When you roll with skilled players, you might get “beaten” pretty badly.
Or worse, you might not do well against people who are supposedly less skilled but much heavier/stronger than you.
As a consequence, you might end up feeling you have no talent for BJJ.
But not so quick!
I understand you might feel that way from time to time. But you should know that almost every other BJJ practitioner feels that way at some point in their career. Everyone gets beaten. There are levels to BJJ, after all.
But what exactly does it mean to have no talent for BJJ… and how much does talent matter in the first place?
People are inclined to feel that way when they don’t do well in sparring or competition. But your lack of competitive success doesn’t necessarily mean you have no talent for BJJ. If you keep practicing consistently, you will gradually become better than others.
Some people learn things quickly, and we could say these people are talented in one way or another, but being a slow learner doesn’t necessarily mean you have no talent for BJJ, either.
If we are talking about the best of the best, sure, things like natural flexibility and strength will certainly help, but there are people who excel in BJJ, seemingly without innate athletic talent.
Of all the people I ever rolled with, I can think of only a handful of people who I thought were talented. They seem to move differently from others. But this is extremely rare. A few of them happen to be from PSLPB, one of the best teams in the world for lighter-weight players — they are world-class players now. There were other tough, excellent players, but I’m inclined to think their excellence was based more on their efforts than their talent.
On that note, talented folks aren’t guaranteed to thrive in competition, either. Maybe they don’t do well in a competition setting for whatever reason. They may not be interested in competing… or even training consistently. Or they may not be in the right training environment due to where they are based or economic reasons.
The good news is that you can become better at BJJ and reach a reasonably good level without such talent… though you do need to train consistently and make efforts to become better little by little. In the long run, your efforts matter way more than your sheer talent.
One of the greatest things about BJJ is that you can use your unique attributes to your advantage. No single dominant body type gives you a head start against everybody else.
If you are small but agile, great, you can use that to your advantage. If you are slow, you can learn to slow your opponents down by using the half-guard, both from the top and the bottom, for example. BJJ gives you all sorts of options. It’s up to you to choose which ones and learn them through your consistent efforts.
For most of us, it’s more productive to figure out our strengths and how to use them than to worry about our (perceived) lack of talent for BJJ.
If you feel you haven’t been making much progress, don’t beat yourself up — set small goals and achieve them little by little. When you compare yourself with others, especially with the ones who achieve excellent results quickly, you might feel disappointed in yourself. But there’s no reason why you should make such comparisons with others in the first place.
If you really need to compare yourself with someone, compare your current self with your past self. Focus on becoming a little bit better than before every time you train. In five years, you will look as if your skills have skyrocketed compared to now — provided that you practice BJJ consistently in those five years.