World Champion and 5X Pan Am champion Vicente Jr (VJ) is one of my best friends, business partner, and also my BJJ Professor. I started training under him as a Purple belt but, (I might as well have been a white belt) I was not very good and most of what I did know was wrong. Once I stared training under him, he started to fix my bad habits and teach me the proper way to train, learn, teach and compete. I’m very lucky to have a professor that is as good as he is, but I’m even more lucky to have him as friend and mentor.
This was a drill we did last week in our Conquest competition team training. It show the correct way to get from a closed guard to spider guard and ends with a nice triangle choke.
Vicente Jr and I are always working on new drills and this is one of our NEW favorites. We love the way it flows, and the idea, of working 3 different passes from the same starting position. When you approach a technique this way, it gives your mind and body a few different options, but you will always gravitate toward the one that woks the best for the situation, and your body.
Take a look and let me know what you think!
If you ever have a question or want to see a drill or technique for something please send me an email with your request to firstname.lastname@example.org
1.Just do it!!! The biggest thing holding people back from competing is the feeling of not being “ready”. The truth is the sooner you start competing the better competing is. With your first tournament, there is less of an expectation to win and less pressure to perform. Pick a tournament, register, and hold yourself accountable to show up and compete on that day. The skill difference between you and the other competitors can become vastly different the longer you wait. For example,the novice white belt division is typically 6 months (or less in some cases) of training where the blue belt can be anyone training from 1 year up to 4 years. I have also found that the students who compete sooner progress faster. I believe this in part due to those students gaining confidence more quickly and being in situations that allow them to develop their game. When you decide to compete you typically start developing a game or style. Which brings us to tip number two….
2. “If you don’t know where you are going you might not get there”. What does this mean to the person getting ready for their first tournament? It means develop a game plan and set a goal. Obviously, the main goal of competing is to test yourself and win; however, that is too broad of a goal for this scenario. You need to develop a game plan that will guide you to win. For example, if Steve is very good at from closed guard, his game plan should be centered around that and not takedowns. You should be able to pinpoint your strongest position and have an avenue to always be able to get back to that position. This is best done in training; decide on your strategy and how you would like each of your tournament matches to go and force that game plan in every roll during class. This builds precision in your techniques, confidence in your ability to execute the techniques, and provides opportunities to learn how to adapt when the technique fails.
3.Learn to listen. There is a great saying… “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.” The ability to listen to your coach during a match is essential and can be the difference between winning and losing. Your coach has an outside view of the match and can help remind you of techniques you may have forgotten in the heat of the moment. The best way to train your listening skills is to have mock tournament matches during class or open mat during the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Doing this will help you recognize your instructors voice under pressure, while your adrenaline is pumping.
4.Learn the rules. Many competitors, both novice and experienced, now a days get to a tournament and do not understand or even take the time to read the rules for that particular tournament. By taking the time to read and understand the rules you can prevent any chance of getting disqualified and even plan a strategy around the rules (to your advantage). For example, if the tournament you are entering has a time limit you can use a strategy that secures points quickly while you go for submissions or wait until time runs out. If it is a submission only-no time limit match, your game plan will be based on being able to submit quickly or build your endurance to last a long match.
5.Train Train Train! If you have picked a tournament and made the commitment to compete, the best thing you can do is train. Show up to as many classes as your schedule allows. The time spent on the mats leading up to a competition is invaluable when it comes to preparing for any tournament. Listen, learn, drill, and roll as much as you can to prepare for the competition. Train with a goal in mind, do not just train and roll like you normal would in class. Have your game plan in mind and roll every time looking to execute your game.
I wrote a post back in December talking about the over consumption of information. Here’s a link to that post “Thanks, But Too Much Information”. Everyone loves buying the new DVD sets showing 5 hours of techniques; the problem is, you won’t ever be able to consume all that information. Even if you’re one of those photographic memory, genius types, you may consume it, but you’ll never really learn it that way.
How many times have you bought one of these sets for hundreds of dollars? If you even watch the whole dvd, which you probably won’t, you’ll only remember a handful of techniques, and be able to apply even less when you’re rolling. That’s right, you just spent all that money to learn two or three techniques. These big box sets don’t teach you Jiu Jitsu, they just bombard you with techniques so you feel you got your money’s worth. So if your goal is to see as many moves as possible without ever really learning the concepts, keep buying these mega set’s.
