As any BJJ white belt will tell you, that first step on the mat is the biggest learning curve you'll face, it can (and will) completely change your life. Speaking from my own experience I've stuck to the following game plan: listen, learn, grow, adapt, survive. My first few months on the mats I felt like cannon fodder, however that's what gave me the hunger and drive to keep stepping foot on the mats "Okay, he got me that time, but next time. NEXT time will be different". It wasn't. Nor the time after that, nor the time after that nor th- you see where im going with this... However one day I noticed the little things I kept falling into, be it bad habits, not controlling my breathing, or just putting my arm in that same spot I always get armbarred from, don't seem to happen as often as they used to. That to me is progression!
After each class I had this overwhelming feeling of pride and guilt, I felt like i'd left the class a little better than when i'd entered, however I felt as if my performance on the mats was being held back by my own vices (pizza and snack foods). Traditionally I never had BAD eating habits per-say, however when I snacked I snacked hard, I started eating a lot cleaner, cut sugar, smaller meals and often, I noticed any fat i had was disappearing and being replaced with muscle (with the help of strength and conditioning classes plus my morning cardio and a dash of weight training). Before I knew it my cardio was through the roof and my body was fatiguing at a lot slower rate. Another win for me! (I still have a pizza night once a week)
The next step for me was my flexibility, I noticed some of the higher belts had a movement about them I can only describe as water like. Every movement had a purpose, and it flowed beautifully. I looked at these guys in awe and wanted to know the tricks. But of course just like any sport there are no quick fixes, and i knew this, however what i'd never considered was yoga. I mean sure, i'd done a couple of yoga classes before, i loved the idea of it and it did make me feel incredible at the end, however what i'd never considered was a tailor made programme specifically for jiu jitsu.
I'm still learning, but always trying my hardest.
A friend and a very skilled purple belt, Darren Palmer, introduced me to a website called Yoga For BJJ (https://yogaforbjj.net/). I spoke to Darren about wanting to improve and where I thought my downfalls were, he told me to check it out and so I did. 1 week in I noticed an improvement in my entire BJJ game, i could flow better, my breathing was solid, positions that previously were killer are becoming easier by the day and as an added bonus my overall stress levels were down plus it started my day beautifully. He articulated that the biggest translation from yoga to BJJ was the breath. In yoga you voluntarily put yourself in these poses and forms and try your darnedest to breathe normally and rhythmically. In BJJ, the same thing happens but the forms and positions are often not voluntary. If someone cradles you in side control, or stacks you, the first thing that goes is your ability to breathe and stay calm. Yoga is liberating in the sense that it gives that back- and believe me, you'll notice it!
Cut to a few months on and my progression in both yoga and jiu jitsu is clear, I feel it myself in my rolling and can't help but put it down to my commitment to both mat time and yoga. Working reception at The Arena MMA means I speak with everyone that walks through the door, and unfortunately for all our awesome members they've all had the misfortune hearing me ramble on about "yoga this, yoga that", so here I am getting it out of my system! I'm not saying its for everyone, however the rewards you reap for 30 minutes to an hour out of your day is astounding. This has been an extremely exciting and eye opening start to a long and tough jiu jitsu career, I'm confident that the steps I take now will forever benefit me as I grow.
On that note I feel I've chewed your ear off for long enough (so to speak). The moral of the story is I found something that I'm not very good at and turning it into a benefit, I urge everyone to at least give it a test run, the best word for my journey so far... Fun.
Until next time folks!