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The Importance of the Student Mindset

What does it mean to have a student mindset? Jiu-jitsu is no easy sport. It pushes people physically and mentally, whether they have ever done martial arts or other sports in their lifetime or not. However, it is very easy to forget to leave your ego at the door when it comes to jiu jitsu or any martial art, for that matter. It becomes easy to choose partners to train with that may be of lesser skill or smaller than you, which causes a person to never feel challenged in classes and may even lead them to feel that they no longer need to get better or learn new techniques. But, if you can learn to train with the mindset of a student, or a mindset of growth –  meaning you have the desire to learn through challenges and try new things (Carol Dweck) – then training improves in several aspects. Having a growth or “student” mindset means you come to class each time ready to learn something new, are mentally prepared to make a few mistakes, and have an ability to recognize what challenges you and helps you grow and get better, versus what will make you remain the same. 

Just because something is difficult, does not mean we should give up and quit. Becoming a black belt in jiu jitsu is not an overnight task, and it takes lots of time, repetitions, training, and patience to get good at it. Let’s say you are sparring with your partner and you keep getting your guard passed the entire round. Someone without a good student mindset is going to take those results and recognize them as complete failure, and they will tell themselves they will never be good at playing guard and may even stop doing it altogether. But, will that help them get better at it? No. A student with the right mindset will look at this situation and think, “Okay, I am not so good at this position yet. I need to figure out what I am doing wrong and find some ways to stop it from happening so I can improve my guard.” See the difference? The one with a good student mindset will end up improving in the long run, and is also more likely to stick with the sport. (Ron Drumm)

How can you work on being a better student?

There are several ways to work on improving the mindset you have when coming to jiu jitsu class! Whether you or someone you know is working on it, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Leave your ego at the door. When you’re on the mats, use this time to remain or become humbled, and learn from those who may have more experience or better technique. Everyone is given the opportunity to learn, but you must be willing to set aside some of those feelings of pride or better knowledge in order to take it. 
  • Success often comes from failure. An airplane wasn’t built correctly on the first try, and neither is a jiu jitsu black belt. Having a growth mindset and the ability to learn from mistakes and use failure as fuel to succeed is a huge part of improvement! Not only when it comes to jiu jitsu, but with most things in life. 

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Nobody trains exactly the same way. If you come to class with a goal to beat one person, or a goal to get a better throw than the person next to you, then you are not there for the right reasons. The only comparison you should have on the mats is to who you were before. Are you doing better today than you were yesterday?