Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) is one of the most challenging martial art forms to master. It has become incredibly popular in recent years, due in large part to its central role in mixed martial arts fighting.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a great way to improve physical fitness and mental focus regardless of whether you want to enter competitions or not. There is so much to learn in BJJ that many practitioners keep a journal.
What is a BJJ journal, and how can it help you improve? Keeping a journal of your practice will help you remember more and make progress. It will also give you a record to reflect on and a place to set new goals that keep you motivated. Many Jiu Jitsu students keep journals. Each of their journals is different and personal. It’s important to find a journaling process that feels right to you.
It can take a decade or more to progress to the level of black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. That is ten years of learning and refining techniques, improving your ability to execute them, and becoming proficient at using them in competition.
Over that time, you internalize much of what you learn, but keeping a record of your progress and making a habit of taking notes and making observations will help a great deal.
What is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Journal?
There is no one right way to keep a BJJ journal. At the same time, there are certain things that you should be sure to include and certain approaches to keeping your journal that will be more beneficial than others.
Your goal should be to incorporate as many of the benefits as possible into a method and a routine that fits into your lifestyle. You’ll get the most out of it and be more likely to stick with it.
We recommend that everybody who keeps a BJJ journal makes sure that their method gives them an opportunity to record important information, build on previous entries as they gain new insights, and set goals that they want to work toward.
If your Jiu Jitsu journal serves each of these three basic functions, you’re definitely on the right track.
We also recommend that a BJJ journal be organized in a way that makes it easy to find and review information on different elements of your whole practice.
Some students find that they like to limit their journaling to information about what takes place on the mat. Others prefer to take a more expansive view of which aspects of their daily life are relevant enough to warrant coverage in their journal.
There is a good reason why we recommend that students keep a hand-written journal. We’ll go into the science behind this in more detail later.
It’s true that many students like to keep spreadsheets that make it easier to organize and use information about their practice. It’s also common for students to blog about their progress. All of this is great when it is in addition to, rather than instead of a written journal.
Someplace to Record Important Information
It doesn’t matter if you use a spiral-bound notebook, a three-ring binder, or a fancy leather-bound journal. The only thing that matters when you’re considering what to use as your BJJ journal is that it will give you a place to jot down notes where they will be safe until you come back to them for a review.
The specific habits that you develop with your Jiu Jitsu journal might influence your choice of journals as you figure out what works best for you over time.
For example, some students like to take their journals to training sessions with them. If so, you might want to choose something that is tough enough to stand up to rough duty or cheap enough that you won’t be bothered when it gets haggard.
Of course, if you know or suspect that your handwritten journal is going to get beat up over time, it’s probably a good idea to make copies, type up notes, or find some other way to create a back-up.
Otherwise, all of your information might be lost a spilled water bottle.
Something That You Can Build on Over Time
One way to approach your BJJ journal is to make a daily entry—either every calendar day or every day that you attend training depending on your preference. This approach works fine for some students.
Others find that they like to make additional notes on earlier entries whenever they return to them for a review.
One of the great things about making an electronic back-up copy is that you can always add to older entries whenever you arrive at fresh insights.
Using a three-ring binder works well too because it allows you to reorganize your materials into different categories as the way that you use your journal as part of your practice changes over time.
Of course, blogging your BJJ journal is a great way to tap into the knowledge that more experienced practitioners have. And just as their comments will help you learn more, your site will offer a resource to those who come behind you on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu journey.
If you’d like to write an article for Let’s Roll BJJ, visit our contact page and send us a message.
A Place to Set Goals
The simple act of writing down goals is a powerful way of committing yourself to the planning and work that it will take to get you there.
Using the space in your BJJ to set goals for your practice and monitor your progress is a great way to make sure that you’re always looking toward and reaffirming your commitment to the next steps of your journey—and the steps that come after that.
It can be easy to forget about goals if they are just written down on a page and then buried under the entries that come along afterward. It’s important to find a way to use your journal that serves to constantly remind you of the goals that you’re working on and what you want to work on next.
What Should You Write About in Your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Journal?
Just as every student must decide what type of journal is best suited to their needs and preferences, each of us must decide what to include in our BJJ journal entries (and how to organize the information).
In general, we recommend that students use their handwritten journals to get things out on paper without too much thought about formatting.
Taking the stream of consciousness approach to journaling can be a great way to get an accurate record of where you were at on a particular day.
That information is invaluable to you as you go through the peaks, valleys, and plateaus of a long march toward a black belt. But it can also make it hard to make the information in the journal useful for specific projects.
One of the reasons that we like to use a three-binder is that it allows us to reorganize materials into the different categories that we try to keep notes on.
We would suggest giving each of these areas a try to see how they work with your journaling practice:
This will be one of the most important categories of information in your BJJ journal.
As you are learning new techniques, making notes after practice will help you retain what you’ve learned.
As you make progress on each technique, add to the information that you’ve entered to give yourself a handy reference on all of the finer points for that technique.