I have found the best way to learn BJJ is through repetition and concepts. You need to work one or two ideas until you can do them in your sleep. Whenever I have had a problem or see a student having a problem, I teach and follow these 5 steps so I’m always training BJJ, even outside of class.
After almost every training session, I try to sit and think about the things that worked and the things that didn’t work. I use reflection as a tool to keep track of my good and bad days. When I say reflect, I don’t mean think about it for 5 – 10 minutes, I mean run each match back through your head and actually write down what went well and what you need work on. Keeping all of this information in one book or training journal is the key. It will allow you to watch for any patterns, and address them immediately when they’re found.
Now, when I say research I don’t mean go watch 2 hrs of Youtube videos. Research, to me, is thinking about a position, breaking down each step, and identifying the missing link. You should also ask instructors, fellow students, or even me (shoot me an email with a quick question or video and I’ll try to help email@example.com) where you are messing up. Depending on your school, and how cool your instructor is, this can be an easy way, or a painful way to get answers to your questions. You need to intelligently assess the situation, and constantly re-evaluate your efforts.
Now that we’ve identified the problem with the technique, we need to address the solution. How will I insert a movement or mindset in order to stop a particular submission or make a technique work better? Questions and answers is the process. BJJ teaches you there’s an intelligent solution for every problem. Sometimes that solution is tapping out, sometimes it’s turning a failing submission into a sweep, and sometimes it is following this 5 step process.
Asking questions and getting answers is always the best way to overcome any issue you are having in Jiu Jitsu. Anytime I’m trying to learn something new, or correct a mistake, I follow this exact system. Once I get to step 4 I review steps 1-3 and try to find any concepts that will help me understand BJJ from a higher level. A simple conceptual example is if I’m going to sweep someone I need to control an arm and a leg on one side, their base. If I can remember that, I don’t need to memorize and exact sweep. I can sweep from various positions by applying the larger concept of controlling my opponent’s base on one side.
The last step of the system is drilling. If you want to improve you have to put the work in outside of class. We have done the mental preparation, reflected on the problem, broke down how to fix it, and have looked for any overall concepts. Now we need to drill until the techniques become second nature. We want to work this one position with 2-3 variations for a few weeks, or longer. Remember, Bruce Lee once said “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
Basically here’s my philosophy toward learning BJJ outside of the school. Take it slow and work one idea at a time. Don’t overload your brain with hundreds of ideas that you will never understand or even remember. Learning from a system, with concepts, will always beat learning from over consumption.
The snow is falling here on the east coast, so I had to cancel classes tonight at my academy. I shot this video last week, but I was out of town all weekend teaching a seminar in Pennsylvania with my instructor Professor Vicente Junior (VJ). I had a lot of you, ask for a quick follow up video, talking about the grip fighting ideas from my last post, “Are you losing the BJJ grip fight? Most of you aren’t even playing the game.” In this grip fighting video, VJ and I will show you how to start your attacks, and how to react when someone grips you first. One idea I want you to get from this, is a mindset of trying to never let someone grip you first, or have a better grip then you. If you are behind on the grips when you start, its very hard if not impossible, to catch up. What you need to do is, stop your attack and break their grips, then start your attack again with your grips in the correct places. Check out the video below and leave me a comment.
As most Black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I roll with my students everyday. This enables me to see and feel the way my students are rolling. One thing I always hear from my white and blue belts is, “I always feel like I ‘m fighting a loosing battle, constantly defending and always a step behind.” The answer I’m sure you hear a lot is, “You are only a [insert belt color) keep working and you will get more tools.” Another one might be “that’s the way it will be until some new people come in for you to work on” or something like that. By watching and rolling in 30+ matches a week, I have noticed a very bad habit that most white and blue belts do. They always lose the beginning of the grip fight. Most of the time its not even a fight, it’s the higher belt taking what ever grips they want, while the newer student does’t try to stop them, or even, try to get a grip of their own. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.” ― Napoleon Bonaparte. All the higher belts know your are making this fundamental mistake. The thing is it makes rolling with you that much easier.
Before you engage (ie: take down, getting on top, or pulling guard) you must win the grip fight FIRST! If you are starting standing, or on your knees, your grips or preventing their grips is your first mission. The grips are the most important part, not only your grips, but your opponents grips. As your match is starting if you don’t have the grips that you need (your go to grip) don’t allow your opponent to have whatever grips they want. What I see all the time is, one person gets their grips of choice, and the other person just lets them push them over on their back or pull them into closed guard. This is the biggest mistake you can make. As someone starts to control you, you need to focus all your energy and concentration on either breaking that grip, or using that grip to your advantage. The main reason is that any grip can give your opponent a higher level of control. Even if it’s a little control at that moment, they could use that one grip to get a large amount of control by hip movement and/or re-gripping. You can think of it as them peeking through your half opened window: you don’t want them to open the window and climb through it; I would rather have you slam that window on their fingers, so they don’t even want to grip again.
