I think journaling is an underrated tool in the quest for mastery and especially Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Most people have the wrong idea about journaling where you are going to be writing down every step of every technique in a class. And with each class having several techniques and 3-10 steps then that is going to be a ton of writing. That would be a bit daunting of a task, maybe something that you start doing and then throw away because exhausted after class you are too tired to complete it and then the next day you have forgotten some steps and feel defeated. So here are some tips for a better journal.
Tip 1: Get some inspiration
Dr Jim Loehr was on the Tim Ferris podcast and it gave a great interview on the importance of journaling in the athletes he has coached. I would recommend his interview over his books, but that is ok. He can get you fired up about the importance of journaling and that is the first step. He talks through some of the gold medalists that he has coached in his career and how that process has changed over time.
You can check out his podcast here: https://tim.blog/2020/12/28/jim-loehr-2/
Tip 2: Get a format that works
I have used a lot of different formats over the years from notebooks to google docs, to apps like Google Keep. My friend and world champion James Puopolo got me a Self Journal from https://bestself.co/products/self-journal
James had been telling me about a Self-Journal for a while and I took some of the format from it like the daily gratitude and tried to implement it on my own. Why pay $35 for something I could format for myself for $15? I couldn’t have been more wrong. This thing sets up everything around quarterly goals and then your weekly reviews help drive that and then your days drive your weeks. The daily gratitude section is one of the most important parts of my day. Research from the Yale Happiness Course and studies from Berkeley talk about the strong relationship between the practice of gratitude and happiness.
In the self journal I have room on the right side for putting down thoughts on moves and things I want to work on or need to study more of. I have my own script for UDLR = Underhook De La Riva that you will have to develop. But I would keep things short. From my Standing 2 on 1 I write down a move in the series and then my key points that I am trying to incorporate (Navy Finish: hop and head). To remind myself to drive with my head more and to hop on my standing leg and not dive for the finish and leave my leg behind. You can see how I was taught it here, but Coach Dave is trying to clean it up a bit.
Tip 3: Set Small Daily Goals
I always tell my students that most people overestimate how good they are going to get in a short period of time, but underestimate how good they are going to get in a long period of time. So burden yourself with ridiculous daily goals. For wrestling, since I don’t control that practice I like to write down which moves I will attempt. Note I didn’t go for my fireman from the 2 on 1 like I was supposed to but people kept giving me the wrong indicator…for shame.
For BJJ I like to write down the rounds that I will do from which positions. It is very easy to just slap hands and roll, but I like to focus on positional training. So today I will get in a few rounds from underhook de la riva, offside passing, etc. Then I get a checkbox at night when I complete those. Note I am not saying that I will do amazing at the techniques or win the rounds. I am focusing on things I can control like attempting the move or starting the round in a certain spot.
Tip 4: Write down Epiphanies
Avoid the urge to write down every detail of a move. Try to finish the night reflecting on who the day went. Self-Journal has a win the day score where you rate how well you implemented your plan on the day. But in terms of BJJ I am just reflecting on my rds and writing a few notes about what went well and what needs to get fixed. Like pulling on the ankle pick worked better yesterday from a seated open guard with disconnected opponent. I need to move the knee a bit more when going to a crab ride against combat base. I aim to almost write the least amount especially if I am tired.