If there’s something about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu that non-players know, it’s that BJJ involves submissions. Things like armbars, triangles, rear naked chokes etc.  So it’s easy to measure progress based on how many submissions you have performed when rolling (whether in class or a tournament.) 

But there’s a danger to that line of reasoning You just might not be that good (yet). For most people when they start out they’re the worst person in their class. Of course, there are exceptions, those people who are gifted or have experience in a different grappling art. When you’re a couch-potato learning jiu jitsu, you are absolutely the worst guy for a while. And if you focus only on submissions, you might get discouraged quickly.

However, coming home tonight I realized that I can’t measure my progress in jiu jitsu by submissions. Maybe you’re different, but that’s the great thing about BJJ, it’s very individualized. I ahve to measure my progress in baby steps.

Here’s an example from this week. Our gym spars on Tuesday and Thursday. When I went on Tuesday it seemed the predominant way of making me submit was by armbar. I think out of the 7 or 8 matches, one ended with nobody being submitted, one ended by triangle and the rest were by armbar. It got to the point my arm was sore just from it being attacked.

Wednesday morning I realized that I was making a mistake that exposed my arm. Basically in a scramble, if someone was moving towards side control, I turned my back on them. That left my top arm exposed and all they had to do was throw their legs over and the armbar was basically done. I reasoned that if instead of turning away from side control, I turned into the opponent they would not have an angle to attack my arm.

So for tonight’s sparring class I wanted to make sure if there was a scramble I didn’t turn my back to the opponent.  I had 7 matches tonight (I really had 9, but the two advanced belts let me work my attacks.) Of those 7 matches, I was armbared one ime.  It wasn’t that nobody went for them tonight. I think just about everyone tried to set up for one, but I did a good job of not giving them the position and keeping my arms in.

It might not be sexy, but it’s little things that show me progress.