Frustration and Plateaus – A Theory (Short)

I receive a lot of comments regarding frustration from students. Usually it is always about the same thing, the feeling that they are not improving, or even, going backwards. It is the same across the BJJ spectrum, and something I came across regularly in my own progression till I started to muse what it actually meant.

Now, it seems almost bizarre that someone who trains regularly and consistently feels like this, that no matter the effort, that it is possible to “stall”. What helped me is to stop seeing plateaus as a “stop”, but instead as a “transition”.

As a newbie to Jiu-Jitsu, you’re completely uninitiated in to how to use your body. You’ve just been born, you don’t know how to walk or what these fingers or toes do. So everything that you’re shown is absolutely mind blowing. Guard, Mount, Chokes, Locks, these are all incredible things and we get stuck into seeing the big picture. When you’re new, Guard is just closing your legs around someone, seems pretty simple.

You eventually make a game out of these techniques, a system, and due to the progressive and sporting nature of BJJ, you spar and start to see improvement against people, both against those who trash you, and newer folk who you start to smash to bits. But then it feels like it’s halting, that you’re no longer gaining any ground. The plateau.

“The Devil is in the Details”

There has never been a truer thing said than the above about Jiu-Jitsu. The plateau isn’t you stalling, it’s instead you transitioning to a higher plain of understanding. There is probably less than a hundred core techniques in Jiu-Jitsu, which isn’t a lot and pretty quick to learn. What is deeply enthralling is the continually descending level of details to these techniques.

First come the different entries. Then the different grips. Set ups. Unbalances. Posture destruction. Eventually you’re looking at physics and anatomy. What was just a “triangle” in the beginning, is now a huge mesh of all the above. But you can only start to understand the above once you have mastered the level above it. Explaining the deep anatomical parts of attacking the triangle to someone who doesn’t know how to coordinate their legs is practically pointless.


What separates each belt is the attention they all have to the individual details. You may, as a White Belt, be attempting a sweep but getting no where, then get air time from the Brown Belt doing the same technique, making it look effortless. There’s no sorcery going on here. This person has learnt the same core technique as you. But their attention to each of the details and understanding is much much deeper. As you can see though, it’s not that there is a different technique, just a different way of looking at it.

When you feel a plateau in your ability, don’t try and hunt down the next big guard or insane submission, instead evaluate what you already know. Ask different people about what their understanding of a technique is and see if there’s something you’re missing. Then sit there and ponder about life and the universe for a bit.

What I would say is embrace the plateaus. They aren’t what you think they are. They are you painfully breaking through a barrier of understanding, getting better, seeing things in a whole new light.

First you learn to stand, then to walk, then run, jump and dance. To a baby lying on the floor, there is no difference between those last 4.


Win On Top. Stay On Top.

Position / Submission

The above term is one of the most quoted in all of Jiu-Jitsu. It is a term almost synonymous with BJJ, and something I came across very early into my fighting career. Unfortunately, it took me years to actually understand what it truly meant. Along with “Relax”, these are terms carted out by instructors everywhere, to students who mostly ignore the importance of the advice. But it is the core of pretty much all grappling arts.

To quote Chris Haueter, “Judo is the art of fighting the upper body in cloth, Greco Roman is the art of fighting the upper body without cloth. Wrestling is the art of staying on top, no matter what, and Jiu-Jitsu is everything else.” Out of everything, Jiu-Jitsu is the most free form of grappling, but this doesn’t mean that the other ones should be disregarded. They all have something in common, don’t end up on your back. What Jiu-Jitsu does is bring in the idea that being on your back isn’t a death sentence, and incorporates the incredibly handy “Guard”.

Now Guard is fascinating. It takes someone who is in a bad situation (on their back), increases their number of weapons, and evens out the fight against the mechanical advantage of the person on top. Due to how fascinating and complex Guard is, it is easy to get sucked in to learning all the different versions, sweeps, submissions, and everything in between. And it should be this way. It should be played with relentlessly. But every now and then, it should be turned into what it is truly meant to be used for, winning, and the most effective way to win is to be on top.

