Improving your BJJ Skills While Under Lockdown
In order to prevent the spread of the current pandemic, BJJ organizations across the nation are being ordered to close their doors. Gyms are among the first to go when it comes to social distancing regulations, BJJ practices especially so. As students of the sport, we are stuck in the unfortunate situation of having a hobby that requires very close physical contact. Due to the nature of BJJ, there is a significantly higher risk of contracting the deadly virus or spreading it to someone else. The best and most responsible way to reduce the risk is to close the gyms and stop training there altogether. The issue for us is that if our local gym closes, there is no way of knowing when they will reopen so we can get back to training.
However, you have nothing to fear! There are plenty of things you can do to improve your Jiu Jitsu game even if you cannot physically train at your academy. These things will never replace (or be as fun as) in-person live classes, but they are better than doing nothing at home. If you give some of the things below a shot, you may even notice a significant improvement in your overall skills and understanding when we are finally able to wear the BJJ Gi and hit those glorious mats again.
Before you start, Have a Plan!
Before you start doing anything, having a strategy, and drafting up a plan is the first thing you want to do. If you want to learn Jiu Jitsu at home, having a clear-cut plan is essential for making noticeable improvements. When you attend a class in person, the professor has already organized the training and has an idea of what the class will be doing and what skills they will be working toward. They have you warm up, make you do some light drills, teach you the new techniques and then you spar. At home, it should be no different, other than you will be in charge of being your own teacher and will need discipline when training.
Once you have made an action plan you can start on drilling! Below are some types of training you can do while at home, some even while alone. Even when gyms open back up, you should consider keeping some of these practices as supplementing your training will help develop your Jiu Jitsu skills faster.
The first thing you should think about is drilling as it polishes your movements and makes your techniques more precise, especially if you’re just beginning. If you’re a white belt or even a blue belt, you still may not have all the agility and flexibility required to perform some Jiu Jitsu maneuvers. Since there is a limited number of things you can do while under lockdown, you really should put your focus and energy into mastering the fundamentals. One of the most difficult things to learn in Jiu Jitsu is hip movement. For example, recovering guard is a skill that everyone should strive to perfect, but even at higher belts, some people struggle to recover guard properly because they don't have the necessary hip movement available to them. You can roll a ton but if you are always doing the same movement wrong, then it will never work and will only enforce bad habits. So, take the time to do some drilling to make sure that you can relearn the movement properly and drill it into your body’s muscle memory.
There are a plethora of solo drills that you can do such as hip escapes, triangles, wrestlers’ setups, and tornado passes, all of which require knowledge of proper Jiu Jitsu movements to master. If you want to get good at anything, you will have to practice it… A LOT. In class, they tell you to do 20 reps? Well then do 100 at home. Since you can’t live roll, really focus on what you can do on your own and amplify it. We really can’t stress enough to take care that you are doing the movements the proper way because practicing the wrong technique this much will only hinder your progress. But if you do it properly, you will notice the difference when you head back to the mats.
In just around 20 minutes you can get a solid conditioning workout by doing four rounds of 5 minutes of drilling. This is also a good practice to do a couple of weeks out from the competition.
This is a practice that is underestimated in many sports and should not be neglected. After learning new techniques in class what happens in the following days? Do you still remember the techniques clearly and vividly? This is where visualization can come in handy. This imaginary practice can aid you in keeping both new and old techniques fresh in your mind.
Once you get accustomed to visualizing as training, you can use it to do more than just remembering a technique. When you’re better at visualizing, you can use it to better understand a technique and perform a sort of “live rolling” in your head. You can do a sequence of events against an imaginary opponent and think step by step about the movements you will make. Visualization is something Roger Gracie says helps him before competitions as well. If a world champion practitioner says it helps him in his matches, it is probably something you should try.
This is also a good way to keep up with your training when you get the occasional injury that may take you out of commission for a short time. Here is how you can implement some visualization into your daily routine:
- Find a quiet, calm spot to be in. This can be anywhere as long as there isn’t much too distract you from your goal.
- Close your eyes and imagine yourself on the mats in an optimal environment.
- Think about the techniques you want to work on and start to visualize yourself performing the movements slowly, step by step. Try to understand the mechanisms behind it, don't skip any details. Remember the mistakes you may have made while training and visualize yourself correcting those mistakes.
