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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu vs Gracie Jiu Jitsu: What’s the Difference?


With the explosive growth of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu around the world and especially the United States, virtually every major city and even small towns have multiple locations that offer BJJ.

With that in mind, you may have noticed a variety of names for the different schools.

One of the larger sub-brands of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

If that sounds confusing, well, it sort of is.

After all, didn’t the Gracie family invent BJJ in the first place?

While the answer is a bit more complicated, the Gracie family was largely responsible for the spread of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu globally.

Still, that does not explain why you now find schools called “Gracie Jiu Jitsu” that differentiate themselves from “mainstream” Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

In this article, I’ll break down some of the key differences between Gracie Jiu Jitsu so you can have a better idea of where the division lies, and which brand of BJJ is best for your personal martial arts journey.

Here we go!

How modern BJJ differs from traditional BJJ

To fully understand the difference between Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, its important to know the origination and subsequent evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

BJJ was initially an adaptation of traditional Japanese Judo that focused more on the ground fighting aspect of grappling as opposed to throws and sweeps.

In the early days, BJJ was used in legit fights with strikes, and the notion of “no-holds barred” fighting was deep within the original culture of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

As BJJ itself became a distinct art form, competitions with a pure grappling ruleset became more commonplace.

Within the confines of BJJ rulesets such as the IBJJF ruleset, striking techniques are not permitted.

While this does remove many attack options for individuals who prefer defeating opponents through blunt force trauma as opposed to chokes and limb breaking, it opens a variety of grappling options that would be unwise to attempt if you are at risk of getting hit in the face.

However, the lack of strikes and subsequent exploration of positions that are sub-optimal for all out fights meant that BJJ as an art form evolved over many iterations and generations of competitors and coaches.

The result is an entire library of attacks, defenses, and counterattacks as a direct result of the various adaptations made at the highest levels of BJJ as athletes attempt to learn their opponents’ styles and develop technical counterattacks.

As these competitors develop their own style and begin coaching students, this new iteration of BJJ students will now frequently be doing techniques that a decade or two earlier were considered outlandish or well outside the realm of mainstream BJJ.

Nowadays, competitive BJJ integrates the fundamentals of old school BJJ with newer attacks and counterattacks that have evolved over many decades of pure BJJ competition.

What is Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

Helio Gracie Gracie Jiu Jitsu is a brand of BJJ associated with the older style of Jiu Jitsu that focuses primarily on the techniques you need to win in street fights as opposed to Jiu Jitsu tournaments.

Rener and Rorion Gracie, the grandsons of Helio Gracie, are now some of the main proponents of the old school “Gracie” Jiu Jitsu, and their Gracie University organization is heavily involved in the promotion of this particular style.

The Gracie Jiu Jitsu curriculum includes a range of techniques designed to help new, untrained students learn to defend themselves first against stronger, bigger, but untrained opponents in a street fight situation.

As you progress in the Gracie Jiu Jitsu curriculum, the techniques focus on fighting trained attackers who have experience with legitimate fighting arts, including BJJ.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu shuns techniques that are flashy and effective in BJJ tournaments but are unfeasible, unnecessary, or downright risky in a real fight.

In this way, the Gracie Jiu Jitsu curriculum is distinct from many of the typical curricula found in mainstream modern BJJ.

Is Gracie Jiu Jitsu effective?

Gracie Jiu Jitsu has effectively branded itself as self-defense jiu jitsu.

But is it really effective?

Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple yes or no.

It completely depends on the instructor, student, and situation as to whether any given art will “work.”

The truth is, any martial art that involves live training against fully resisting opponents will help you in the event of an actual fight.

The techniques in Gracie Jiu Jitsu can certainly work in a real fight.

However, whether they are ‘better’ for fighting than something like MMA focused Jiu Jitsu or an alternative self-defense system such as Krav Maga is likely a matter of eternal debate amongst the various practitioners of each art form.

If you have an experienced instructor, perform live training against resisting opponents including strikes, and cultivate a knowledge of fighting to understand the dangers associated with various positions, you will be better off in a real fight.

Given that there are so many variables when discussing “street fights,” it’s tough to say for 100% certainty that an art is the ‘best’ for real world violence.