Every other grappling art has figured it out, don’t end up on your back, with Jiu-Jitsu being no different, and this includes if you get a “sure fire submission”. In an interview with Ryan Hall he talked about how he no longer uses flashy stuff to win fights, but instead tries to emulate the strategy of Roger Gracie, a man who just passes, gets mount, and chokes. Seems like a really simple strategy to use.

It is really tempting to sometimes give up a position for a “sure fire” submission. You have their arm locked up in mount, and you move to go for an arm bar that ends up with you lying on your back, but now you’ve lost the mechanical advantage, and should that submission fail, they’re now back on top and you’re fighting from the bottom again.

It is safer to go for the submission that doesn’t require you to give up position. Which comes back to the quote at the top. It is easier to abandon a submission to retain a position, but if you bail on a position, you have nothing. Which is what Roger Gracie is pretty much doing every fight where he wins from mount. He is ensuring that he has the greatest mechanical advantage, then sets to work on a submission, and should it fail, well he still has the positional advantage and he can get back to work.

Can you win off your back? Absolutely. Triangles are fantastic. So are guillotines and all the other fun shit. BUT SHOULD IT FAIL, the advantage is in the other persons favour and not in yours.

Everything we do in Jiu-Jitsu boils down to implementing this strategy should we need it. Sweeping, passing, getting mount, and destroying. Watching any of the old Gracie Challenge videos you can see this strategy in action.

This strategy also includes the temptation of taking the back of someone. Again, if you’re back is on the floor, the other person has the mechanical advantage, even if you’re on their back. Because should they turn, you’re back in guard, and on the bottom again. It is a lot safer to get a Rear Mount instead of straight forward back control, because the mechanical advantage is still in your favour. They are still carrying your weight.

Does this mean you should give up training all the flashy stuff and stick to Jiu-Jitsu 101? Not at all, what makes this sport so fun is the many many ways of moving a human body and subsequently breaking it. It’s why there is the argument that Sport BJJ couldn’t be used in a street fight. It can, if the switch is flipped. Takedown, pass guard, get mount, kill.

Catch wrestling is the closest to core strategy Jiu-Jitsu. Takedown and don’t end up on your back, get a hold of the other person however you can, stay on top, and break ’em. All grappling is the same when you come down to it.



Or you could just leg lock them.

Free Stafford Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes – From NOW till JUNE!

Back in January we ran an offer for free Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes for all new members to our club.

Gentle Art (41 of 81)It. Was. Awesome.

So awesome in fact, we want to do it again.

Anyone who signs up via this page, is entitled to train BJJ at our Stafford Active Arts and Stone Fighting Fit gyms all the way till June, for Free.

No strings. No memberships. No contracts.

And there never will be.

We just like people training with us. If you do decide to stick around, class prices average about £5 per session, or you can block buy a month if you feel like training hard.


Sessions are:
Stone Fighting Fit –
Monday 18:00-19:30
Wednesday 18:15-19:30

Stafford Active Arts –
Thursday 18:00-19:30 (Women’s Only)
Friday 18:30-19:30 & 19:30-21:00

If you’re interested, fill out the form below and we’ll contact you within 24 hours to confirm. If you don’t hear from us, it’s probably because our email server can be a bit waff, so drop a text to 07538 347683. And if you eventually decide it isn’t for you, we’ll delete any evidence of you ever existing, like a crazy ex.


So You’ve Decided to Ruin Your Body: An FAQ into what we do

So you’ve made the decision to ruin your body. Congratulations on choosing BJJ to accomplish this task. To help you on your way to misery, we have compiled a list of frequently asked questions and issues to make sure that your anatomical destruction is not only efficient, but also does not result in you being labelled ,” a douche.”

