16 Ways To Really Supercharge Your Progress In BJJ
1 Slow Down Your BJJ
The first and most important (and often most difficult) thing to do when looking to make quick development in BJJ is to slow everything down. Now this can seem counterintuitive, How can doing things slower lead to faster progress? Well unfortunately most beginner students come into class influenced by the fast paced movement they have seen in professional MMA fights & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition, without really taking on board that these are trained fighters they are watching that are able to move at that speed because they have spent years developing their skill to the point thats its ingrained and second nature and so they can process things at a much faster speed.
The first thing to do is to not treat BJJ training like a fight, you re not there to win, you’re there to build skill and rushing will inevitably will lead to mistakes.
When learning a new move in Jiu Jitsu, go through it slowly making sure to cover all the details and give your body and mind time to absorb them properly. this will ensure that you build the right foundation in order to be able to perform the techniques correctly.
When learning to drive you wouldn’t get into the car on your first lesson, slam on the accelerator and tear off down the road immediately, it would be a recipe for disaster, if you don’t know how to drive then suddenly going fast isn’t going to help. its the same with Jiu-Jitsu or any skill.
When sparring, slow down, your training partners will be looking to capitalise on your mistakes and unless you have a high level of skill, if you go faster it will just lead to poor decision making & more mistakes sooner making it much easier for them to defeat you.
You will naturally start to speed up as you gain in skill and understanding but this will be due to the fact that the movements are now easy for you to perform as oppose to just rushing to the finish line with inferior technique.
2 Relax Your Body and Mind
Similar to slowing down, being tense and rigid in body and mind will lead to inferior BJJ performance.
If your body and mind is relaxed you will be able to move in a fluid manner which is essential in order to perform the defining characteristic of Jiu-Jitsu which is not fighting your opponents force head on but instead moving around it and redirecting in your favour.
It is this clever positioning and use of movement that will give you the power of leverage. If you are tense you will resist everything instead of using it to your advantage, If you are relaxed you will be a lot more sensitive to reading your opponents movements, this will allow your body to function like a radar allowing you to developing correct jiu-jitsu timing in response to your partners movements.
Another benefit of being relaxed is that the firmer something is the easier it is to get hold of and move so if you are rigid its easier for your opponent to control you and manipulate you to their advantage.
Thats not to say that you don’t want any tension, just in the right places at the right time rather than the entire body or in the wrong part of the body at the wrong time, for example arm frames when limiting your partners forward progress, squeezing legs when finishing a submission, arm tension when defending against a joint lock or choke etc are all good and essential uses of tension. If you were completely floppy the entire time then you would have nothing to resist back (at the right times) and impose offence at your opponent with. If you were tense the entire time you would be slow to react and likely to stay in the same place making it easy for your opponent to counter around you and you would become tired quickly due to the demands this would make on the body and likely to withhold your breath, again causing tiredness and inability to think clearly.
Being relaxed in your mind and body will allow you to think better and process things in a much more calmer and controlled manner leading to better decision making and the spotting of opportunities. this can be easy to forget in the middle of sparring so when teaching classes at my Jiu-Jitsu school, I make sure to frequently remind my students to relax more and it always results in a better performance as well as making training far more enjoyable.
You need a harmonious balance of the two energies of relaxation and tension and most peoples Jiujitsu could be improved by implementing more relaxation both physical and mental during practice.
3 Attend As Many BJJ Classes As Possible
This one is often surprisingly overlooked by most students, but it’s one of the best and most accessible ways to improve your rate of progress in martial arts.
if you are attending twice a week and your training partner is attending 4 times a week who do you think is likely to improve faster?
When i first started training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in England regularly back in 2008 (after playing around with it since 2005) it wasn’t nearly as popular as it is today with such a broad range of practitioners. Due to still being very much a niche interest at the time the kind of people that had heard of its powerful reputation for effectiveness and interested in training in it tended to be those already familiar with fighting such as martial artists, security, military, mma fighters etc, most people were bigger than me and so were able to use strength to their advantage at the time as we had a beginner’s level of technique at this point.
What I noticed however was that not many people attended all the time, some people would only be there once a week and others would sometimes disappear for weeks even months at a time, I quickly came to the conclusion that if i just attended as many classes as possible, in terms of mathematics would I soon overtake them in number of classes taken and my technique would develop much faster then their’s meaning that in time my technique ( jiu-jitsu’s super power ) would be more than enough to defeat their use of brute strength. this proved to be true and in actual fact most of them had not only fallen behind in terms of technical knowledge but had actually dwindled their attendance down to stopping training entirely within a few years.
Even today very few people will train as much as they possibly could, with a whole range of excuses. If you look for a way to get in more training, you will usually be able to find it and your progress will soar as a result.
