Trying to wrap your mind around the different positions on the ground, all of the details of the basic techniques, and the seemingly innumerable different moves are all difficult things for new Brazilian jiu-jitsu students.
Even after that tough initial learning curve, their struggles are not all behind them. Some skills in jiu-jitsu remain challenging even after a year or more of regular BJJ classes.
What are the most difficult aspects of BJJ training to master?
How To Move Your Hips
My first BJJ instructor Marcus Soares, a jiu-jitsu coral belt, said that the single most difficult thing for students to learn in jiu-jitsu was how to move the hips on the ground.
There is a reason that nearly every jiu-jitsu class features one or more variations of shrimps or hip escapes. It is simply not an instinctive movement. We are accustomed to using our hands & arms for most of our physical tasks in daily life. We don’t practice much with the hips and legs.
We must deliberately train our bodies to move the hips for the specific skills in jiu-jitsu. This is probably the #1 thing your coach yells during rolling too.
Relaxing In Tough Situations
“Relax!” the more experienced students and coaches shout at you when you are rolling. Easy to say, not easy to do when your opponent is trying their best to choke or arm lock you.
That said, it is sound advice. One boxing coach said memorably, “How many sports can you play successfully when you are that stiff?” In order to move smoothly and avoid epic gas outs, you need to relax the muscles that don’t need to be tensed. You also need to breathe.
So how do you relax when in tough positions? The simple answer is that it comes with mat time.
Spending lots of time in the different positions on the ground will make them familiar so you are able to think more clearly with less stress and tensing. It comes with experience fighting out of bad positions.
One of the many reasons why stand-up grappling is so difficult to pick up is that most BJJ schools don’t spend much time devoted to training takedowns.
But it isn’t just that. Takedowns are arguably more difficult to learn than ground work.
My first judo instructor used to say that they had a rule of thumb in the dojo in Japan: 3 months on the ground, 3 years standing. The stand up took far more time to reach a reasonably competent level.
Why is that? For one, your opponent is free to move around on the feet to avoid your takedown. On the ground, you have gravity and friction working in your favor to slow your opponent. With the ability to move quickly on the feet, your opponent may evade your attacks much more easily.
In stand-up, the use of timing, set ups, and combinations are much more important to catch an experienced opponent.
What do you find to be the most difficult aspect of BJJ to learn?