Soon you will start to know what grips are very dangerous and what grips you can let them have. This will come with time and feeling. I tell people to think of grips as an electric shock; don’t let your opponent SHOCK YOU, you do the shocking! They laugh, but they remember it. You must use grips to help your movements, but also keep in mind above all else grips are control, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, the correct grip in the right hands they can end a fight quick.
Many BJJ athletes worry too much about what others think about them. These athletes have a desire for approval from others, such as teammates, coaches, parents, and friends.
If you (or your students) want or need to please others, you have a need to be admired, accepted, respected, or liked by other athletes, coaches, family or teammates.
I have to admit that some of this is just human nature (I do It too), but when taken to an extreme, it can cause athletes to feel pressure and is a huge distraction.
Do you worry you’ll disappoint your teammates or professor if you loss a match or mess up a technique?
Here’s a classic scenario from one of our readers, parents:
“If my son makes a simple mistake like making a wrong grip, losing by points from a mental mistake, or giving up when someone starts passing his guard. That’s it, days over, in a funk, and upset. His main concern is disappointing the Professor, teammates, or parents and worried they will think less of him as an athlete (outcast for not winning the match). Why is he so concerned with “not letting down others”?”
This type of thinking not only distracts you from performing in the moment, but it also becomes a source of pressure for many BJJ athletes.
This is called social approval . Athletes who are preoccupied with what others think tend to engage in what I call “mind reading.”
Mind reading is when you make unfounded assumptions about what others might think about your performance, such as:
“Is my Professor disappointed with the errors I made today?”
“Will my parents be happy with my performance today if I lose?”
“If I mess up today, will others be happy with me?”
Social approval comes in many forms. Some athletes want to please or gain respect from others. Some athletes fear disappointing people.
The effect on you is still the same when you perform: pressure, tension, and distraction.
The key is to understand when you begin to read others’ minds:
Do you mind read when others are watching you perform?
Do you mind read after you make a mistake?
Do you mind read when you see expressions of disapproval from others?
The next step is to understand why you are so concerned with what others think about your game:
Do you want to avoid embarrassment?
Do you want to gain others’ approval?
Do you want to impress others with your skills?
Do you use sport as a way to gain respect from others?
Once you can uncover when and why you mind read, you can learn to react better in these scenarios.
Here’s a simple mental game tip to help you… (1) Catch yourself the next time you begin to mind read. (2) Tell yourself that’s not important right now. (3) Refocus on the current match. That’s it!
This simple strategy will at least help you be more aware when you worry about what others think.
Questions: How important is sleep for you? What do you do to insure adequate rest?
It’s easy to confuse discouragement while training and just being tired. The symptoms are similar. It reminds me again of something my parents used to tell me when I was in college: “You can’t burn the candle at both ends.” Jiu Jitsu is hard mentally and physically so rest can be a game changer.
By that, they meant that you can’t get up early and stay up late. You might be able to get away with it occasionally, but eventually you burn out—just like a candle would eventually do if you could light it at both ends.
Once again, I was reminded that I have to actively manage my energy level. If I don’t take care of myself, I’m not going to be much use to anyone and my Jiu Jitsu will suffer.
Of all the things that affect my energy and productivity, nothing is more important than getting a good night’s sleep. Exercise (BJJ), diet, and mental focus are all important, but they can’t make up for a lack of rest. You need to aim for between 7-9 hrs of sleep per night.
Here’s how I make sure I get a good night’s sleep:
Avoid caffeinated drinks in the evening. Use caffeine as a pre work out boots, but try not to drink it with in 6 hours of going to sleep. You maybe able to fall asleep but you sleep quality will be poor.
Go to bed on time. This is huge. I have to be strict with myself. For me, this means no later than 10:00 p.m., unless it’s a weekend.
Make sure the room is dark. We have blinds on the windows that cut out 95 percent of the outside light. Again its all about sleep and sleep quality.
Keep the temperature cool. In the winter, we keep it at about 68°. In the summer, about 70°. You will sleep more soundly if the room is cool enough to require a blanket.
