Thursday, April 23, 2009

How do you measure progress in jits?

Leslie is grappling (sorry) with this question, as am I. (See her blog post here.)

My sense is most guys measure progress by looking at who they tap to and who taps them. It's easy, I think, to evaluate readiness to be promoted by looking at abilities to dominate others of your own belt level and ability to compete with the next rank up.

If you're female and not privileged to be training somewhere with lots of other chicks, you probably don't use these metrics. Or do you? I don't, usually, because then I'd be depressed. Even whitebelts with 3 months of training can at least stalemate me if they're male. I used to use Leila as one of my metrics, but it's tough because she's improving faster than I am, so I'm pretty much perpetually frustrated rolling with her. I can only hope I'm occasionally stymieing her too.

Sometimes I measure success by single positions. Am I getting armbarred in guard, passing scissor, remembering sweeps? Sometimes I measure it by length of time (emotional time!) before I tap. What do I mean by emotional time? I'm obviously not really counting the seconds before a tap, nor am I trying to hold out without tapping to a well-set sub. I just mean I can get a good feel for others' difficulty level-- is this someone I will be happy to defend against and call it a victory if they can't sub me till the end of a 6 min round? will I be happy if I get through half? a minute?

Sometimes it's my comfort level with bigger picture perspectives-- am I chaining attacks? flowing? how's my hip movement? Sometimes I measure my progress by the kinds of moves my opponent pulls-- are they taking it really easy on me? less easy? whoa, did they just grunt? Sometimes if they grunt, sweat, or breathe hard, that's a sign I'm doing well. But ultimately I prefer quantifiable measures, things that are numeric or objective vs. subjective and "warm fuzzy." And unfortunately that means sometimes I am left with the "how many taps" metric.

I don't mean to crow about tapping people.  It's just my insecurity talking.  It's not "ooh, I'm so good.."   It's "Ooh, normally I'm so bad, and here I was a little less bad."


slideyfoot said...

The only objective, sure-fire way of measuring your progress in BJJ is to compete: that means you're testing yourself against people of a similar weight (and hopefully skill level, but then we all know how much that can vary in a single belt range, especially blue) who are trying their absolute best to prevent you applying your technique.

By contrast, class has way too many variables to be a reliable test (they're much bigger than you so are trying not to use strength, they're way better than you so are taking it easy, they've just come back from an injury so are being extra-careful, they're trying out something specific so don't care about getting passed/submitted/swept, they're recovering from a massive hangover, etc), and its detrimental to try and use class as such anyway. Learning not 'winning', after all.

Of course, that poses some problems for me, as I'm not all that keen on competition. So personally, I try to measure my progress in terms of technical understanding. Not always an easy thing to isolate for analysis after sparring, but you can normally at least work out "yeah, I did that part right, but this part I'm still not quite getting: will work on that next class."

XOXrachyXOX said...

Ahh i understand this compleatly,, I usually tend to roll with the only other girl at out club or some of the younger lighter guys but as I've been training longer than them sometimes its hard to tell if your progressing much when theres no one that proposes a real challenge, then when you have the occasional roll with some of the heavier guys they can sometimes just use brute strength in the form of a sloppy arm bar or face squash lol
I like the way you describe progress as something only you can quantify sometimes you can just feel when your getting better and more fluid but its frustrating as this may not necissarily translate to tapping people out.
I like competitions as when you are put with an equal opponent moves you've drilled over and over with guys twice the size can sometimes seem to work that bit easier.
I think progress in bjj happens in bounds one day you'll be frustrated with everything and the next it all just clicks resulting in one of those magical moments when you manage to tap one of the heavier or better guys and in that brief victory you know youve gotten that bit better