Help! I’m getting worse at Jiu Jitsu

After getting through the initial stage of acclimating to what Brazillian Jiu Jitsu is, getting more comfortable “rolling with a bunch of sweaty dudes” and getting submitted, and then picking up some basic skills and submissions, a lot of us start to feel like we are hitting a wall. We feel like our learning has plateaued and perhaps our level even appears to be dropping, despite a retained or even increased class attendance and amount of effort put in. 

If this sounds familiar, fear not, here’s a little motivational/explanatory video, just for you.

Chris Matakas, a BJJ black belt under Ricardo Almeida and head of Matakas BJJ Academy, takes a few minutes to discuss this very problem many Jiujiteiros approach him with. 

“Skill acquisition is a weird thing” says Matakas. He breaks down the process of skill acquisition into four general stages: being unconsciously bad, consciously bad, consciously good and unconsciously good. Thus, this perception of diminishing ability can be said to lie between stage one and stage two. Beginning to see the shortcomings in our game, especially aspects of it we took particular pride in can at first appear equivalent to a skill decline. As Matakas says, “all the mistakes you’ve made, you are now aware of”. 

This does not stop at white belt, however. According to Matakas, this process is entirely cyclical, and so don’t feel particularly down if this is a re-occurring phenomenon for you. If anything it is a good indicator that you are on a solid path towards mastery of the craft. This is why a lot of back belts will humbly say they still feel like they have a long ways to go, due to their awareness of that same cyclical (or rather, according to Matakas, spiral) nature of learning Jiu Jitsu. 

“So, you are not getting worse, keep training hard, keep having fun, and embrace the process” ~ Chris Matakas.