t Obsess

As much as I’ve loved Jiu-Jitsu, it’s not my only passion nor do I want it to be. In order for me to function, I need balance. So find time to read, rest, spend time with your significant other or your kids, whatever it might be. It’s okay to spend time doing something other than Jiu-Jitsu.

Quitting is Always an Option

We all say that we will never quit. Trust me, we have ALL quit at something and it will always be an option. Countless Jiu-Jitsu students quit at every belt rank. Things happen. But understand, that it does go both ways, sometimes quitting a bad gym or a bad training mythology is exactly what you need to do.

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