Jiu-jitsu: Year One

| August 17, 2017 | 0 Comments

Today is my one year anniversary of taking Jiu-jitsu. I started BJJ because I knew I had some physical, technical, and psychological deficiencies to address after taking my first Shivworks ECQC in 2015.

I knew I had too many things to tackle in a year, so I prioritized. In 2016 I improved my overall physical conditioning and worked on my verbal agility. After I took ECQC a second time I knew I was ready to work on my Jiu-jitsu.

So I did.

I was enrolled in the Gracie Combatives program. I signed up for a year to keep me honest. For the majority of this 12 month period I went three times a week, every week, barring travel and holidays (when the academy was closed). I had some other blips in attendance due to classes like ECQC that left me with wounds unsuitable for a grappling class. I was definitely the most consistent student during the day classes.

When I started my new job in June I had to switch to night classes. They were only held two times a week, but I qualified for the “Masters Cycle” classes and doubled up, which meant I was doing four hours of BJJ a week instead of three.


I am far more comfortable on the ground than I was a year ago. I credit this mostly to the slow-and-steady approach of the Gracie Combatives program. They work on technique in their basics class, with extremely¬†low pressure.¬†The espoused reason is that most BJJ students drop out after six months when jumping right into the world of “rolling.”

I appreciated having the structure of class on a regular basis. There’s so much stuff going on with everyday life that having a commitment was important.

My two instructors were nice and genuinely believed in the material they were teaching. They were supportive, and tried to answer my overall questions about defense, even if their answers betrayed they didn’t have much exposure to my specific concerns.


My experience with the Gracie Academy was very rigid and rote. The instructors never deviated from the lesson plan. While this might generate a more standardized experience across all Gracie Academy students, it was not suitable for my multi-disciplinary needs. Furthermore, the two instructors did not seem interested in learning anything outside of what was within the Gracie program. This is in stark contrast to the other BJJ instructors I respect, who are always learning and improving.

While I appreciated the soft entry into BJJ, the Gracie Combatives program did not offer the level of resistance necessary for students to truly determine if the technique worked, or what they needed to do to make it work, etc.

I expected to “win” more engagements in ECQC and similar courses. I got worked in ECQC, and I got worked in VCAST (or at least had to rely on things other than BJJ to survive). It’s hard to commit a year’s worth of time and still get run over, but I have to be realistic about the training I received, my capabilities, and the capabilities of others. It’s hard not to take it personally. I am better than I was last year.

Other observations

There is no easy road to self reliance. Shooting, knife work, verbal skills, standup grappling, ground fighting, striking, trauma care, vehicle work … all of these things take a lot of commitment and discipline. I have other shit I want to get good at, too, including being a good husband, a good step parent, and writing content like this for you to read.

I don’t think Jiu-jitsu is something you can “do” for a limited time and call it good. Moreso than any other aspect of self reliance, BJJ is very “deep” and seems to be a more perishable skill.

When someone offhandedly replies, “you should take BJJ,” it really means, “you should start a second lifelong relationship where you endure temporary hardships constantly in order to construct a better psyche.”

I honestly don’t know if BJJ is for everyone. I don’t love it, but I am going to keep doing it because I feel like I need it. I need to improve my skills on the ground, but more importantly it’s becoming increasingly important to have routine physical activity as I age.

In short, I am not disappointed with BJJ as much as I am in my progress — I thought I’d be more capable. Which, I guess I am, but not to the level that I had hoped.

I’ll be switching academies soon. Perhaps the added pressure of a “traditional” rolling-based school will help accelerate my capabilities. The main reason I am switching is that I want to find someone like Jason Clarke of Iowa City BJJ closer to home. He’s someone that believes that self reliance trumps any myopic focus, and he’s doing a lot of great stuff at his academy in Iowa City. If you don’t already, follow the academy on Facebook. Jason makes some awesome posts.

See ya next year.

About the Author:

Short Barrel Shepherd Short Barrel Shepherd is a regular guy and works to make Web sites and mobile apps easier for people to use. He spends his free time attending fight-focused firearm, knife, and combatives training, motorcycling, writing, and playing games. His daily carry is a Glock 19 pistol and an AR15 .300 Blackout pistol in a backpack.

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