We like to keep track of the goals that we have for drilling each time we go onto the mat.
When you set out your goals and plans prior to practice, it helps you to visualize an effective practice. If you review or critique your drilling after the practice, you get the full picture.
As you progress in your own practice to the point where you start leading drills, these will be a great resource.
Some students like to record as much information about practice days as possible.
This might include what time you woke up, how you slept, things you ate, or music that you listened to.
Recording information like that about each day that you train is a great way to leave yourself a record of what habits contribute to great training days and which ones tend to drag your practice down.
Just as information about training days can be helpful, keeping track of what you do on the days between training can help you get a clear picture of what routines and habits help to accelerate your learning and elevate your practice.
We like to keep track of our off-day yoga sessions and whether we get any other exercise on the days when we aren’t on the mat.
Even if you only attend as a spectator, it is a good idea to journal about the experience.
It’s even more crucial if you are competing in a tournament. The atmosphere at each tournament is different, but they’re all a world away from the practice mat.
Keeping track of your experience will help you find ways to get into the right frame of mind before you compete.
If you’re lucky enough to get to spend the day listening to practitioners with enough experience and success in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to make it onto the stage at a seminar, you should definitely take notes and make a record of what they have to say.
Trying to remember everything that gets said throughout the day is impossible. Losing any of that knowledge is a waste.
We like to add a daily reminder of the goals we are working toward when we make our daily entries.
At the same time, it’s nice to have a special section where you can see all of the goals that you’ve already achieved together in one place.
When we accomplish goals, we move them onto a timeline that we keep in a special section of our journals.
Diet & Exercise
This is especially important if you’re trying to get into fighting shape by cutting a few pounds, but it can be equally important if you’re trying to track down the reason for a fluctuate in your energy levels or some other issue that might be related to the quality of your nutrition program or fatigue from other activities.
How Can A BJJ Journal Help You Improve?
We think that one of the best things about keeping a BJJ journal is that it makes sure you think about your practice in-between times that you’re on the mat.
We reserve a little window of time each night before we go to bed to make a daily entry. This is in addition to any entries that we might make right after training, during seminars or competitions, or at random times during the day when we have important thoughts we want to record.
That’s another great thing about keeping our journals in three-ring binders. Since we organize our journals by categories, we can jot down notes on any random piece of scratch paper and then copy it into the journal or slide the original into the appropriate spot.
We feel that journaling has been the most important thing that we’ve done off of the mat to make progress toward a black belt. It’s the one thing that ties everything else together.
When we’re journaling, we’re thinking back or thinking ahead or focusing in on a present moment with more detail than we otherwise would.
When we look through our entries, we get a big-picture view of how everything is working together to help us move forward.
Why is a handwritten journal the best?
There are lots of studies that suggest that handwritten notes lead to better retention of information than typing or making audio recordings.
There are other studies that look at the concept of “dis-fluency” or the idea that you absorb information better when you make it more difficult to absorb.
This suggests that hand-written notes are the best for retention because they’re less convenient than typing them.
Why do you need to have a record of your progress?
If you’ve spent any time in the world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at all, you’ve probably heard someone talk about reaching a plateau in their training.
Long periods of leveled-off results are just a fact of life in your pursuit of a black belt.
Having a written record of how far you come, including other times that you’ve been plateaued, can help you avoid frustration and stay motivated to push through to the next breakthrough.
Why should I consider blogging about my journal?
There’s nothing better way to get good information than by putting your questions out there where folks who know the answers can see and respond to them.
At the same time, there’s no more rewarding feeling than the one you’ll get when you get a note of thanks from a student who found the information that you shared helpful to them.
How often should I review my journal?
That depends a lot on where you’re at in your practice and what you need from your journal to help you move forward from where you’re at.
As white belts, we spent more time with our noses buried in our journals than we did on the mat. We were so enthusiastic that we used the journals as a way to be thinking about Jiu Jitsu whenever we had free time to do so.
Now that we’ve progressed in our study, we tend to go back into the earlier entries for specific reasons.
If we’re working on improving a specific technique, we might go back to our earliest notes on that technique and review the entire journey to the present.
If we’re trying out a new diet or a new exercise regimen, we might go back every few weeks and see how the way we feel compares to other times before or during that project.
Why should I write down goals for my practice?
There’s something that seems so official about the commitment that you make when you write down a goal. It’s almost the same as telling everyone you know that you want to accomplish “X” by a certain date.
If you do the work and still fall short, it’s not too bad to admit that you didn’t get there. If you know you “should have” or “could have” made it to your goal if you had worked harder, it will sting every time you see it in your journal.
There isn’t one right way to keep a BJJ Journal. You could take that and arrive at the conclusion that there must not be a wrong way to do it either.
Maybe not, but there are better ways and worse ways to do it. Find a way that works for you but gets you as many of the benefits of journaling as possible.
Stick to it just like you stick to your practice. That’s the best way to make sure that you get to where you want to be.