Todd "Scooter" Henry - Blue Belt Advice
What motivated you to start training BJJ?
I've always wanted to learn some kind of martial art. My friend started training BJJ and showed me some of the stuff he was learning and told me to try out a class so I did. I thoroughly enjoyed it and have been training ever since.
What advice would you give to beginners who are just starting their BJJ journey?
I really like the idea of knowing a little about a lot, and a lot about a little. It can be a bit frustrating learning a bunch of moves and never being able to hit them during rolling, but I think that's to be expected, especially as you're new.
As a beginner, most of your rolls are going to consist of you just figuring out how to survive rather than pulling off what you learnt in class. A small number of them will be pretty competitive (where it's pretty difficult to pull off what you just learnt in class), and an even smaller number of them will have you "winning" (where there might be some time to work on the move of the day).
The idea that this is going to be enough time to become proficient in every single thing you cover in class to the point where you can hit it on a resisting opponent is just not realistic. So, on the knowing a little about a lot - Go to class, learn new techniques, think about where they might fit in with what you're currently working on, try to develop a passing knowledge of a wide range of stuff, but don't be too hard on yourself if you can't retain everything, and you struggle to hit every single thing you've covered today when rolling.
On the knowing a lot about a little - Pick a really small number of things you wanna work on, and work on those for an extended period of time. For example, I constantly found myself playing half guard but had no idea what to do from there. I decided to spend six weeks coming to class with my only goal being "play as much half guard as I can tonight", and now I'd consider myself pretty solid there -
I think being really good at a small handful of things will serve you much better than being mediocre at a wide range of stuff. Another benefit of this is having such small and specific goals make them much more achievable (compared to saying "I want to rack up as many subs in rolling as I can tonight"), so you can point to some wins most nights.
What motivated you to continue training BJJ, even when it was challenging or frustrating?
I just want to be good already, and the only way to get there is to train. I guess having the right perspective on things can help out here. It might be a bit frustrating getting dunked on, but if you can put aside the fact that you're the one they're doing it to, it's pretty fascinating seeing what some people are capable of doing on the mats. When you realize there's nothing special to it, and pretty much every one of these people will tell you that you'll be able to do that too one day provided you just keep showing up, it's pretty easy to just push through those times where it seems challenging.
Were there any specific training partners who played a significant role in your development as a BJJ practitioner?
Mostly all of the coloured belts, but if there was one in particular I'd say Tony. Generally speaking, I find people are happy to give advice. There are a lot of knowledgeable people on the mats, so you should ask plenty of questions. But, sometimes the issue is you don't know what you don't know, so asking the right questions can be hard. If there's one person that's very proactive about giving you the right advice without you having to ask for it, that'd be Tony.
Did you ever go through a period where you felt like you weren't improving or plateaued in your BJJ journey, and if so, how did you push through it?
Yes, quite often really. I guess I have a few points to touch on for this one.
1) Oftentimes, it feels like you're not improving, when you actually are. Everyone else that currently beats you up is still training and improving as well, so they'll continue beating you up even if you are getting better.
2) Let's suppose that what I've said above is not the case, and you are actually plateauing. I think the most practical way to solve this issue is to ask yourself why not. I think the most common reason this happens is because you're doing the same thing over and over, without putting much effort into branching out. If you keep hitting the same move over and over, people are gonna learn that's what you're going for and figure out how to defend it. At that point you can either learn how to deal with common defences to that particular submission, or just pick something else entirely to work on.
3) But, most importantly, I'd say that it's OK to just take things less seriously sometimes. I think with the way we have classes, and have a belt system which measures progress, it can be a bit too easy to get caught up in the idea that you must constantly be making progress in order for it to make sense for you to be training.
But at the end of the day, for the vast majority of us, this is just something we do for fun. If I have a brief period of time where I haven't improved, it's not the end of the world. Provided I can show up to class and just have fun with it, then it was well worth going in my opinion.
As long as that's what I'm getting out of class, I'll continue to show up. And I often find that by just continuing to show up, these periods where I feel like I'm not improving tend to pass pretty quick.
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