An Experiment in Progress

Periodically I get jealous of the guys who are really, really good at jiu-jitsu and I vow to try to catch up somehow. Perhaps I can take my lunch break to attend the noon classes or start being more consistent about making it to all the weekend classes.

The problem is that my almost 50-year old body has only so much capacity for healing and recovery. I average 12 hours per week on the mats doing jiu-jitsu. Occasionally I do more, but I can maintain higher levels of training only so long before I become one big walking mass of pain and injuries. What I need is some sort of training supplement that doesn’t break me down. Yoga is helpful for recovery, but doesn’t do much to help my technique. Conditioning exercises are boring. Instructional videos are fun, but they just add to the backlog of techniques I need to spend time drilling with a partner.

A possible solution came to me the other week. I was preparing for a recent Neil Adams seminar by reading his 1986 book A Life In Judo. Adams mentions that he always kept up a daily training diary. He recorded not only the techniques and training methods that he was learning, but also the details of each randori or shiai session, his observations of other competitors, and how he felt physically and mentally each day. He claims that maintaining this training diary helped his development enormously.

This seemed like something I could do to accelerate my growth without overloading my body. I have tried to take notes on my training before, but have been sabotaged by my illegible handwriting. This time I decided to use technology and to be more disciplined with my approach. Each evening before bed I type up a detailed account of the days training. I review each technique and training drill that I practiced along with any details I’ve learned. I review each class I taught, with observations of how well the students are absorbing the material. I review each sparring session, with as much as I can remember about what was working for me and for my sparring partner. I record my physical and mental state for the day. Once I’ve typed everything up, I save copies on my computer, in the cloud, and I print out a hard copy for my training notebook.

Already I’m noticing a few things. Spending the time to mentally review and visualize the details of the days training is helping me to remember things much better even without going back to read my notes. Doing it shortly before bedtime helps my brain to fix those details in long-term memory. I’m realizing how much I was forgetting before starting the diary – and I probably have a better natural memory than most people for the nuances of training.

It does take a certain amount of willpower to make myself spend 30 minutes typing up my notes after I get back from a 3 hour training session. It helps my motivation to think of this as actual training time and not just a writing exercise.

This is an experiment in progress. I’ll report back in 6 months with an evaluation of what impact the journal-keeping has on my actual progress in jiu-jitsu.

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