This list is a tool I made to help keep myself motivated. It’s split into two parts: questions to ask yourself and things to try. Together they give you something to be thoughtful and introspective about and something to get out there and do. The idea is to turn to it each week (or when you’re in a slump) and see if it can’t help you improve.
Pick out a random question and give it serious thought. Be objective and honest with yourself. Write down your answer if you need to. Did you have any new ideas?
Pick a random thing to try. Follow the instructions as well as you can. Write notes on how it went. Did you learn anything new?
If you type up your answers to the questions or if you have an interesting experience trying one of the ideas, tell me about it here in the comments or by email.
Questions to Ask Yourself
How good is your hip movement on the bottom?
What part of your game needs the most work?
What position gives you the most trouble?
What do you need to improve next?
How good is your posture in guard?
How can you improve your diet?
Are you getting enough sleep?
Is there a move you “should know” that still gives you trouble?
How well can you open the closed guard?
What is your favorite position?
What submission do you have the most trouble escaping?
Do you keep fighting from your back when you could get to your knees?
Are you confident with your closed guard?
Could you keep playing the same game if you were less athletic?
How much of your current game will stay the same as you age?
Are you confident with your open guard?
What positions do you avoid that you shouldn’t?
What moves can you do on one side but not the other?
How many rounds can you go before you’re gassed?
If your armbar fails, where do you go from there?
Are your legs really too short for the triangle or are your mechanics off?
Do you do something that goes “against the rules” (e.g. submissions from bad positions)?
What was the last submission you got caught with?
What causes you the most frustration?
Are you ashamed to pull guard?
Do you train takedowns enough?
Can you do your favorite throw while moving in different directions?
Do you prefer to pass from knees or standing?
How good are your standing guard passes?
If you had to start over, what would you do differently?
Are you making the best use of your training time?
Are there “basic” moves you wish you were better at?
Are there moves you never tried because you worried they were “too advanced”?
How can you use less strength?
How can you use less flexibility?
How confident are you with the gi?
How confident are you without the gi?
How different are your gi and no-gi games?
Are you aggressive enough?
Are you relaxed enough?
Are you too passive?
Are you too defensive?
What parts of your game could you simplify?
What submissions do you never try?
Have you surprised yourself lately?
If your triangle fails, what’s your backup plan?
Why didn’t you do karate instead?
Do you hold your breath when you shouldn’t?
Do you know of a black belt with your body type to watch?
Do you use the omoplata much?
Do you have a favorite finish from each position?
Whose guard do you really admire?
What does your belt mean to you?
Why are you afraid of competing?
Are you still worried about self defense?
How good are your headlock escapes?
Is your guard “too open” and loose?
Do you have a “go to” move for each guard you use?
What’s your main attack from mount?
What is your worst skill?
How do you measure your performance?
How much have you improved in the last six months?
Where would you like to be in 6 months?
Do you really want to compete?
Can you visualize moves and positions as simple geometry?
Do you use the americana much?
How often do you get the cross collar choke from guard?
How good are your side control escapes?
How far can you push your endurance?
What is your proudest moment?
What do you regret?
How many of the people that started with you are still training?
Do you remember what it was like to be a white belt?
What would be the simplest and quickest move from each position?
Are you overlooking simpler solutions?
Do you do moves just because they look cool?
What is a “basic” technique?
How do you define the fundamentals?
Would doing things differently be wrong or just different?
Is there a move you always wished you could do better?
Are there moves you just never seem to remember when you need them?
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Are the health risks worth it?
Do you drill moves on both sides?
Do you really need that many instructionals?
Do you try a move in sparring the same day you drilled it?
Do you find drilling boring?
Do you put in enough repetitions?
How is your half guard?
Do you just stall in certain positions?
Are you always looking for the finish?
Do you worry that lower belts are catching up to you?
Is there something you always wished you were better at?
What part of competing makes you most nervous?
How can the last technique you learned fit into your game?
Do you have one really good training partner to work one-on-one with?
Do you need private lessons?
What sweeps and submissions go together?
What part of the mental game do you need to improve?
How do you deal with anxiety?
Are you afraid of losing?
Things to Try
Pick just one submission to focus on for a week.
Concentrate on how your hips are moving while sparring.
Find a way to make your hips as heavy as possible while passing.
Drill a sweep you didn’t like the first time you learned it.
Take two different positions and figure out how to transition between them.
Pick one position and work on it for a month.
Try a new move today.
Pick a move you don’t use enough and drill it before class for a week.
Draw a diagram of a move that explains its mechanics.
Write down how to do the last move you learned with as much detail as possible.
Draw a flowchart of the positions you use and how you transitions between them.
Try a new move just because it looks fun.
Almost let a white belt tap you today.
See how long you can hold a “strange” position while sparring.
Let people pass your guard so you can work on your escapes.
Pick your least favorite position and work on it.
Teach your favorite move to someone who doesn’t know it.
Put together a three move combination and drill it.
Fight from top as much as possible for a week.
Don’t close your guard in sparring today.
Find a “fancy” move and see if it really is that fancy.
Drill the escapes to the last submission you got caught in.
Make a combination of three guard passes that have you go over, under and around the legs.
Ask a lower belt for his perspective on something.
Try to stand up from guard more often.
Try to take the back from everywhere.
Watch and study higher belts sparring.
Figure out how much your game changes with and without the gi.
Stretch before and after training.
Play guard as much as possible for a week.
Replay a round of sparring in your head as you’re going to sleep.
“Steal” a good move from someone else.
Coach two white belts against each other.
Make your intentions obvious and see if you can still get the move.
Focus on controlling your breathing.
Set a faster pace than normal.
Set a slower pace than normal.
Move slowly and deliberately while sparring today.
Move fast and light with sparring today.
See how long you can hold mount.
See how many transitions you can do in one round.
Find a high level competitor with your body type and try to emulate him.
Stop halfway through a move and see how long you can maintain control.
Try a dumb move today.
Spar with your eyes closed.
Try sparring two people at once.
Hold knee-on-belly for as long as you can in sparring today.
Stand to pass guard this week.
Don’t use one of your arms today.
Work on your rear mount escapes.
Try holding side control on a balance ball to develop pressure.
Compare where you are now to where you were 6 months ago.
Try not using your arms at all while sparring today.
Drill level changes and penetration steps today.
Take a minute to do as many repetitions of the armbar from mount as possible.
Do a full round of sparring from under side control.
Train transitions instead of positions.
Figure out a way to improve your scramble.
Draw a picture of how you think of a certain movement.
Pick the toughest person at your gym and spar with them.
Only use moves you learned as a white belt today.
Put in extra repetitions on your bad side.
Be single-minded in going for what you learned and drilled in class today.
Fine tune your chokes with feedback from your training partner.
See how long you can hold the triangle position without finishing the submission.
Put yourself in submissions and see if you can get out.
Approach old moves like they’re completely new to you.