Submit Your Jiu Jitsu Plateau

You’re at a plateau in your jiu jitsu – another long period of time where no progression is seen.  You’re in that area of limbo where you’re just floating and everyone above you is getting better, everyone below you is inching closer and you’re just…there.

How do I know you’re at a plateau?  Call it a hunch.  Chances are good that you just got out of one or are getting near one.  They’re not pitfalls, they’re mud pits in the jiu jitsu road that you’re travelling on.  They’re points in your journey that you need a little push through until you hit the pavement again and yes, there are many of them.  Here are some tips and things to keep in mind to help you get out of the sludge and back to the love:


You’ve been training for years and now you’re just not getting any better…the lower belts are getting closer to catching you and passing your guard and the higher belts seem to be defeating you with less and less effort.  Sound familiar?

It’s because you’re not the only one training.  Don’t forget that you learn from everyone, but rolling with higher belts increases your progression – so what do you think is happening with everyone below you that has a lot more people above them?  They’re getting better at the same rate – sometimes faster if they haven’t hit a plateau, but it’s because they have more to learn so their weapons seem to multiply faster.

Don’t think of your training as linear, because it isn’t.  Instead, think of it as learning a new language…something with a lot of obstacles and different situations.  For example, if I begin taking classes in Portuguese I’ll come away my first week with 10-15 new words.  The second to third week I may be up to 30 words or so.  Compare that to someone who has taken years of Portuguese – they’ll rarely learn a new word a week.  I’m learning more words than they are.

What’s that have to do with jiu jitsu?  Think of language as the art as a whole and words as individual techniques.  Looking at it in terms of words learned, I’m getting ten a week and the veteran is getting maybe one…I’m smoking them.  Overall however, the veteran is working on different parts of the language…he’s already got most of the words he needs and is learning how to string them together, when to use them and how to get what he wants using the language.  Sure, they’re impressed and my progression since I know a few new words every week and maybe they’re surprised at how fast I’m learning, but they can still out-talk me (read: kick my ass). Once I learn my words, I still have to use the language, and they’re still light years ahead of me in that regard.


Nothing beats a plateau better than losing.  Now before you go out on the mat and just lay there like a warm fish, I want you to understand that you have to still put forth an effort.

Move around on the mat.  Escape, evade, go for submissions but don’t finish and always lose.  You’re working on your escapes, helping your partner, but you are also doing something better for yourself – you’re taking yourself out of the norm…and that’s what a plateau is – no progression…being the “norm”.

While every roll is different, the process is monotonous.  Go to your rolls for a week or two and just escape…go for submissions and let go.  Don’t let them win, make them earn it, but don’t finish anything.  This will give your partners confidence, put you in awkward situations and help you get in a different mindset.  Will it get you in the habit of losing? Of course not, it will break the monotony though.

Don’t believe me?   What do you do after hours of studying when nothing seems to stick in your brain?  You take a break – you do something else.  Think of breaking the norm as taking a break without missing the gym.


This seems basic and maybe it is, but you’d be surprised at how “clicks” can form in gyms when rolling is concerned.  You may not realize it, but when you roll without a forced assignment or structure, you can easily fall into the habit of rolling with the same people over and over.  I do it, people at my gym do it, and when I realize it’s happening, we have a good ol’ rotating roll-a-thon to get some new people in the mix.  Roll with everyone.


Plateaus exist because you feel you aren’t getting better or aren’t learning anything new…so change that.  There are some games you can play to yourself when rolling to change things up.  For instance:

-Make your own rule that you can only attack a certain arm or win by certain chokes for a session, week or month

-See how many times you can take the back…let them go and try to take it again…try to beat the number your next roll

-Try escapes using only your legs

-Make a deal with your opponent that if they untie and remove your belt while rolling, it’s a “win”.  This forces you to move your hips and keep active.  It also helps them to try to maintain control without the use of their hands…most wins is a session buys the beers the next party – or whatever your pleasure


Sometimes you just need a break.  You need to step back and get your head out of the game every once in a while – heal the body, heal the mind…just try not to take off for too long.  You want to get refreshed, not rusty.

Categories: EVERYTHING (in no particular order), Jiu Jitsu and Judo

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