chris matakas

Are you feeling like you are putting so much effort into your BJJ game – that is, you dedicate your time, money, and blood/sweat/tears into this highly complex sport – and still feel on some days or periods like you are going backward and getting worse?? In this article, we will examine more closely what is the underlying cause and, of course, what are the remedies for that state of mind. 

At some point, almost all BJJ students say “I’m training more, but my BJJ is getting worse! Why?!” In the following video, Chris Matakas (a BJJ black belt under Ricardo Almeida and head of Matakas BJJ Academy,) explains the theory of why this happens, and why you should actually embrace that feeling! It does happen to Jiu-Jitsu white belts, blue belts, purple belts, brown belts, and – yes – even black belts!

“Skill acquisition is a weird thing”, says Chris. He believes that skill acquisition and progression in Jiu-Jitsu follows four levels in a cyclical nature:

1) You become unconsciously bad

2) You become consciously bad

At this stage, we are beginning to see the shortcomings in our game, which can appear equivalent to a skill decline. As Chris says, “all the mistakes you’ve made, you are now aware of”.

3) You become consciously good

4) You become unconsciously good

This does not stop at the white belt, however. According to Chris, this process is entirely cyclical, and so don’t feel particularly down if this is a re-occurring phenomenon for you. If anything, it can be a good indicator that you are on a solid path towards mastery of the craft.

This is the reason why a lot of black belts will humbly say that they still feel like they have a long way to go, due to their awareness of that same cyclical (or rather, spiral) nature of learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

“So, you are not getting worse in BJJ, keep training hard, keep having fun, and embrace the process” ~ Chris Matakas.

The following video from Chewjitsu deals with similar issues: you feel like you’re not progressing in BJJ as you “should”, you’re in the gym training but not making any headway, and also feeling like you are getting worse.

This is the problem that a student who is a BJJ Blue Belt is having as an issue. He recently asked for advice on how to deal with his progression in BJJ and aggression during rolling.

In the video, Chewy talks about the idea of setting expectations during Brazilian Jiujitsu training. And the idea that it’s dangerous to set them.

He says:Setting expectations for BJJ training is the same as setting expectations for a situation that is not guaranteed.”

And then continues: “It makes you focused on the fruits of your actions rather than the moment-to-moment action which is required to make progress happen during grappling.”

If you can recognize yourself in these words, then this is a motivational video for you!