1. Firstly, what do I need to know to make sure I’m not considered a douche?

    The mat rules are as follows:
  • Come to class with clean equipment and self (see question 5 for more info).
  • Make sure all nails are trimmed down (see question 5 as to why).
  • Do not walk outdoor footwear onto the mats, and make sure you wear footwear when walking away from the mats, especially into the toilets.
  • Apply all submissions SLOWLY and allow your partner adequate time to tap. If their pride is fucking with them that day, do not continue to break the limb, we need all the training partners we can get. Just move to a different position/submission and keep the flow going.
  • All twisting leg locks/toe holds/heel hooks and bicep/calf slicers to only be used by Blue Belts and above, unless expressly requested to be avoided.
  • Do not train ill.
  • If you NEED to train whilst injured, ensure you tell your partner first, and as a partner, do not target any injury intentional and try and work around their handicap.
  • Do not grab any less than 3 fingers and do not grab the toes.
  • No biting, spitting, eye gouging, fish hooking, groin grabbing, inserting appendages into orifices, hair pulling, or other dick moves.
  • Tap on your partner, not on the floor.
  • Do not get emotional/overly aggressive. It’s a game, relax.
  • Match your partner for intensity and be courteous with who you are rolling with. No one likes fighting an unnecessarily violent dick.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and environment. Always stop the roll if nearing another pair/the wall/mirrors/the ring/other obstacles. Do not get so focused on the roll that you ignore any of those things.


2. I don’t think I’m that fit, should I even start this?

BJJ is unlike any other physical activity you’ll come across in your life. No amount of running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting etc will prepare you for this. If you want to get fit for Jiu-Jitsu, unfortunately you need to do Jiu-Jitsu. Of course being strong etc does have its advantages, but we’ve crushed enough gym rats over the years to know it won’t save you in the beginning.


3. I have this (insert ailment here) to begin with, is that going to be an issue?

I’m not a doctor or physician so I am not able to give a correct diagnosis to begin with. Best bet is to ask your doctor before you start training. In regards to the actual sessions, the more physically taxing parts are entirely optional, so if you want to just drill and learn the art, you are more than welcome to. If you do want to light spar, that’s fine too. We aren’t training to be the next big thing in the UFC, we just want to have a little fun of an evening, so we are all extremely supportive of one another.


4. Will I get hurt?

Yes. Duh. This is a form of fighting. But you are a grown adult. You are under no pressure what so ever to come to these classes where injury is highly likely. We do our best to limit unnecessary injury such as a prior brief before every roll to look out for various obstacles in the room, who the new people are and who should be looked after. But at the end of the day, it is fighting and includes an awful lot of sparring. Knocks happen unfortunately. If they were that big of a deal however, the class would be empty. Obviously, it isn’t. It’s full of broken weirdos.


5. What other detrimental things could I get outside of an injury?

BJJ involves lots of close contact, and rolling around on the floor. Due to this, infections are a possibility. Likely candidates are Ringworm (a form of fungal infection) and Staph (a bacterial infection). Avoid training if you have either of these. The mats are cleaned regularly, and if everyone arrives clean, wearing clean gear, has short nails to limit scratches etc, and showers straight after training, infections will be a lot less likely to occur.


6. What’s the difference between Gi and No Gi?

The Gi is the pyjama like uniform some of us wear whilst training. It changes the structure of the game entirely because you are able to use the clothing as a weapon of sorts. You can either use your opponent’s Gi against them, or use your own Gi to assist you in your fight.

No Gi meanwhile is done in a rash guard and shorts/spats and does not allow clothing to be used as an advantage. We do not encourage one over the other and you are welcome to train in either or both.

You are more than welcome to find your own clothing (Gi or No Gi wear) online, or I can get you some at wholesale prices from a couple of reputable brands.


7. What about these belts I see people wearing? How do I go about getting those?

If you would like to progress through the rankings, you have to be training both Gi and No Gi, and competing. Promotions are free. You start as a White Belt. The following belts are Blue, Purple, Brown and Black. It takes approximately a decade to reach Black Belt.


8. I’ve found XYZ gym as well that teaches XYZ martial art, can I cross train there as well as doing BJJ?

You can train wherever the hell you like, we are all adults and we can choose to do what we wish. Heck, we can even help you find places to train. The only thing that does apply is that if you want to represent Fighting Fit in other gyms or in competition, that your rank and affiliation is agreed to by me first. If you have been promoted by another instructor in BJJ, then unless you have asked me about moving your rank to Fighting Fit and say will only be promoted by me, then you unfortunately cannot represent Fighting Fit. Still welcome to train, just your team affiliation is not with us.


