A friend of mine hasn’t attended a jiu-jitsu class since Thanksgiving. He called me after attending a class last week and reported feeling a “sharp regression” in his flow. He also commented that he got tired or “gassed out” very quickly. This was his first long break from jiu-jitsu since joining over a year ago and was curious if this something I’ve ever experienced. 

As the movie 40 Year Old Virgin reminded us, if you don’t use it, you lose it. Non-jiu-jitsu injuries and life kept me away from the mats quite a bit in 2019 and I am also just getting back into the swing of things. I’m a one-stripe white belt and a little out of shape so I don’t have the repertoire or the gas tank that my friend has, but this is something I’m experiencing right now. Mat rust is very real. 

Symptoms of Mat Rust

I am still in the infancy of jiu-jitsu, but I just feel lost. And it’s a different lost than when I first joined Neutral Ground with no grappling experience. It’s kind of like when you deep clean your house and the next day you can’t find your wallet. You know you own a wallet, but can’t remember where it is. Which is almost more frustrating than not knowing anything. 

Your timing is also off. Horribly off. You miss cues or recognize them too late to take advantage of them. There are things you used to do and situations you used to read automatically that now require you to almost stop and think. 

The worst part is your cardio. Even if you’re really active outside of jiu-jitsu there is something to be said about the stamina you build up when you’re rolling consistently. In the meantime, you’re going to require some breaks or sneak in rest when you’re rolling which leaves you vulnerable to submission attempts. 

Knocking the Rust Off

The only way to lose mat rust is to get out there and roll. Jiu-jitsu is kind of like navigating through the jungle with a machete. If you aren’t there cutting back the brush you’ll start to lose the path you’ve made. The good news is you can always reform those pathways, it’s not like you’re starting all over again. So embrace the rust and get back out there!

If you’d like to read more on this topic, check out Jon’s blog.