The 'Secret' To Getting Better At BJJ

After rolling in the academy last night a student (with more than a year of experience) asked me how I felt he could get better at bjj at his level (3 stripes white belt). I told him that there was a ‘secret’ to getting better at bjj and he could write this down if he wanted.

His interest immediately spiked and he moved in closer to hear the secret revealed. I said in a quiet voice so that only he could hear what I had to say. “Do you want to improve your bjj skills? Here are the ‘secrets’.

1) Train at least 2-4 times per week

You must put in the mat time above all else. I don’t care if Grandmaster Helio Gracie is your professor, if you are not on the mat with him several times a week, you can not develop your skills.
Acquiring a complex skill like brazilian jiu-jitsu requires multiple sessions within a specified period of time or the knowledge and movement patterns fade from your memory and are never consolidated in your muscle memory.
Sure you can watch video to study technique or do your running or kettle bells, but you can’t learn to swim if you don’t get into the water can you?
There is no substitute for getting on the mat and “sweating your gi”!


2) Develop your physical conditioning

Regularly attending bjj class will dramatically improve the general fitness of many people. But if the question is “how can I improve the fastest possible?” then you are going to have to make the extra effort to be as fit as you can.

Yes, strength is not the most important factor in growing your jiu-jitsu skills, but show me a flabby and soft elite level competitor?

When you are fatigued, it is difficult to execute your coordinated motor movements precisely and retain your technique
The reality is that you DO need to have cardio vascular endurance, muscular endurance and strength to perform at your best.


read also: 5 Great Methods of Physical Conditioning for BJJ

3) Focus on the techniques and positions that your instructor shows in class

A black belt has been training a LONG time in most cases and knows the road of the journey of bjj very well.
I tell the students that I don’t teach “fluff” techniques: those that look cool or flashy but don’t really work against skilled opponents.
The basic techniques WORK!
The techniques that your instructor shows in class are very likely the ones he sees as appropriate for your level of experience.


4) Have proper attitude towards rolling

Roll with the mind set to try your techniques and seek to employ a technical solution in each position.
The alternative view is to roll with a competitive mind set to WIN each roll. To merely survive (hold your arms in as tightly as possible!) against a more experienced opponent or dominate using only your “A Game” against lower belts.

In an interview with a top MMA coach he defined the purpose of training was to DEVELOP and LEARN your techniques. To save the need to dominate every roll for the competition.
This frees your jiu-jitsu and opens you to experimenting and learning.

These are NOT secrets!!!” you say.

The truth is there are NO secrets to getting better at jiu-jitsu.

Train regular, be in shape, be coachable and have a learning attitude is how you get better.

read also:Advice for New Students on How to Roll

Credits: Mark Mullen 
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