4 Let Go Of The Ego
You are in class to learn and develop skill in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, not to show how good you are at fighting already. If you already performed BJJ flawlessly you wouldn’t need to be there. and everyone (even experts) can always improve and learn more.
Accept yourself as an empty vessel there to be filled with knowledge over time. if you come in believing that you know it all, you will be closed of to new knowledge and this will massively hinder your development.
If you just think you should be able to beat everyone immediately then you will use too much aggression and tension and rely on things like brute force, size and strength then you will not focus on developing your technique or understanding and just stagnate and not learn much, this will result in becoming frustrated due to perceived failure and a negative mindset and will not lead to progress.
5 Don’t Be Lazy In Martial Arts Class
Make the most of class time by reducing down time as much as possible, if you have 5 minutes to rep a move, make the most of those 5 minutes by constantly drilling and working. remove gaps such as repositioning yourself on the mats, stopping to drink water (do this at the end of drilling that particular move) retying belts and adjusting Gi’s as well as sitting still and or the biggest drain of time, talking to your partner. don’t get dragged into a lull where you are both just sat there resting. more reps equals better muscle memory which is essential to pull the moves off with the correct timing against resistance.
Focus as much as possible when the instructor is teaching and ask as many questions as needed to maximise your learning and improve your understanding. an instructor is literally there to help you not to be some elevated unapproachable guru figure, a teacher that doesn’t like questions is a bad teacher.
When it comes to sparring try to get in as many rounds as possible, try saving any sitting out for when you really need it and try to distinguish between short term tiredness and long term tiredness, tiredness can be deceptive and often you just need to catch your breath rather than being truly exhausted, often 30 seconds or so staying still is enough to get your breath back and then be ready for another round and try to progressively increase the amount you are able to do always pushing it a bit more. This will maximise the quality of your mat time and when done every session these tips will result in much more progress especially when adhered over a long period of time.
6 Video Yourself
This is a great one, if you can film yourself sparring and watch it back later you will be able to spot loads of missed opportunities which are difficult to see sometimes when your in the middle of a roll and having to concentrate on lots of things at once, but when watching it back you can pause rewind and take your time to really analyse what you did right and is working well for you and what you need to work on.
Try asking your instructor if its ok to film yourself rolling in class and if so get a small tripod to put your phone / camera on and move it around the edge of the mat with you as you change partners. You could also film yourself drilling the techniques you learnt that day and then watch back the footage to remind yourself of the moves and the details in the future. I allow and encourage all my students to film their rolling at my BJJ classes.
Another very important place to film yourself is when competing, again this will allow you to spot missed opportunities, where your weaknesses lie, where your strengths are and maybe even copy moves that your opponents successfully pull off as well as work out what you could have done better.
Whether a roll at the club or in competition it can often it can be hard to recall exactly what happened during a match and having it on video will allow you to revisit and analyse in detail, this in turn will allow you to refine your game much faster than someone not thinking about these things. It will also allow you to start using time outside of BJJ class to improve instead of just when you’re there.
7 Compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
You speed up progress by competing in BJJ as it forces you to take things more seriously and shines a big light on your weaknesses as well as rewarding your strengths, this makes for excellent feedback as to what you need to work on or could do better and with a competition coming up you will train harder and be motivated to work more on your jiu-jitsu meaning more progress.
If you just drill a move once you are very unlikely to remember it later on, you need to keep revisiting and working on the same moves multiple times, by the 7th, 8th or 9th session of drilling the same BJJ techniques you will get much smoother and more efficient at performing them and they will start to take root in your muscle memory.
Repetition will ensure a martial arts move transfers from your short term to long term memory and will make it into a lasting skill. think quality not quantity here. its far better and more effective to drill a smaller number of moves many times than to just drill a different move every time but never really retain any of them.
9 Specific Sparring
Another big one, almost all of the big names in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu mention specific sparring as one of their most important training tools.
The difference with specific sparring is it really forces you to focus in and concentrate on developing specific areas, in full rolling you might only land in these positions once or twice but in specific sparring you are working on them for the entire round, this ensure’s much more development in these areas than in a full roll where most people just end up playing their A games and not really expanding their skills by developing anything new.
For really fast progress use BJJ set sparring in combination with the video analysis mentioned earlier to work on the weakness you see when watching yourself on video. You could even film the specific sparring and really supercharge your progress by using the feedback the analysis of this footage brings to guide and improve each subsequent specific sparring session of this position.
