How can I get better at Jiu Jitsu? This is a common question for practitioners new and old alike and the most obvious answer is just to train more. Whilst training more will in general help you improve faster this often isn't possible for some people due to their work-life commitments. On top of that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a physically intense workout and if you are tired training too much can actually lead to the use of poor technique and in the long wrong can damage your game more than help it.
So what is the solution? Well this is a multi faceted problem and I will cover a few methods which will significantly speed up your learning process.
1) Train Jiu Jitsu with consistency:
Training Jiu Jitsu with consistency is not the same as training more, however usually people who train consistently will train more. In general it is better to do 2 or 3 classes per week rather than 4 to 5 one week and 1 or none the next. In the former method you will give your body more time to heal and your mind will stay fresh leading to better retention of information. In the long run you are also more likely to train more as people who lack consistency will usually find an excuse to extend their breaks and can become burnt out when they train 4 or 5 days in a row.
2) Focus on the smaller details not the overall picture:
A common reason people quit Jiu Jitsu is they feel overwhelmed by the amount of perceived information on offer. When you first begin it is important to focus on small details within positions because these often reappear in various other positions. A good coach will therefore focus more on the principles behind techniques rather than one specific technique. A good example is when I emphasize good posture whilst passing the guard, this principle applies to most styles of passing but is only one principle you need to remember. If you therefore train 2 times per week this is roughly 100 classes in a year, learning 100 principles which apply to thousands of positions and their variants is preferable to having a loose understanding of 100 positions with very little continuity between then.
A dreaded word for some and a challenge to be overcome for others. Competition in and of itself will actually teach you very little about your Jiu Jitsu, so why then should I bother I hear you ask. The main benefit of competition is actually found in the weeks leading up to the competition where you're focus is increased and you spend time fine tuning your strategy. The sense of urgency and focus an impending competition can have may double or triple your rate of learning, this will not appeal to everyone but it is a handy shortcut for those who are so inclined.
4) Take privates, attend seminars and watch YouTube
I would rank the above in the order they are written to help improve your Jiu Jitsu, privates are by far the quickest way to speed learning up due to the amount of detail it is possible to pass on in a short period of time, this is tailored information improving your game specifically (self plug, if you are interested in private training click here). Seminars can be in some cases be better then privates and in others a colossal waste of time. I have attended dozens of seminars and the assumption that a good competitor will make a good teacher can sometimes be woefully inaccurate. The best seminars to attend will often have some semblance of the game you like playing and in these cases you can often receive world class information tailored to a style you already use, I would recommend to anyone that you not bother with a seminar until you have trained to a point where you comfortably understand each position or many of the details may be lost on you. YouTube is the final piece of the puzzle, it contains a wealth of information on Jiu Jitsu and can be extremely educational at no cost to you. To use YouTube effectively it should supplement what you learn in class, if you have just learned an armbar finding various videos focusing on this may show you extra details or reinforce those that you have just learned.
5) Take notes on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu
Note taking may seem like something only students should be doing but it can massively improve your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Note taking may involve you writing down just one or two points you learned in class which can act as a reminder before the next class. You can also make notes on any positions you struggle with, this can then be used in conjunction with private training or YouTube to help with sticking points in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can take a long time to for you feel competent and even longer to feel like you have a real understanding. I have spent thousands of hours learning and studying Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and still feel like I have so much more to learn. These are just a few methods to speed up the learning process but remember if all else fails just turn up, train and have fun.