An Honest Approach to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Jesse Saxon is a writer from Pittsburgh, PA. He's been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for three years under Sensei Sonny Achille at Steel City Martial Arts, also in Pittsburgh. Jesse writes various fiction and ran the White Belt Survival Strategy BJJ blog. His goal is to give his readers, in any genre, exactly what they came for. Be it horror fiction or BJJ advice on his blog, Jesse is a go-to for all readers - and loves when the two cross over.

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One of my favorite sayings is: "Honesty is your friend here." It sort of holds hands with the idea of "honesty is the best policy," but I find the application a little more useful. Of course you're an honest person and you're not someone out to lie, cheat, and deceive; but are you honest with yourself about your Jiu Jitsu? If you've never considered it before, it can be a weird thought. Your gut reaction might be something like, 'yeah, I have - I suck!' or maybe something more like, 'not really.' But when it comes to improving your technique, your self, and your Jiu Jitsu, honesty is your friend here - let me tell you why.

Just starting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is truly a personal victory. It takes a lot to walk through those doors into an unknown situation and essentially volunteer yourself to get beat up in hopes that you'll learn to like it and MAYBE learn to do it yourself. Our motivations for starting are our own - and a whole other blog in and of itself - but, let's be honest, just starting is a huge personal victory that should be celebrated. Keeping this honesty will help you in more ways than one, though. 

Let's be honest, you suck. Let's keep being honest - I suck, too. Ask anyone how good they are at jiu jitsu and they will always (okay, normally) say that they're a lot worse than they are. Being humble that way is a part of BJJ. But being honest with yourself about how bad you suck, where you suck, and why you suck will open the doors to improvement. If you're absolutely awful at being on the bottom in Side Control and CANNOT get out to - maybe literally - save your life, be honest about that with yourself so you know where to work and where you need to improve. If you deny that type of honesty to yourself, then you're always going to have a false sense of confidence that will be exposed on the mat. 

Here's an honest secret of mine: I was nervous for every class, well past my one year anniversary of BJJ. I'd have butterflies in my stomach during the drive and I would be telling myself how silly it was since I was going to monkey around with my friends. Want more honest? Sometimes I have trouble remembering all the moves, techniques, and intricate details so I have to come home and immediately write them down in a notebook out of fear of forgetting them forever. Still more? Nine out of ten times you can beat me with a Paper Cutter choke. Honesty is my friend here, and I need to be honest with myself about my shortcomings in order to improve myself and all that comes with me. But, Kaeli isn't safe here. Kaeli, honey, I love ya, but you had a problem with your ego - and keeping honesty as your friend in that situation and recognizing that is helping you improve (say I'm wrong and I'll put you in a Bow and Arrow choke so fast). 

Let's not get too crazy here and throw yourself under the bus destined to Negativetown. Admitting your problems doesn't mean your problems make you bad at Jiu Jitsu, or anything beyond accepting you have areas to improve upon. Being negative is not the idea here. What I want to communicate to you is that you need to recognize the flaws and the victories and acknowledge them both accordingly. Being honest with yourself about your Jiu Jitsu will help you celebrate the victories and cast light on the areas where you need to improve. It's helped me laugh every time I get caught in a Paper Cutter, smile when I walk out of the gym after having a great night on the mat, give me the determination to 'never let THAT happen to me again' after a bad night, and a lot of other things that I'm certain you will all relate to and tell me about down the line in our Jiu Jitsu journey together. 

Just remember to have fun out there, relax, learn, get better, make friends, go to class when you don't want to go, push yourself, make some self-discoveries, tap when you should. Push when you can, and be honest with yourself.


What has your experience been with keeping yourself honest in jiu jitsu? 

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