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The Myth of the Plateau

Plateaus in Jiu-Jitsu are often considered as inevitable phases in a practitioner's journey. However, what if we challenge this notion and suggest that plateaus are more a creation of self-doubt than an inherent limitation in skill development?

Personally, I don't think they exist if you're spending enough time on the mats. On a rare occasion, I'll have a student who trains once a week. For the students who are only training once a week, I can definitely see how a plateau can exist. Most students are actually training three or more per week, so unless you're sitting there completely not paying attention, there's no way you're experiencing an actual plateau.

Measureing ourselves against others is really difficult to do accurately. It's like two ships moving at the same or similar rates of speed. If I'm only focusing on the fact that I'm behind the ship infront of me, I'll completely neglect and even ignore the distance both ships have covered. I'm not focused on the progress I've made, I'm focused on what I haven't done.

In this exploration, we'll delve into the psychology behind plateaus in Jiu-Jitsu and how understanding and overcoming self-doubt can propel practitioners to new heights.

The Illusion of Plateaus:

Continuous Learning Curve:

Plateaus may seem like a sudden halt in progress, but in reality, Jiu-Jitsu is a continuous learning curve. The belief in plateaus can lead practitioners to underestimate their progress and potential, fostering a negative mindset.

Embracing the Journey:

Instead of viewing plateaus as dead ends, consider them as necessary resting points on the journey. Self-doubt often arises when practitioners lose sight of the broader development process and focus too narrowly on short-term setbacks.

Self-Doubt: The Culprit Behind Plateaus:

Inner Critic:

Self-doubt acts as an inner critic, magnifying perceived shortcomings and overshadowing achievements. This negative self-talk can create an illusion of a plateau, hindering the practitioner's ability to see their own progress.

Fear of Failure:

The fear of failing to meet expectations, whether personal or external, can lead to self-doubt. This fear can make practitioners hesitant to experiment with new techniques or styles, restricting their growth potential.

Overcoming Self-Doubt:

Mindfulness and Reflection:

Practitioners can combat self-doubt by cultivating mindfulness and reflecting on their journey. Acknowledging achievements, no matter how small, helps shift focus from perceived plateaus to the overall progress made.

Setting Realistic Goals:

Break down long-term goals into manageable, short-term objectives. Setting achievable milestones provides a tangible sense of progress, reducing the impact of self-doubt and fostering a positive mindset.

Embracing Challenges:

Rather than avoiding challenges, embrace them as opportunities for growth. Stepping out of the comfort zone is essential for development, and viewing challenges positively can diminish the influence of self-doubt.

Shifting the Narrative:

Community Support:

Establishing a supportive community within the Jiu-Jitsu environment can be a powerful antidote to self-doubt. Sharing experiences and receiving encouragement from peers and instructors can reshape the narrative around plateaus.

Long-Term Perspective:

Plateaus often result from a myopic focus on immediate gains. Adopting a long-term perspective allows practitioners to appreciate the cyclical nature of progress and understand that growth involves peaks and valleys.


In the world of Jiu-Jitsu, plateaus are not insurmountable barriers but rather illusions fueled by self-doubt. By recognizing the psychological aspects at play, practitioners can shift their mindset, embrace the journey, and propel themselves to new heights. Remember, Jiu-Jitsu is not just a physical practice; it's a mental game where conquering self-doubt is the key to unlocking true potential.

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