Yan Zhang - Blue Belt Advice
What motivated you to start training BJJ?
I was training in different martial art for about 13 years before I started in BJJ. I learned some very basic ground techniques so I found ground game is very fun. I wanted to learn more ground game.
As soon as I did some comps at old martial art then I feel it's time to learn BJJ. I know Geoff for a very long time through non-blood related family. So I know GSW is going to be place I need to go to learn BJJ.
What advice would you give to beginners who are just starting their BJJ journey?
Keep reminding yourself to relax and slow down. It's normal when you just start BJJ and you use your strength or go fast. You just need to breath and take it slow. I remember I asked Geoff how I was doing after my first couple weeks and he said slow down. I was going too fast without realizing it. It's going to help you to make your technique smooth and build up your muscle memory.
What motivated you to continue training BJJ, even when it was challenging or frustrating?
Two things, people and training in BJJ just so much fun. There are just so many great people on the mat all the time that you can learn from, train with or even just have a good chat. There is so much to learn in BJJ. I always find I learn new things every time when I train from what ever Geoff was teach or someone I rolled with.
Did you ever experience any significant injuries during your BJJ journey, and if so, how did you deal with them and continue to train?
Nothing significant. I injured my wrist couple months after I started. I had pretty bad wrist already from last place I was training in. I took 2 month off until it's all fix up. I am not in my 20s so I think it's important to listen to your body. Stop when you need to and rest up. I hope I can still train for in 15 years. :)
Were there any specific training partners who played a significant role in your development as a BJJ practitioner?
Sam and Daniel, we started training at Sam's place on Thursday night after kids go to bed. Because we can only make 1-2 nights at GSW due to family commitments. An extra night of drilling some techniques really helped me.
Of course, we do some terrible youtube techniques too lol There are so many others too who helped me in my journey like Reece, Alex, Nick, Tony, Spence, Wade. People who always happy to help you, let you have a go and answers your questions.
How has BJJ impacted your life outside of the gym, and what benefits have you seen from your continued practice?
Besides it's a pretty good workout training in BJJ, it helps with mental resilience. It helps you to get better in handling pressure and stressful situation. BJJ really trains and tests you regularly by putting you under pressure like really under 100KG of pressure.
So you learn to breath, think clearly and escape. I have colleagues asked me a few times why I always so chilled and I always say they should come to train with me, then they will know why.
How did you balance training BJJ with other commitments in your life, such as work or family?
I just train as much as I can when I can. There are times I can make 4 times a week. And there are times I can only go once a week like in last couple month. For me, family comes first so I need to be there for my family. GSW offers really flexibly training options. There is a training or rolling session almost everyday.
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, I remember I talked to Tony about it. Tony just said "Yan, you are getting better but others are improving too." Now I just focus on keep turning up and keep training. It's going to be a long journey. I am sure I am better than where I was.
Were there any particular techniques or concepts that you struggled with as a white belt, and how did you overcome those challenges?
Escape from bottom any position. I am still finding hard some time to escape even now but as a white belt you get stuck at bottom position a lot. I found work out 2 escape techniques for each position and focus on them. Keep it simple and easy to remember. You are not going to remember all fancy techniques under pressure.
What role did competition play in your BJJ journey, and how did you approach preparing for and competing in tournaments?
I haven't compete in BJJ before. I may try it later on when I can train more each week so I have time to prepare and bring up my cardio.
Looking back on your journey, is there anything you wish you had done differently or advice you would give to your younger self starting out in BJJ?
I wish I started BJJ a bit earlier. I don't regret to train in the last place. It helped me explore martial arts world then found BJJ.
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