Advice for A Frustrated, Clumsy & Uncoordinated Grappler

Stephan teaching rectangle

——————-  A Question ——————-

Hi Stephan

I’ve recently started learning BJJ with some friends at their garage.  I am by far the slowest student.  We’re following a DVD series with very clear & thorough breakdowns of techniques.

I know that in BJJ, you drill, drill and drill some more, but it feels like everyday is my first day in class.  We have classes at least twice a week, and each class, a technique I had memorized a few days before I can’t pull off. Or a technique we just watched for that matter.

Have you taught any students like this?  Do you have any advice for me?  It’s very frustrating.  Also worth noting, I’m pretty clumsy and uncoordinated.  Thank you for your time.



——————-  My Comments ——————-

Hi G.

First of all, congratulations on training at all.  I’m a huge supporter of garage training as well as learning from non-traditional sources like DVDs and the internet.

Of course it’s frustrating to compete with natural athletes (damn them all) but I’ve also seen some incredible transformations over the years.  People who originally had two left feet can and do break through to the next level, often reaching a very high level of skill.

Someone with a high level of athleticism has a head start on you for sure, but often these people don’t have the discipline to actually continue training for very long.  They get bored or distracted by the next shiny object and stop training.

It’s like the fable about the tortoise and the hare – stay the course and often you (the tortoise) will end up overtaking all those pesky natural athletes (the hares).

It’s also possible that the way you’re training and absorbing information might not be optimal for you.  Check out this article on learning styles in grappling and see if it gives you any insight into the best way for you to process and absorb information.

Here are two more suggestions…

First: try to train MORE often.  Three times a week would definitely be better than two.  You’re trying to wire your body and your brain to do a new activity, and the more hours you spend on a mat the better.  (Malcom Gladwell – the author of “Outliers” – contends that it takes 10,000 hours of mindful practice to master a new activity.  So take heart; this stuff takes a long time but it’ll be worth it in the end.)

The second piece of advice is to slowly add conditioning to your weekly training regime.  If you’re clumsy and uncoordinated then I’m guessing that you also avoid activities like weightlifting, running, soccer, XC skiing, etc.

Here’s a few insights on conditioning to get you started…

Getting more physical will have several benefits.  Your endurance will improve and that will allow you to better retain your mental game while sparring.  It will also improve your general athleticism which will help you close the gap with those pesky natural athletes!

Good luck with your training!

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