After any BJJ training session it’s pretty common to hear people talking about having had a good or bad day of training.
In any difficult long term pursuit – such as learning music or a martial art – you will experience an ebb and flow to the perceived quality of your training. Annoyingly, the most effective training strategies are also the most frustrating as they force you to continually butt up against the limit of your abilities and face failure over and over. And while I often have to gently let beginning athletes know that they are simply not yet good enough to be disappointed by their performance, the better you get the more aware you become of the gulf between the ideal execution and your performance. All of this adds up over time to athletes facing a training existence in which there is more perceived failure (uncomfortable growth) than perceived success (comfortable attainment).
This makes it extremely important that athletes do not attach a moral component to quality of their training. It is vital for continued long term development that you realise that there are no “good” or “bad” training days – there are just training days.
When you think of training days as good or bad it creates two distinct problems. First, it makes it difficult to reflect on training sessions and instead encourages you to label a training session as “good” or “bad” and simply leave it at that. Reflecting on training sessions is a key part of skill acquisition as it helps you determine which elements of your performance worked well and which need extra attention. Second, as effective training is essentially an uncomfortable experience it is easy to chalk up more days as being “bad” and become disillusioned.
It’s an easy trap to fall into – just last week I was having a Jiu Jitsu training session where I was almost completely failing to perform on any level. I was forgetting to grip fight properly, barely remembered to pummel my legs to defend guard passes and managed my breathing so badly I ended up with a spasming diaphragm. Afterwards I was angry and disappointed with myself – I thought I had not only wasted my own time but my training partners’ time as well.
I had had a “bad” training session.
However, when I was able to catch that thought and free myself from it the session was transformed from a “bad” one to an informative one. I realised I had to take my age more into account when training (turns out that warming up, cooling down completely and then jumping straight into hard rolling is no longer easy for me) and I had a genuine insight into a grip fighting strategy. Also, my training partners didn’t care in the slightest that I was performing poorly and were more concerned with my health than anything else.
The way you perceive your training will change over time but if you can discipline yourself to look at each session from an educational stand point your development will be better for it. One of the best ways to do this is to practice reframing any “bad” session with the Why How Then method.
Ask yourself why you feel the way you do about the training session
Try determine how this was happening.
Then think about what you can do about it.
When going through this exercise it’s important to keep things technical and not to make any judgments about yourself or your skills.
For example –
Why am I feeling angry about my last training session?
CORRECT – My guard kept getting passed.
INCORRECT – Cause I suck.
How was my guard getting passed?
CORRECT – My opponents were able to easily grab my pants and Toreando pass.
INCORRECT – Cause my guard sucks.
Then what can I do to stop my pants getting grabbed?
CORRECT – I can control my opponent’s sleeves earlier in the match. Failing that I could establish a far cross collar grip to better control distance.
INCORRECT – Nothing. My guard sucks, my jiu jitsu sucks and I suck. (Begin eating ice cream straight from the tub while weeping).
Achieving a high skill of development is a long term process of repeated knowledge acquisition, application and review. Labelling particular training sessions as “good” or “bad” adds nothing to this process and can actively detract from it. Treat every session as a step forward towards your goal and it is more likely to be the case.