Am I Getting Better?

Am I getting better? I use to ask myself this question a lot, and still do today even after 10 years in this incredible martial art – I’m constantly reflecting, adjusting and playing with different ways in how I can be a better Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.


But what is better? Like most people, my indicator of progress in the past use to be 100% based on the frequency of submissions – how often I was catching people with them, and how little people caught me with them.


This is not wrong. In fact, it’s natural because as a martial art, Jiu-Jitsu is a self-defense mindset that leverages energy efficient grappling techniques with effective submissions as a way to survive, and prevail against bigger, stronger more aggressive bad guys that want to hurt you.


But the outer form of what we can do with our bodies is not the only definition of our progress. I discovered and learned there are many other ways to define progress in Jiu-Jitsu, such as:

  • Knowing the name of a technique and being able to narrate the steps within the movements out loud
  • Being aware of and in control of my breathing and thinking patterns while I’m training so I can remain calm
  • Understanding the philosophies of Jiu-Jitsu and applying them to my life; such as setting healthy relationship boundaries with the people in my life
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet of wholesome foods that nourishes my mind and body
  • Subscribing to information content that helps stimulate my mind and intellect in a positive manner
  • Living a healthy lifestyle that’ll help sustain my ability to practice Jiu-Jitsu for as long as I live


At other times, getting better in Jiu-Jitsu could also mean having the self-awareness and responsibility to pull back on a technique, or not even do it at all because you’ve developed the capacity not just in perfecting a move, but to also ask questions such as:

  • Will this move keep me safe from punches?
  • Is this move going to keep both myself and my training partner safe?
  • Is this move energy efficient and something that I can do even on a bigger and stronger training partner while keeping myself safe?


I’ve learned that getting better and developing progress in Jiu-Jitsu is a process of refinement, and refinement takes time. Remember when you first started Jiu-Jitsu? For many people at the beginning, just connecting to their body is huge, let alone being able to sense any sort of subtle action in more than one body part at the same time.


When my perspective shifted from focusing on the future and treating my current experiences as a means to an end goal (ie. catching a submission). To instead the end is here and now, and the experiences I am having now is all there is. This made me more aware of the subtle aspects of Jiu-Jitsu, and going from gross awareness to the subtle is a form of progressive growth.


By developing a set of goals and rewards for myself, that focused on enjoying the events of each moment, it helped me learn to find reward in the ongoing stream of experiencing Jiu-Jitsu. And by achieving control over my experiences, I was able to change my definition about what is important and what is not.


There are so many ways to define progress in Jiu-Jitsu. How do you define it for yourself? Let me know because maybe your definition can help me become better at Jiu-Jitsu 😉

Blog Contributor: Ray Lee