Jiu-jitsu is a sport that is well-loved by many, and all around the world, people have been trading in their gym attires and running shoes for brand new belts and gis. Many people have dedicated a serious amount of time to the sport, in the hopes of becoming better at jiu-jitsu so they can be like their idols.
But what every jiu-jitsu practitioner needs to understand is that their progress in the sport is just as dependent on their methods of learning as it is on their drive and dedication. So here are some tips for both on the mats and off the mats, that have helped countless people get better at Brazilian jiu-jitsu, try them out for yourself!
First and foremost, you need to know who to train with. You may have all the potential in the world but you could get stuck in a rut just because you don’t know how to pick your training partners properly. This doesn’t mean ditch everyone who is lower ranking than you, or keep away from senior teammates who dominate you.
The key here is balance. You need to have a sample of everything. It’s important to have a coach or senior ranking teammates who are better than you, to guide you and to show you what holes you have in your game. It’s also important to train with people who you think you can dominate in turn, in order to practice new moves on them and polish your technique.
And lastly, you need to train with people who are on the same skill level as you, people who you can beat sometimes, but who beat you sometimes too. This is to give room for your technique to grow, and to give you an accurate gauge for your progress on the mats.
We can all agree that the technicality of jiu-jitsu can sometimes be a little overwhelming. We’ve all probably experienced spacing out in the middle of an instructor’s lesson because of the sheer details involved in a move. One way to learn it faster and imprint it in your brain is not to memorize how it’s done, but the reasons behind all the little actions.
The next time your instructor teaches, don’t just memorize the series of steps and what it looks like—pay attention to exactly why he places his arm on that specific portion of the hip or why he chose that succession of steps.
Sometimes one might think that taking notes is a little dorky for this macho sport, but you’d be surprised how many black belts actually have a notebook where they organize their thoughts and moves. No one has a photographic memory and there just comes a point when there are simply too many moves to remember off the top of your head.
After every lesson, don’t forget to take down the important steps of each move. It serves as a review, and this way when you want to revisit the moves at a later time you won’t miss out on any of the minor details. If your instructor allows you to, you could even take a video and study it in greater detail whenever you want.
Many jiu-jitsu practitioners have also found making flowcharts of their strategies helpful. With this flowchart, they list down all the different moves that they could do if they’re in a certain position, and all the moves that lead from there, and so on. This helps them organize their game in their heads instead of having a blank mind on the mats.
The more drills you do, the better. This isn’t just to make you stronger or give you more cardio, it is also so the move can be remembered by your body. Make it a point to diligently do drills for every move you want to incorporate into your jiu-jitsu game, that way when your body recognizes a familiar position, it won’t think twice to fire out the next steps without you having to consciously remember them.
Remember, rolling is practice. It isn’t a place where you could show off or hold yourself back because you are too nervous. It’s there so you can watch yourself in different scenarios and it serves as a safe place to test out your strategies for competitions. Every roll is gold, and therefore every roll should have a goal.
You can tell yourself that for the next 6 minutes your goal is to practice the kimura from different situations, or you could tell yourself that this time your goal is to submit someone within the first minute. Whatever it is, setting a goal provides direction and prevents you from wasting your mat time.
Seeing your match from a phone or video camera is infinitely different from seeing it while you’re actually playing. When you see yourself play from an objective view, all the little things you never noticed on the mats are just as clear as day on the screen.
You’ll be surprised how often you’ll say things like “Oh I should have swept him there” or “I could have taken her arm at this point” or even “My base is just too unstable, I really need to work on that”. Having a video of yourself rolling or competing can allow you to dissect your game point by point, and show you what you need to work on to get better quickly.
Your seniors are there for a reason, and asking someone a question will be a much faster way of learning than trying to figure it out on your own. You can ask questions for clarification of a move your instructor is teaching, you can ask questions after rolling and realizing you don’t know what to do when you’re caught in a certain position, or you can ask questions if you’re just wondering what to drill to generally improve your game. The possibilities are endless.
