For the past decade, I have been journaling after my training sessions in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. At times, the notes are brief. At other times, they are more elaborate. Early on in my training, they even involved stick-men pinning one another in different ways in an effort to make sense of the overwhelming number of different positions and techniques that I was fighting to absorb every week.
The use of a BJJ journal was a recommendation from one of my first coaches, and one that has traveled with me to several different academies, seminars, and tournaments over the years. Currently, we hand them out to members free of charge at our academy (Eastside Jiu-Jitsu Club) in Orleans, Ontario.
How to use a BJJ Journal:
To organize what you’ve learned:
How to journal comes down to personal preference, but should be done in a way that’s easy for the writer to get down and access again later if need be. My personal preference is to jot down a few bullet points on what we learned and how it might connect to other attacks and counters.
To track successes and failures on the mat/competition:
Jiu-Jitsu is full of peaks and valleys - physically, technically, and psychologically. Some days everything seems to flow and others you find yourself sore, tired, and clunky in your movement. Some days the work feels easy and pleasant, and others it’s a grind to push through to the end of the session.
Personally, I like to track all of these things. Day to day, I will jot down what has been working, what hasn’t been working, and take note of the days that went smooth as well as the ones that sucked. From here, I’ll draw up probable patterns in terms of strategies, techniques, and external factors (in and out of the gym) that might be contributing to the successes and mistakes on the mat. Mindlock mental training has really gotten me into this habit, and I’ve found it very helpful to journal leading up to competition, as well as after I’ve competed to correct mistakes the following week.
To set training goals:
One idea I try my best to pass on to students at our gym is that training should be intentional. This involves setting specific training goals for each session and attempting to apply these techniques/concepts in sparring. This means prioritizing learning and the application of new techniques/concepts over winning. As a result, they’re able to build their technical repertoire, have had time to explore many games/strategies, and have already made the mistakes/corrections in the gym by the time they step out on the competition mat.
I personally like to keep a daily or weekly focus, but also set quarterly (medium-term) and yearly (longer-term) goals.
Why use a BJJ Journal?
(A bit of research)
Professor Steve Graham and his colleagues at Arizona State University’s Teachers College analyzed 56 studies looking at the benefits of writing in science, social studies, and math and found that writing “reliably enhanced learning” across all grade levels. While teachers commonly ask students to write about a topic in order to assess how well they understand the material, the process of writing also improves a student’s ability to recall information, make connections between different concepts, and synthesize information in new ways. In effect, writing isn’t just a tool to assess learning, it also promotes it.
“Writing about content material facilitates learning by consolidating information in long-term memory,” explain Graham and his colleagues, describing a process known as the retrieval effect. As previous research has shown, information is quickly forgotten if it’s not reinforced, and writing helps to strengthen a student’s memories of the material they’re learning.