Your BJJ Comfort Zone: Your Philosophy of Struggles in BJJ and Life

I enjoy listening to and reading interviews with the great bjj competitors. Beyond technique, the advice and philosophy of the greats can influence your own bjj journey and help you overcome obstacles in your training.

I recently heard an interview with Gracie Barra’s Romulo Barral (a World Bjj Champion and ADCC Champion) a quote about our comfort zone that I enjoyed.

“If everything is going too smooth, it is because you are in your comfort zone. “The struggle is part of a champions life.” Romulo Barral

What does this mean?

Why is Romulo suggesting that it is a bad thing to have everything going “too smooth”?

I think Romulo is trying to say that to be our best, we are in a never-ending quest to work at improving ourselves and our bjj. All of the good things in life are achieved through struggle. Few things in life that are worthwhile are given to us.

read also: 5 Obstacles to Overcome in Your BJJ Training


Sometimes we are tempted to fall into familiar patterns. To become complacent and discontinue the hunger, disciplines and hard work that made us successful in the first place.

One of the remarkable things about the most successful people in life (in business, entertainment, authors etc) is that they never seem to be perfectly content with their existing level of expertise.
They are among the most dedicated students of their craft. Go into a successful person’s home and you will very likely see a bookshelf filled with

One of my all time favourite motivational quotes for bjj I read in the Gracie Barra ICP Course:
“As individuals we are all committed to lead a life of challenges, not of comfort, in pursuit of personal excellence through Jiu-Jitsu.”


As students of bjj, we must accept the challenge of pushing past our own limits and enjoy the new abilities we develop. None of this comes easy.

Who said anything about “EASY”?

That is the wrong question to ask.
The better question is “Is it worth the struggle?”

Every time your professor ties a new coloured belt around your waist, that incredible feeling can not be obtained by putting it on your credit card. You worked hard, paid for that belt honestly by “sweating many kimonos” and pushing past your previous limits.

Prof. Marcio Feitosa had an excellent message for instructors (which also applies to students of bjj as well) in the GB ICP5
“As professors, we can not just stay in our comfort zone. Just teach to our students the techniques that we perform well, or that we like better, the techniques that favour our body type. We actually have a training system in place; a curriculum that will push us outside of our comfort zone. And the end result is that we will teach a well-rounded jiu-jitsu to our students.”


So let’s ask ourselves to reflect on our own jiu-jitsu practice. Are we currently in a comfort zone?

Here are 3 ideas for you to try:

1) Is your “A game” being a guard player? Work on top & passing for the next month. Is your game a top player? Start playing a new spider guard, De la Riva or butterfly guard.

2) Do you always jump to guard to start a match? Spend the next month of training drilling your takedowns.

3) Have you given up on using one of the fundamental positions (ex. mount) and are content to work only from side control? Get out of your comfort zone and start working to finish from mount.

Accept that none of these new practices are going to go perfectly at first. You will fail initially. You will be tempted to revert to what is safe, what you know works for you.

But remember the advice of Romulo Barral and look outside your comfort zone and reach the next level in your jiu-jitsu!


read also: Ideas to Improve Your “A Game”

How have you broken out of a comfort zone in your own jiu-jitsu?

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