This could be one of the most important tips for you to improve your jiu-jitsu. If all you do is train and do drills, you are leaving a huge aspect of jiu-jitsu out of your life and just plain missing out on a great experience. Training for a competition is different from everyday casual learning because it allows you to really put your skills to the test, right when you’re at your one hundred percent.
You get to face people of the same skill level as you but from different backgrounds. You are exposed to so many different players in competitions and that diversity is simply not present in just one gym. This allows you to really polish your skills and serves as a good way of evaluating your progress.
You don’t want to be the guy at the tournament who thinks he’s a much better grappler than he really is. So ask your coaches if you’re ready for your first BJJ tournament. Some gyms encourage competition for students early on with as little as one month of training. Others prefer students train for several months and showcase skill in the gym before competing. And certain gyms aren’t even competition focused.
It’s important to first ask your coaches to assess your skill prior to any competitions. Because ultimately, you’re representing your school and coach when you’re competing.
For your first tournament, you need to assess your current weight. After doing so, you’ll be able to determine the weight you can best compete in. Your weight should be guaranteed, so that you can focus more on your game plan. The point of your competing weight reflecting your current weight is so that you can avoid cutting too much too fast. Consequently, you don’t want to suffer a loss because of poorly executed weight management.
Once you have your desired competition weight selected, you can begin assessing your current shape before looking at tournaments. This will help you better decide the conditioning that you will need in preparation for the tournament.
First, you need to decide whether you want to compete in a points jiu-jitsu tournament or a submission only style tournament. From there you need to determine which tournament to make your debut. There are some very solid organized tournaments run by groups like NAGA, IBJJF, NABJJF, US Grappling and more. Entry fees generally range from $70 to $130 to enter a single elimination tournament.
Also, you can always check with your coaches to see if there are any upcoming tournaments that they think might be a good fit.
When creating your game plan, it is best to ask yourself what you are great at, where you need the most improvement and the type of opponents you may face. In doing so, you can better plan your success. You can break it down by attacks, defensive techniques, and your escapes. It is best to plan for top, bottom, and escapes. In doing so, you can keep it simple, which is especially helpful if you are a beginner. Your plan of action should include your takedowns, guards, guard breaks, passes, submissions, and how you plan to get in and out of positions. You can also include drills to determine how you will react to takedowns. Finally, you should outline all escapes or any situations you haven’t covered.
Aim to drill at least two takedowns, and drill sprawling to avoid common takedowns, like the ankle pick. Through drills and training, you can commit your game plan to muscle memory. Preparing for the BJJ Tournament As you grow closer to your tournament day, double and triple check your weight, game plan, and every aspect of your BJJ practice. Continue to drill and spar up until two days before the tournament to ensure maximum gains, but still adequate rest. If you do any move 1000 times, you will always notice an increase in its effectiveness. It is best to also use this time to focus on any areas you feel are especially weak.
The night before the tournament, you should be fully prepared mentally and physically. BJJ tournaments are physically and mentally demanding for beginners and veterans alike. Decide if you want to use Gi gear, remember to bring your belt, pack sweatpants to stay warm and comfortable, and you can bring any source of music as well. As far as nutrition goes, for snacks, you should pack light. Therefore, the best suggestions would be bananas, protein bars or shakes, almonds, honey sticks, and coconut water. It is best to eat light during the tournament itself. Though it is optional, you can also bring a friend and pack a camera.
Clear your mind the night and morning prior to your tournament. You can do this through a movie, by reading, or even by hanging out with friends and family. Whatever it is you need to do to clear your mind, do so because a clouded mind could be your biggest disadvantage.
The day of the tournament has come. Make sure to eat a good size breakfast because you will need fuel. You won’t always know exactly when you will have a chance to refuel again. Take the time to relax and visualize before your match. This will help you effectively warm up mentally before attempting to warm up physically.
Warming up properly will help you avoid injuries. It is suggested that you use foam rolling, Hindi squats, dive bomber pushups, sprawls, and partner drills as methods of warming up. Ensure that you recover properly between your matches by focusing on your hydration and breathing. Avoid making any drastic changes during the tournament.
Tournament training is invaluable. You will either win or lose, but regardless you will learn and improve in your BJJ practice.