Nevertheless, an experienced BJJ practitioner who has zero training in striking is not going to be as prepared for real fights as someone who has a more comprehensive approach to their overall martial arts training.

However, a student with a few months of Gracie Jiu Jitsu still has virtually no chance at beating even the sportiest of BJJ purple belts and higher.

There is simply too great of a knowledge gap and not enough time to master the ‘non-sport BJJ’ aspects of Gracie Jiu Jitsu to have a chance against someone with years under the belt, even if they have a ‘sportier’ style of BJJ.

Should I do BJJ or Gracie Jiu Jitsu?

I’m going to be honest. I personally think the difference between training Gracie Jiu Jitsu and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is relatively small in the overall context of training martial arts.

The most important thing about any martial arts training is whether you like your coach and fellow students enough to consistently train.

Getting good enough at martial arts to be effective takes a good amount of dedicated time and effort alongside ongoing practice.

If you don’t really like where you train and are not consistent, it really does not matter how effective your system is in the real world.

Even if you get good at ‘sport Jiu Jitsu,’ by the time you hit purple belt, you will be so much better off than being a 3-month white belt in a system branded as the ultimate self-defense method.

Also, even if you are at a sport BJJ school, you can always get together with your training partners, throw on some gloves, and work striking into your training to make it more realistic for a street fight.

With all of that said, if you first and foremost care about self defense and you have the choice between a Gracie Jiu Jitsu school and a standard BJJ school, you should strongly consider going with Gracie Jiu Jitsu.

Gracie Jiu Jitsu vs Brazilian Jiu Jitsu: the bottom line

Overall, the difference between Gracie Jiu Jitsu and BJJ as it is taught in many non-Gracie academies is that Gracie Jiu Jitsu focuses first and foremost on the aspects of Jiu Jitsu that would be most effective in a street fight where anything goes.

In the modern era of martial arts, the difference is probably more about the branding than it is about the training.

Getting good at grappling, whether that be Gracie Jiu Jitsu, mainstream BJJ, or MMA grappling will put you in a much better position to survive and win street fights compared to being mediocre at any martial art.

In any case, you are certainly better off than having no training at all.

Elite professional BJJ athletes are among the best martial artists in the world, certainly in their sport.

But when it comes to the financial side of being a professional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu artist, you might be wondering “how much money do BJJ athletes make?”

In this article, we’ll dive into this topic with facts and data and investigate exactly how lucrative it is to be a pro BJJ artist.

Let’s check it out!

How do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes make money?

BJJ athletes can make money from a several sources in relation to competition.

If we are looking strictly at what they make as professional BJJ athletes, meaning income that could not well be obtained without their frequently competing successfully, there are three potential sources:

  • Winning BJJ tournaments that do cash prizes
  • Ticket sales from events/streaming
  • Obtaining sponsorships from different companies

Generally speaking, the cash victory prizes will be the most lucrative, although very popular athletes might do well with ticket sales if they have enough of a following in a given city – although this is probably not that likely.

Sponsorships often provide gear and perhaps travel expenses and competition registration fees for sponsored athletes, however they typically do little to change an athlete’s actual financial wealth.

How much money do pro BJJ athletes make?

In terms of how much BJJ athletes win in tournaments, we can take a look at what Gordon Ryan claimed he was earning in an Instagram post from last fall:

He states that at his current competition victory rate, he expects to earn roughly 200k pre-tax across roughly 10-12 competitions.

He credibly claims to be the highest paid athlete in the sport by far, so we can assume that his competitors of similar level on down make less than that.

Given that competition victory only pays out to a very slim minority of competitors, I would bet that there are a few reasonably paid athletes followed by a steep decline to where competitors earn essentially nothing from competing and not winning, and probably even lose money on travel expenses.

For reference, here are the 2022 cash prize payouts for some of the top BJJ tournaments.

ADCC 2022 Victory Prizes

ADCC is among the most well-paying promotions in the business of BJJ competitions. As such, it’s a good benchmark for maximal potential earnings directly from competition.

