As I progress up the ranks and my jiu jitsu slowly improves, I find myself in the more peaceful but less productive position of not being criticized, corrected, or given advice to nearly as often as when I was a white belt. I was reminded of this today when after rolling with a high-level black belt who I’m friends with (let’s call him Bob) he politely suggested that the way I was turtling up was leaving me open for back takes and crucifixes. This little suggestion means that there was a clear hole in my game, that I either have to close or be aware of and be ready to defend when needed. These are things that can take 2-3 years to figure out WITHOUT such advice. The power of a quick comment on a brain that’s ready to learn the lesson is incredible.
I was left wondering how I can get others to give such advice to me. This advice is not saying “I am wiser and superior to you in jiu jitsu”. The advice is just one diagnosis of a potential jiu jitsu malady that should be addressed. It’s a gift really. When I give the same types of advice to fellow purple belts, blue belts, or white belts, I often feel like an asshole. They may awkwardly nod back in appreciation, but it always feels as if they’re just being polite.
For many people taking privates is the clearest way to get this kind of advice. But does it have to be this way? Especially for people like me who train regularly and compete regularly?
Whenever a person gives me advice I try very hard to implement that advice in training right away and show it to them. I want them to know that every little word of criticism has a profound positive affect on my game, especially when it address a problem I was clearly having. I know that when I teach, it always feels good seeing others successfully implementing the things I taught. As a student, I feel it’s almost a duty of mine to learn well and make the lesson bloom into a well-defined success.
More and more, I’m realizing that what I’m searching for in jiu jitsu is not some secret detail but the rediscovery for the 100th time of the same old details I’ve been shown over and over since white belt.
So, all that said, if when you train with me an idea pops into your head based on a mistake or opening I left behind, please tell me. I will try my best to return the favor.