9. Competitions? What do they involve?

With BJJ being a sport, there are competitions you are welcome to enter. They are not mandatory and you are not forced to enter, but they do add an extra dimension to this game. On average the prices are £20-£40, they are held around the UK/Europe/World, and you compete in divisions of experience and weight categories, in either Gi or No Gi.
Fun fact: I had 3 sessions before my first competition. I had actually signed up before I’d had a single session. Obviously I had all manner of shit kicked out of me, but it hasn’t done me any harm…


10. I keep getting my ass kicked, what can I do to change this?

I like to refer to a circle of life, or a food chain as you will. When you start, you’re at the bottom of the food chain, and you’re gonna get the shit kicked out of you. Bad times. This is important though because this is how you learn your defence, mostly through the conscious recognition that “I do not like this, how can I prevent it from happening.” A few months down the line, someone new will start at the bottom of the food chain and they will have no idea what is happening. On these people you practice your offences, learning how to control and submit your prey. Eventually your defences become good enough that the people who used to mess you around, can’t anymore, and you can actually fight back with offences you picked up from beating the weaker and less skilled. This is how we progress. Everyone started at the bottom, you’re just the new card at the bottom of the deck. Again, bad times. But don’t be disheartened, some idiot will join soon enough and you won’t be the whipping boy/girl any more (not you though, you weren’t an idiot).


11. How is this different to the average Martial Art?

If you have already attended a class, you have probably been able to tell that the structure is quite relaxed. I’m not called Sensei, there isn’t any bowing, all the techniques are in English and the rank structure has no real bearing inside the gym walls. It is a more adult approach to an area of physical activity that is stereotypically reserved for children and the socially awkward. We know what we are doing is pretty much combat cuddling in spandex or pyjama, there’s no need to add to the stigma by pretending we are from feudal Japan and murder our way through speaking their language. At the end of the day, you’ll be shown some cool shit that you can either incorporate into your game or ignore entirely, then you get to go beat someone up. That’s pretty rad if you ask me.


Any other questions, ask away. I’m mostly sure I won’t laugh at you.


FREE Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Classes – All January

We love BJJ. We think it may be the best thing in the world. Ever. We are so sure of how awesome it is, for the month of January, any newcomers to our classes can train completely free.

Nothing. No Charge. Zip._facebook_1451609595696

There’s no catch what so ever. We don’t want you to sign up to anything. Give us your details. We don’t even expect you to learn our names.

Heck I’ll even be up front with you now on the class prices come February. They average about £5 per session.

BJJ to us is pretty damn spectacular. So awesome in fact that we can barely even contain our excitement on this page. The only thing we can do to get it across to you is let you come and try it for free.

_facebook_1451609671489It’ll take a couple hours out of your evening. That works out about 8% of your day if you include some travel time. For something that won’t cost you a penny.

I can yadda yadda yadda about getting fit and learning to defend yourself and what not, but every Martial Arts club says that.

You’ll get both of those things just through the training. You won’t need to do hundreds of jumping jacks or push ups, and we won’t sound like paranoid lunatics saying “You’ll get attacked by huge groups of drunks in bars!” (honestly that stuff makes us laugh. It’s 2016 England, not 1980s Robocop).

There’s no bowing. You don’t need to learn a new language. You can wear what you like to classes (full body spandex included). There’s no membership charge and no charge for gradings.

Anyway, this is what we got up to in 2015, and hopefully we get to meet you soon 🙂

Contact us to find out more here. Or just come down to any class. I won’t recognise you, so I just won’t charge you.

Stone Fighting Fit Gym:
Monday 18:00 – 19:30
Wednesday 18:15 – 19:30

Stafford Active Arts Gym:
Thursday 18:00 – 19:30 (Women’s Only)
Friday 18:00 – 19:30 & 19:30 – 21:00