The ADCC victory prizes are as follows:

Men’s Weight Class Brackets:

  • First – $10,000
  • Second – $5,000
  • Third – $3,000
  • Fourth – $1,000

Men’s Absolute Bracket:

  • First – $40,000
  • Second – $10,000
  • Third – $2,000
  • Fourth – $1,000

Women’s Weight Class Brackets:

  • First – $6,000
  • Second – $3,000
  • Third – $2,000
  • Fourth – $1,000

Super Fights:

  • Winner – $40,000
  • Loser – $10,000

Awards:

Best Fighter: $1,400
Best Takedown: $1,400
Fastest Submission: $1,400
Best Fight of Competition: $1,400 (split)

If we look at the prizes for first in absolute and winning a superfight, respectively, it looks like a nice haul for a weekend of competing.

But not so fast…

Let’s remember, competing in the final bracket in ADCC means you had to claw your way through the qualifier brackets earlier in the year.

By the time you have the final ADCC bracket, it’s fully stacked with the most elite grapplers on the planet.

I would hazard to guess that at any given point in time, there are less than a dozen grapplers in each weight class on the planet that even have a shot at being on the podium, much less winning the absolute bracket.

If you aren’t among this elite few, you’ll be lucky to cover your travel costs to go compete.

IBJJF 2022 Victory Prizes

IBJJF Prize Money The IBJJF Worlds is often considered the most prestigious tournament in Gi BJJ.

Often, you end up seeing some of the same people on the podium at IBJJF as you do at ADCC, although the gap between who wins at IBJJF vs ADCC is likely to grow bigger as the no Gi game at the highest level continues to develop. 

The IBJJF 2022 payouts for the blackbelt divisions vary depending on how many people register, and are as follows:

Black Belt Adult: all weight classes

Competitors in division – 2-8, payout $5,000.00 USD to champion

Competitors in division – 9-16 – $6,000.00 USD to champion

Competitors in division – 17-32 – $7,000.00 USD to champion

Competitors in division – 33+ – $8,000.00 USD to champion

Black belt adult: open class

Champion – $12,000.00 USD

As you can see, the prospect of making money off competing in IBJJF is slim-to-none, however technically, if you become a champion, you can earn a decent month’s salary.

Few other tournaments boast prize money

Overall, we can assume that top earning competitors earn less than 200k per year off of competition alone.

Truthfully, the vast majority of even highly skilled BJJ athletes probably end up paying more to compete than they will ever win by competing.

Coaching and instructionals: the ticket to money as a big name BJJ athlete

When looking at the payouts for the hardest tournaments in BJJ, its easy to wonder how on earth a less-than-Gordon-Ryan-or-Buchecha level professional grappler could support themselves.

The answer is obvious: teaching BJJ classes and seminars, running a BJJ gym, and selling instructionals.

In the same Instagram post, Gordon Ryan points out that by far the most lucrative aspect of BJJ is teaching and sharing knowledge with the world.

A competitor with a name such as Gordon Ryan is going to bring people in to the gym simply to train under him.

The same can be said of other big names such as John Danaher, Andre Galvao, and the Mendes brothers, for example. 

Often, the gym fees for training under these big names are far more expensive than the average gym with an average black belt (who still can more money from teaching than is even possible in competition).

In this way, being a successful competitor does have secondary financial benefit aside from whatever the tournament payout happens to be.

In fact, winning a major global BJJ tournament is probably more lucrative due to the reputation boost than it is due to the victory purse.

BJJ Seminar Money Furthermore, famously successful BJJ competitors can sell-out seminars because of their name and qualifications.

Teaching a weekend of seminars is far less stressful and much more guaranteed-to-pay-out compared to getting on the podium at ADCC.

On a related note, BJJ instructionals are another way to make income for high level athletes.

The good news for athletes is that once the instructional is made, the sales revenue is moderately passive, minus the standard promotional posts from the athletes.

The bad news is that the instructional space is highly saturated, and bigger names like Danaher, Ryan, Faria, and others are going to sell the majority of instructionals.

Nevertheless, its safe to say that the golden goose of making money as an advanced BJJ competitor is going to be teaching BJJ in some form or another.