- When you’re done, affirm to yourself that you have learned through this experience and implement what you have learned the next time you physically train.
This is a very easy way to supplement your training and it doesn't cost you anything other than a couple of minutes of your time!
Studying BJJ Online
Studying Jiu Jitsu online doesn’t have the best reputation, but when done properly it can be quite effective. Still, you should proceed with caution because there are a lot of ways you can do this wrong. There is a ton of misinformation from Mac Dojos out there that will show you attractive advanced techniques the wrong way to get views. Also, it is important to point out that Jiu Jitsu Academies that are offering fake belts for online courses are a waste of your time and money as no reputable teacher will give you a belt for training only from your desktop. These are not what we mean by supplementing your training by studying online.
Online Jiu Jitsu has made some great strides in the past few years and there is a ton of great content that can help you improve your skills. If you have a good plan and structure your approach to your study it can be very effective.
Nowadays many of the best-known competitors have their subscription services or online academies. They provide in depth breakdowns of many of their favorite techniques as well as the building blocks to reach those techniques. Pricing is very competitive due to the healthy level of competition in the field so that means fair prices for you! There are plenty of resources for students of all levels so do a little bit of research to find what course is right for you.
We’d be doing you a disservice if we didn't address finding videos on YouTube, everyone’s go-to for free videos to learn from. In our opinion, it saves a lot of time and mental strain shelling out a few bucks for a legitimate course from a well-known and respected BJJ competitor. This way you already know their teachings work as they use it themselves in competitions and you won't have to worry as much whether what you’re learning is useful or not. There's no doubt there are some useful videos out there for free, and if you find them and learn useful things from them, more power to you! But for the relatively fair price tag, it's hard to beat learning straight from a proven world champ.
DVD’s and Videos
It’s a pretty good time to be getting into BJJ as many public BJJ personalities are currently offering their resources and content for free or a massively reduced rate in light of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. Take advantage of these offers and try to enjoy the small wins in life as we know we could all use a little good news these days.
BJJ fanatics have become a great source of Jiu Jitsu content and you can find a lot of resources there. Some of their catalogs include Bernardo Fario, Marcelo Garcia, Lachlan Giles, and Gordan Ryan just to name a few.
Just as pro athletes in the NBA or NFL watch their previous game footage, students of Jiu Jitsu can also gain some serious knowledge from watching some competition footage. It doesn’t even have to be your footage, watching the competitions of some of the top black belts can show you plenty. Seeing the likes of Marcus Almeida or Gordan Ryan successfully hitting moves and techniques on other high level competitors proves to you that those moves do work. By studying their movements, the details and adjustments they do, you can learn a lot.
Once you familiarize yourself with the styles of some world-class athletes, a good tip is to find and pick an athlete that closely resembles your own style. Following the matches of someone with a similar build and style as you can really help you develop your game. Take note of patterns and sequences that can fit into your game and try to integrate it the next time you roll.
Strength training is one of the more obvious things you can do at home to keep strong and fit. It's also one of the easier ways to train and stay safe in isolation. Building strength can really only help you in the long run. Be sure to do research and find routines that include BJJ specific exercises.You can use fitness apps to improve and track your progress.
Yoga is also a great (and socially distant) way to improve your skills. As many know, BJJ is largely about movement and your ability to control your own body as well as your opponents. Yoga can assist in improving your skills by developing your core strength and flexibility. There are even BJJ specific yoga workouts and stretches that focus on growing your body’s ability to improve your Jiu Jitsu game. With a few months of dedication and effort, you’ll notice significant gains to your overall mobility which will in turn help your BJJ game immensely. It also will help you against injury which is just an extra bonus.
Practice in a Small Group, or One on One
If you are fortunate enough to have a space to roll or have access to an academy, you still might be able to roll. But this should be done carefully with consideration to your local area’s guidance and restrictions. If you want to roll, it should be done in very small, consistent groups. This means you should try to keep the same members every session and to avoid adding new people to prevent the spread of the virus. Grabbing a partner near your level and rolling one on one would be the best course of action to minimize infection.
A grappling dummy is the safer route you can take if you have a few extra dollars to spend. The dummies are more limited in terms of what you can do with them, but there are some good resources on YouTube that can show you some good drills you can try.