Listen to relaxing music. This doesn’t work for everyone, but I listen to the same exact music every night. It’s become an audio queue that says to my subconscious mind and body, “It’s time to go to sleep now.”
Run a fan. The “white noise” mutes outside noise and puts me to sleep. When I am on the road, I loop “Ambient White Noise for Sleep,” which you can get from iTunes.
It is surprising how much more productive and how much better my Jiu Jitsu is when I have had a full night’s sleep. Problems that seemed insurmountable at the end of the previous day are manageable with a full charge on my biological battery. Sleep is one of the things we NEED to have every night. The sleep get MUST be QUALITY SLEEP!
There is a saying in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) “A Black Belt, is only a white belt that never quit”. Now that you have decided on a school and you have started on your road to Black Belt nothing will help you more then commitment. If you have gone though the steps laid out in step 1 of finding a BJJ school. You have found a great school with some great coaches or professors. Their goal will be to get you to Black Belt. This will take a lot of time and hard work from you and from them. Not only will you need to commit a set amount of time you will need to commit to learn.
First take an honest assessment of your life and your time. If your married with kids and have a full time job you will not be able to commit 5 days a week to Jiu Jitsu and thats okay. What you need to do is Commit to, 1 or 2 days a week and don’t miss class. If you commit to 2 classes per week MAKE THEM. No excuses I’m tired (we are all tired) I’m hungry (eat quick and get to class) , I’m not feeling well (go to class and i bet you feel better after) I will make it up next week (NO you won’t). I have heard every excuse in the book. The only thing that is, is your mind trying to quite. It’s trying to tell your body we don’t need this, lets eat some ice cream and watch a movie. There is another saying you will hear in BJJ and i’m not sure who said it. Your mind will quit way before your body ever will. This is a quote to live by.
Now that we have committed going to class and we are keeping our commitment. we need to commit to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Going to class a couple times a week is great, but to be able to progress fast you will need to commit to learning the concepts of BJJ. This will be a skill you need to work on to see the key parts yourself. We will help you start finding the key movements and positions that are in many if not all the bjj techniques. We here at bestBJJdrills.com we can show you hundreds of drills that we use to teach the movements and the techniques. Drilling will be the fast way to progress in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu but again that will take commitment. Any time you can get some free mat time, drill, don’t waist your time rolling when you don’t have the basics down.
I will promise you if you have gone over our steps to find the right school. When you show your new team that you are committed to them by showing up and training hard. Your new team and your new instructors will be committed to you.
Now that you have found your new Jiu Jitsu school what will your first day be like?
What to Wear
Before you come to your first class, you’ll need to figure out what to wear.
You usually don’t need a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) gi for your first class; t-shirts, rash guards, board shorts, or sweat pants are all fine. Sometimes, you can wear a gi or uniform from another martial art (ask the instructor about this issue). You will need to buy a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gi for any of the gi classes. At my school, we ask that you wear our team gi or a team patch on your personal gi.
Do NOT wear anything with extra pockets, belt loops or baggy fabric. These are dangerous since fingers and toes can get caught in them. Baggy cargo shorts are a common example of things not to wear.
If you already own them, you can wear any protective gear (knee braces, ear guards, mouth guard, cup, etc.) you feel you need, with the exception of wrestling shoes (some clubs allow shoes, others don’t). Athletic tape can be used to protect injured fingers or toes. I do suggest you purchase a mouth guard; they can be found at any local athletic store or from our list of links below.
Make sure your finger and toe nails are well-groomed. If you have long hair, you’ll want to put it up in a ponytail or bun during class. You should also remove any piercings or jewelry to prevent injuries. Always use deodorant and have a clean uniform. I don’t want to smell you before I see you:)
Your First Class
You’ll probably want to show up a couple minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor and any other students. The Jiu Jitsu community is very nice so you should feel at home right away. Before class starts, you’ll have a chance to get dressed and stretch out on the mats. If you have any injuries, be sure to tell the instructor and stretch that area before class starts. Be prepared before class starts so you don’t miss anything.
You will also want to have an idea of BJJ Mat Rules. Here is a list of my academies mat rules. This will be a general idea of how most schools will be, some schools will have more, some will have less.
Bow to the center of the mat when you enter or exit.
Keep a respectful posture on the mat. No lounging.
Classes begin and end with a formal bow to the instructor with students lining up in descending belt order.
During class, when the instructor is demonstrating a technique, all students must sit in seize and watch.
If late, stand by the side of the mat until recognized by the instructor.
Always ask permission from the instructor to leave the mat.