10 Focus On Developing Skills Instead Of Winning
If you just focus on winning and your only benchmark for success is how many people you tapped in a BJJ session then you will be missing out on huge amount of potential progress in your training sessions, instead focus on developing all areas as well as new areas of skill, such as escapes, defence, guard retention, different sweeps, different guards different positions, new transitions, pulling all these off in training is just as much the goal as submissions and should be viewed as progress.
Remember training is not a Mixed Martial Arts MMA fight nor competition match. If your only goal is to submit you will just play your A game, not really improve and stagnate your development.
11 Put Yourself In Bad Positions
Escapes are probably the least focused upon and practiced area by most practitioners. most people just want to skip straight to the glory of winning and don’t think much about having a strong foundation to fall back upon if it goes wrong.
This is best done with a training partner of lower skill level than you to start and gradually develop it against better and better opponents as you improve. otherwise if you start against an opponent of much high skill level you will likely be defeated to quickly for you to really make any progress in skill.
Practicing your escapes both submissions and positions on a regular basis will make you much more confident when it comes to attack as you will not hesitate to try moves if you have no fear of them not working out and ending up in a bad position, as you know you can simply just escape and go right back to attacking. This also has obvious benefits for Self Defence.
12 Watch videos and read about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Self Defence
Time in class isn’t the only time you can be using to improve your BJJ, you can use time when you are not on the mats to improve in other ways, watching videos, whether full length instructional’s or watching techniques or matches on youtube or as previously mentioned reviewing your own personal footage are all excellent ways to build your understanding and knowledge that will increase progress.
You can also look into other grappling based martial arts, uses of Jiu-Jitsu in MMA or look into how BJJ can be used for self defence.
The more time you spend thinking and learning about jiu-jitsu the better you will get, you can also do research online about the history of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and read about technical advice or read Jiu-Jitsu / Self Defence / MMA Mixed Martial Arts based books to increase your knowledge.
13 Work On Your Weak Areas
Rather than avoiding the positions or areas of BJJ you’re not good at focus on Improving them, if you just use your A game every single time with the same moves and avoid going into any other positions you will have no skill to use once put there whether in class, or self defence. To be effective at Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu you need to be well rounded and learn and work on all areas.
14 Concentrate On High Percentage Basics
Look at which Jiu Jitsu moves are successfully used at the highest level’s of competition, you will usually find that it is the same basic moves that everyone knows. If all you do is constantly practice new complicated flash moves that are low percentage then you wont be getting much return on your investment of time and effort.
Focusing on finding crazy new moves to try and catch your partners out with often leads to an arms race with no real development, you only catch out training partners because they’ve never seen the move before, so your purely relying on the surprise value instead of actually using jiu-jitsu skill to beat them, and by the second or third time you try it on them they are expecting it and it no longer works, then you return to youtube and find another crazy move to try and catch people with, the previous move is forgotten and the cycle continues with no real development of your skills.
Instead spend your time working on and going for a high percentage BJJ moves such as an arm bar, triangle, rnc, gi choke etc. the success rate of these moves is far higher so you will get far more results from them and when spend your time taking your knowledge of that move to a much deeper level, your opponent may even know its coming but due to you having spent so long making it into a formidable weapon they are unable to stop it.
Basic high percentage moves are also a lot more applicable to use in self defence as anything complicated will be difficult to perform under pressure and have little opportunity for use.
15 Make Sure You Have A Knowledgeable BJJ Teacher
If you have rubbish going in then you will have rubbish coming out. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an intelligent art based on large amounts of clever scientific knowledge and strategy, so if your instructor doesn’t really know much beyond a basic level of understanding then you will not be able to reach a good level of skill.
Imagine you train the same amount of time as someone who is having a high level of knowledge shared with them on a daily basis, who do you think is going to be better? Without being given this knowledge you are not really learning Jiu Jitsu.
Some signs of this might be lots of rolling in class with very little technique discussion or practice and when BJJ techniques are shown very few details are mentioned or explained. Watch some videos on youtube of some of the best known instructors teaching some moves and see how their explanations and level of detail shown differ from what you experience in class, if its a big difference then you might want to find somewhere better to train.
16 Make Sure You Have A Helpful BJJ Teacher
Your instructor can have all the BJJ knowledge in the world but if they aren’t really sharing that with you much and instead are just focused on their own selfish development then you wont improve much at all and will make very slow progress. Examples of this can be just teaching to the group but no real individual attention to the students, ask yourself when the last time your instructor came up to you individually and showed or told you something to make you better, If the answer is never or hardly ever or even very infrequent then its probably time to find yourself a new instructor.
I give my guys individual tips and feedback specific to what they are doing in almost every single lesson at my BJJ classes. If a Jiu Jitsu instructor doesn’t really help nor put any effort into their students then people need to stop rewarding them with money and attendance for it.