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The Four Stages of Learning

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The Four Stages of Learning

I’ve seen this model referred to in other areas of learning and I think it easily applies to jiu-jitsu… 


The four stages of consciousness.


Unconscious Incompetence

“You don’t know what you don’t know”


I remember being rolled around by people half my age and size in my first classes. It all seemed out of reach and a little mystical early on. I was told the best way to learn was mat time. The more time on the mats the more I would learn. 


Conscious Incompetence 

“You know that you don’t know something”

I started learning about the positions and seeing that there were techniques that people learned to roll me around with such ease. 


Conscious Competence

 “ You know some things but it requires thought and energy”


I started to learn how to do some things but demonstrating the skill or knowledge took some thought and concentration. 

I knew some techniques but it wasn’t automatic. I would see an opportunity but would often miss it because I had to think about it to long and my timing was off. 


Unconscious Competence

 “You know how to do techniques and can chain them together without thought”

Eventually certain techniques and skills become “second nature” and require little to no thought. This is the result of having a curious mind that seeks answers and puts in a ton of mat time and practice. You can feel this with the higher level people you roll with. They aren’t muscling everything and there tends to be a flow to their movements. 


This process repeats itself over and over and I think being aware of it and embracing it is one key to having an interesting and fulfilling life. It’s all about the journey and not the destination. 


I’ll close with this… 

Years ago I went on a canoe trip with a friend. When we were checking out our canoe I saw a sign on the wall that said  “ It’s a float trip not a paddle trip”. My take away being… enjoy the trip and don’t be in such a hurry. I need to remind myself regularly to enjoy being exactly where I am and to find joy in the process of learning and growth. 


Thanks and I’ll see you on the mats! 




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