Touch Hands with your partner before and after each training session.
Talking should be kept to a minimum, relate to the class subject, and be appropriate at all times.
Exercise good hygiene to include, but not limited to: clean gi/no-gi uniforms, short finger and toe nails, clean bodies, fresh breath, etc.
The belt represents your progress. Keep it on when training in the gi.
Refer to black belt instructors as “Professor”.
All metal objects, jewelry, piercings, necklaces, etc. must be removed before class.
No shoes, food, or drink on the mat.
Keep your cell phones in the lobby or locker room. If you are expecting an important call, let the instructor know before class.
Higher belts will ask lower belts to roll. Not the other way around.
For safety reasons, lower belts should yield to higher belts when rolling if mat space is limited and contact may occur.
Keep unneeded gear in the locker rooms.
Clean up after yourself. This includes water bottles, sweat towels, clothing, etc. anything remaining in the gym after class will be thrown in the trash or lost and found.
Some teachers use a very light warm-up, whereas others start the class with a heavy-duty conditioning session. Most classes start with a group warm-up, such as running laps and doing push-ups, followed by solo drills like forward and backward break falls and shrimping. Those last three moves will probably be new to you, so just watch what everyone else is doing and try to copy them. These are to help you learn how to fall safely and move your hips on the ground. I start all of my classes with a 10 to 15 minute warm up. If your starting BJJ when your older, a good warm up will save you from a lot of unnecessary injuries.
Don’t worry if you don’t get the exercises correct at first, no one does on their first day. All of these drills and movements take a practice (drill, drill, drill). Just give it your best try and the instructor or a higher belt will make sure you learn to do it right.
The normal way you signal submission in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is to tap your opponent three times. When you tap, make sure you do it hard enough that your partner can feel it; or tap yourself or the mat where they can see and/or hear it; or verbally tap by saying “TAP, TAP!”; or loudly tap the mat with your foot so they can hear it. Likewise, be aware of your training partner tapping and stop whatever you are doing when he does so.
Tapping is just part of training and there is no shame in it. Don’t worry about winning or losing. Just try the techniques you’ve learned to the best of your ability and tap when you need to, ideally before it hurts. A good rule that I always tell my students is “Tap early and Tap often;” this is another rule that will keep you from getting any unnecessary injuries.
After warm-ups, you’ll be partnered with someone or you will pick a partner. If you get to pick, always try to get a higher belt rank your same size. It will help you speed up your learning curve, because the higher rank will notice any mistakes and correct them right away. Now you and your partner will go to your own section of the mats to be taught your first lesson. At some schools, you will practice a beginner curriculum, and at others, you will simply do whatever techniques are being taught that day.
After you have warmed up, and drilled the technique of the night. Most gyms will do some positional drilling. Drills and sparring follow the instruction and repetition of techniques. This will be your first chance to try out what you just learned against a fully resisting partner in a live drill. It’s important that you understand some basic rules for all live drilling and sparring:
Basic Rules* No striking, punching or kicking.
* No eye gouging or hair pulling.
* No twisting or grabbing fingers.
* No slamming
* No heel hooks
* No neck cranks.
Remember that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is designed to be trained safely without serious injury. These rules are to help keep you and your training partners safe and healthy.
Sparring or “Rolling”
At most schools the class concludes with live rolling. You may be assigned a sparring partner, and usually you’ll change partners after every round. I like to pick the partners for my students. It keeps people from just choosing people that they can beat, staying in a safe zone. It also helps in intergrading the newer students to pair them with people that will help them during the roll.
At the start of each round, you’ll begin by facing your partner on your knees. When you’re both ready shake hands and start to “roll”: try out your techniques, stopping whenever one of you taps and restarting from knees. Remember go slow and leave your ego at the door. You are there to learn and get better, not to get hurt or hurt anyone.
Some schools start with timed rounds, but allow you to continue doing “free sparring” with no time limits after class is officially over.
With class over, you might have more questions, now that you’ve trained for the first time. Don’t worry, your BJJ technique will take some time to develop. This is where bestBJJdrills.com will come in play. After class and during open mat is your time to drill. Rolling is fun, but to really increase your skills, you need to DRILL! Another great tip to learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is keeping a journal or notebook. I like to see students taking notes after class; notes and drilling will be the key to learning BJJ.
This should answers any questions you might have regarding your first day at your new Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy. Good luck and hope to see you on the mat. If you do have questions feel free to leave it here in the comments or on our FaceBook fan page