The obvious answer is by the belts but as we all know you can’t talk about your belt. Alternatively you could talk about competition wins, but what about that guy in the gym who is a killer but never competes?

I recently read Tim Ferris’s The 4-hour Body and what intrigued me was the notion of needing to have a baseline and then measure improvement. In Tim’s book he uses measurements to understand progress. So if you want to measure muscle mass, first you measure the bicep then you work out for a month and then you measure the bicep again and boom, progress (hopefully). 

Confessions of a data nerd...

Ok, so I am a graphic designer to pay for my Jiu Jitsu habit and by far and away my favourite designer is Nicholas Felton. I have always loved how he collects and communicates data and that has always inspired me to track everyday data with the aim of using it for interesting things. Obviously, most of the time, these things are only interesting to me... Seriously I once did a talk that included graphs explaining my daily underwear choices for a month.

For the record I already track my weight, but I tell myself this is more a check against blowing up between competitions. This REALLY helps because, after 30 (ish), your metabolism slows down and you can’t smash beer and burgers and still expect to stay under 70kg. So a simple weight check every morning and I know where I am at from day to day. No competition day weigh in panic for me!

I track my competition record which is a great for setting goals. I don’t track the type of submission, perhaps I should and I really like Jack Burrell’s data on this. I do track, wins, losses and wether it’s points or submission.

Finally I track the number of days and hours I have trained. For ease of use I use a bit of a formula to make it automatically update so I admit it is a bit approximate, but I try to be honest if I miss a session and take that time out of the spreadsheet. Re-reading Jack's profile I see he does the same, which is heartening (because I think he's a good person to look up to in the sport... I've not met him but I have watched him fight and he also seems like a decent bloke).

The Plan

As you can see, it makes total sense to me to track data but the challenge is first working out what I want to improve and then building a way to measure it. To go back to the original question ‘How do you measure Jiu Jitsu training progress?’ I realise need to break down my training into what I want to achieve for myself through this sport. 

Primarily I want to continually improve my mental and physical wellbeing. I also want to gain understanding and mastery of the techniques I am taught.

So I am going to try the following:

  • To improve my wellbeing I am going to look for some way of tracking my heart rate during training. This should give me a decent idea of my training work rate and something to try to continually improve.

  • To improve my muscle memory I am going to devise a more formal personal program of drills of which I will measure the number of repetitions I can do within a timeframe. This should give me a solid idea of how efficent drilled movements are.

Ok, now I have a plan. I just need an indistructable heart rate monitor and some spreadsheets. Look out for the data coming on this site real soon