Finding Moments of Flow

mind The bell rings, and my training partner and I fist bump to start the round. We circle, both of us in a fighting stance, right foot forward, bent over slightly. I fake grabbing his collar with my left hand, only to grab it with my right immediately. I switch my left grip to the …

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When You Can’t Think Straight, Move Your Body

A few days ago, I was attempting to write an article, and my brain just wasn’t working. I sat staring at the screen for a good hour, repeatedly tweaking two sentences and liking neither until I finally declared my efforts were pointless and slammed my laptop shut. I grabbed my jump rope and boxing gloves, …

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Seven Things I’ve Learned After Seven Months Training Jiu-Jitsu

I attended my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class a little over seven months ago. If you don’t know much about it, jiu-jitsu is a martial art based on ground fighting and is one of the fastest-growing combat sports in the world. Jiu-jitsu attracts a passionate and dedicated community, which is one of the reasons I first …

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Weights Vs. Bodyweight Training

Happy Monday, One of the things I get asked about the most is whether I train with weights. The answer is: kind of. I’ve been training using mostly my own bodyweight for over a decade now. I like bodyweight training for several reasons: It’s portable! I love the fact that I can work out anywhere, …

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Trying Vs. Regrets: Part Two of My First Jiu-Jitsu Competition

“Welcome to the women’s jiu-jitsu rollathon,” Pete, the owner of the MMA gym announces, instructing us to line up by the wall by rank. Six months into training, I’m still a total newbie in the sport, so I head toward the back of the line. There are about fifteen of us — more women than …

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Trying Vs. Regrets: Part One of My First Jiu-Jitsu Competition

I started crying on the way to my first jiu-jitsu tournament. It was the first time I was competing in the sport, and although it was an unofficial competition — a no-gi rollathon held at a local gym, nothing that will go on my record as a jiu-jitsu athlete — I was unbelievably nervous. While …

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How to Shorten Your Learning Curve in Any Craft

  “Oof.” I let out an involuntary noise as my opponent, a nameless guy at least fifty pounds heavier than me, slams my legs down, baseball slides his hips to the opposite side, and pins me to the mat. The last of the air in my chest releases as he does so. Since starting jiu-jitsu …

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The Surprising Truth About Reaching Your Goals (it’s Not About Big Gains)

Recently, at my jiu-jitsu academy, the instructor began the class like this:

“I know you all want to be great. You want to make progress, fast. But always aiming for big gains is a mistake. They’re not going to happen very often. Instead, aim to get one percent better — every single day.”

And he’s right. When working toward any goal, we rarely make big leaps overnight. Instead, we should expect our progress to add up little by little over time.

Of course, this is easy to tell others and hard to practice ourselves. Each time I step onto the jiu-jitsu mat, I’m secretly hoping for a breakthrough. Instead, I have to remind myself that pushing myself just a little harder every day will eventually result in significant long-term progress.

Whether your goal is to become a better artist, musician, writer, or jiu-jitsu athlete, your focus should be less on the big gains and more on small, daily, incremental progress. Here are three things to pay attention to when trying to get better at any craft:

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5 Universal Life Lessons from Jiu-Jitsu

Three months ago, after years of not understanding what the hype was about, I turned up at my first Brazilian jiu-jitsu class. I quickly became hooked. I’m not alone in my experience — people who train jiu-jitsu often become fanatics about it. Many end up training for years, decades even, — a feat that’s nearly …

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The Five Stages of Learning and How to Apply Them to Any Skill

  “A certain naïveté is prerequisite to all learning. A certain optimism is prerequisite to all action.” — George Leonard Beginning a new learning journey can be exciting. Beginnings are full of hope and possibilities. Starting something new can give us a glimpse of what could be if we stick with something long enough to see it through. …

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