Year 13: Foundations, Focus, and the Future

Today marks the first day of my thirteenth year in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

I’ve kept pretty immaculate training records at least since 2009. I’ve got records going back to 2006, but they aren’t as complete. Maybe combined with the blog I could build a fairly accurate training record going all the way back to day one. Something for retirement, maybe.

The quantitative nature of the record is great for perspective. Sometimes you feel like you are training at your very best and can’t put your finger on why. Then you look at your training log and realize you’ve been averaging four classes a week with more than two hours a week of Live Training alone. Other times, you feel like nothing is working, your timing is off, your cardio is weaker than it should be given your off mat conditioning program or improved diet or whatever. Then you check your training log and figure out that your four-week training average is under 2.0. No wonder you’re struggling. You aren’t training enough to feel like you are making progress.

Progress-making. White belt edition.

It’s also good for understanding the impact of life changes on your jiu-jitsu career. I look at my peak training years from 2009 to 2013 and it is clear that working from home and not traveling 4-6 times a year was great for my jiu-jitsu development. During those four years, I averaged 3.3 training days a week – something I can’t even imagine now.

The four years since have been rougher. My average is down to just below 2.0, even with a pretty strong finish in the third quarter (my training year runs from August to July since I began training in August). But I do have a new, more realistic training goal to shoot for now. I realize that a lot of my frustrations on the mat are tied to not having significant amount of my game “top of mind.” I have to “remember” things, which is a poor use of time when you’re in the middle of training.

So the first goal for my thirteenth year in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is simply to make sure I show up, on average, at least, eight times a month. The move to Kent hasn’t made it easy to slip in a quick nooner here or there. But I don’t see myself taking seven business trips out of state in a year again any time soon, either. I’ve got other tools to help take care of technical issues (see BUG report). And as for the 80%, so to speak, I’ve just got to keep an eye on the numbers and everything should take as much care of itself as it can.

The second goal is to return to basics. Sometime during the last two years I’ve become a little disassociated with the jiu-jitsu that got me here. And over the past several weeks, as my training frequency has increased (four-week training average is up to 2.75). I’ve had the opportunity to see – and begin to repair – some of the gaps in my game, especially w/re2 the guard. Most recently, I’ve gone intergalactic planetary¬†for a little specific study and have not been disappointed. I’ve got drilling to do, to be sure. But I feel increasingly at a good place from which to make some major improvements to my main squeeze.

Third is strength and conditioning. I’ve experimented a lot this year and decided to spend half the year focusing on strength training and the other half of the year on conditioning. Every expert I’ve consulted suggests that you really can’t significantly develop both at the same time. So from October through March, the focus will be on getting stronger. From April through September, the focus will be on getting leaner and more agile. I’ll be using variations on the Russian Strength-Skill routines in both instances, in all likelihood. More on that to come.
Lastly, w/re2 lifestyle, I’m thrilled to be walking around at a natural IBJJF featherweight level (149 lbs). This was a major goal at the beginning of the year and I’m very happy to have reached it by now. I’m a little undecided about pushing it lower. I’m trying to let a clean diet and regular training take me where it does and right now, that may be lower – potentially as much as 5% lower – than where I am now. There’s no competitive advantage. IBJJF light feather is 136, which is what I weighed in high school, and given the muscle mass I’ve accumulated in the 30+ years since, I don’t see myself in the 130s in any way. But I could see an instance where I am around 140-142.5 or so at my most lean in late August/September, before beginning a strength phase that would add 8-10 pounds of muscle over the next six months.

That’s the view from here. It’s been a helluva ride these twelve years on the mat, and I’m looking forward to at least twelve more. Funny … I’ve got Fight to Win Pro 44 on the iPad to my side and I’m remembering back when I started training how much of a rare treat it was to see ADCC every other year at Budo Videos. We’ve come a long way as a jiu-jitsu community, and it’s something all of us should be grateful for and proud of.

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