Progress and Plateau’s

Since my last update I have gone on to lose two stone (or 28lbs, 14kg) in total and haven’t smoked a cigarette (bar one blip when drunk) since I stopped in January, earlier this year. I have had drinks but as I am on target with my weight I am happy to have a drink every so often.

I have now been training at Gracie Barra in Birmingham for over a month now. Much of my time has been spent going over techniques, movements and drills I have been accustomed to previously in training so it has been good to get refresher courses. 

We are moving on to half-guard in the Fundamentals class with Coach Roy, after the last four weeks has focused on side control and full guard, which is going to be good for me. I have been attempting to work half-guard, in my rolling, one way or another since February and before that it was one of my weak areas I was trying to address before I paused my training. 

Gracie Barra Black Belt Orlando Sanchez in Deep Half Guard

It is a frustrating time for me in training at the moment. I have reached the dreaded plateau. 

When you first start Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you can come to a class and everything you learn can be new: shrimps, bridges, armbar, the guard, triangles, etc. It’s why in the early days of training it can be so interesting because there is just so much to learn and rolling with people with more experience who shut down your every move and still have inspiration for their own moves. The experience can be very humbling. It’s one reason why people stay with BJJ because they find out they don’t know everything and working out how people did this to them becomes very important.

However, when you get 18 months or so into your training (like I am, at around 20 months), you feel you roughly know the major positions and you’ve got a couple of key sweeps and submissions in every position you may find yourself in a plateau.

A Plateau is a period in your training where your skills, and understanding of the technique, are improving but you can’t see the effects on the mat. This will depend on the range of levels at your club. You may only be sparring with tough white belts or blue belts and so everything you can attempt is nullified and you don’t see the application of your studying (or worse, you continue to try for positions and don’t even get an opportunity to train your intended move set).

My last plateau was over guard passing in February 2008 and what helped me, on reflection, was to go to a competition. At the event I did really well and felt happier about myself. My guard passing worked, and it worked against a bigger stronger guy from a really reputable club, and this rubbed off in my training as when I went on to the mats afterwards my guard passing was slick and I was doing well both against my peer group and  the blue belts above.

This plateau has been much much harder for me. Physically and mentally. My time training, whilst I was in better shape, gives me the knowledge or the capacity to understand what to do to get out of worse positions and get on top or to attack from a guard position. My body, due to its lack of conditioning and sluggish reflexes, isn’t attuned to the level of jiu-jitsu that my mind wants to play at. So I find openings to 50/50’s I am not able to capitalise on and because someone is younger/fitter they are getting the better of the situation. This is hard enough in itself.

Add to the fact now I’m sparring in my thirties against 20 somethings who have cardio for days it is all the more important that I have that experience to be able to prevent or stop their attacks (at least if my body did what it wanted to). It limits the game I want to play because if I don’t want to be roughed up I almost always need to play a guard passing, top dominant game, side control/mount looking for submissions which isn’t pleasant when you have someone at 22st on top of you and at the white belt level there isn’t any grace or finesse. I know that when I work with higher belts it is more often than not a more methodical, technical roll that doesn’t smash my body to pieces.

So because I am trying to work on a game that is so simple to be passed from I am finding that sometimes it’s just pointless even trying to lock up the half guard because it will just get passed.  

At some stage it will get better but until that point it seems my training is going to be hard and frustrating. When will my half guard improves I don’t know but I hope it’s soon. My personal fitness is something I can, and have taken control of, but unless I am losing 4lbs a week I will not be reaching my goal weight of 14 st until Christmas.

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