Wrapping up this discussion, the final and possibly best way a BJJ professional can make money is by running their own successful gym.

If an instructor or competitor can bring together the leadership, business skills, and networking abilities to grow their own gym, this can be incredibly financially rewarding.

I’d hazard to guess that most BJJ millionaire competitors likely make most of their money via their gym and affiliations.

Additionally, there is an expiration date on a competitor’s career regardless of how good they are, so eventually, even a highly successful competitor will need another source of income.

Is it possible to make money in BJJ if you are not an elite competitor?

We’ve discussed the overview of what making money from BJJ can look like for the best-of-the-best.

Perhaps you’re wondering at this point if you can make money in BJJ if you are not an elite grappler.

The answer is a resounding yes. The fact is that most locally renowned black belts with their own gyms in your town probably have never set foot on an ADCC podium.

The great news is that it really does not matter.

Being an amazing coach requires a much more diverse set of skills that one can choose to develop, allowing even sub-par competitors to make amazing coaches with a large following and attendant financial success.

If your goal is to make money through BJJ and you are currently reading this article, your best bet is to get as good at coaching and teaching BJJ, working on your “people skills” and business skills, and grow your reputation as a martial arts instructor and leader in your local community.

According to GlassDoor, the average BJJ instructor makes roughly 60k per year.

However, this probably varies widely based on geographic location and how many classes per week an instructor coaches.

This is the true path to financial success in BJJ, and it is far more available to the ‘average black belt’ compared to making a living through competition alone.

How much money do BJJ competitors make: the bottom line

Overall, its safe to say BJJ competition is not a lucrative sport.

Compared to the mega-million dollar salaries of top performers in sports such as basketball or football, Gordon Ryan, who is arguably the best performing athlete in the sport right now, earning possibly 200k is honestly insulting, regardless of your personal opinion on the man.

The good news is there is plenty of money making opportunities in the BJJ space, and having a solid competitor reputation will bolster your ability to make money coaching.

On top of that, the highest earning BJJ athletes will ultimately be the ones who build a successful gym, brand, and affiliation.

Getting paid a few thousand to make the podium at the world’s toughest BJJ tournament just isn’t going to cut it.

References

BJJ as a new Parent Everyone starts BJJ at a different point in their life.

Whether you are a long time practitioner or just getting started in BJJ, if you are a new parent, you face the additional challenge of trying to juggle your new or newly-expanded family in conjunction with your career and BJJ training.

As a recent father myself attempting to juggle my BJJ journey with work and my role as a dad, I can say that the entire experience of BJJ has changed since becoming a father.

In this article, I discuss some of the lessons and tips for new parents for juggling your BJJ training with everything else you will have gone on in life as a new parent.

Because I am a father, I am writing this from that perspective. Due to the trauma on the body associated with childbirth, returning to training as a new mother will take longer.

Based on watching my wife’s recovery and return to training, I would estimate that returning to training roughly 4-6 months after giving birth is the minimal amount of time you should expect to need if you are returning to BJJ after actually giving birth.

I am also a recreational competitor in BJJ – I take my training seriously, but it is not my be-all, end-all focus in life and I will always prioritize my family and income streams.

Nevertheless, I have managed to maintain a decent training schedule and have even competed a few times in the past year since my baby was born.

If you are a professional athlete whose primary income revolves around training, coaching, or competing, then your personal considerations about BJJ will be different than what I discuss in this article.

With that said, let’s break down my tips for each phase of being a new dad who does BJJ.

BJJ Training during the newborn baby phase

The ‘newborn’ phase refers to the 0-2 month age group.

If you have already had a baby, then you know this time is exceptionally challenging, especially for the mother but also for the father who must support and care for mom and baby.

Based on my experience, the biggest challenges you will face as a brand-new dad that affect your BJJ training are the lack of time to train, and the lack of sleep and constant fatigue associated with having a newborn baby.

Its safe bet is to assume that for the first 2-4 weeks after your baby is born, you will not have any time or energy to train BJJ.

With that in mind, I would recommend not signing up for competitions in the month or two after your baby is born because you may or may not even get to train.

Do not worry, you will return to the mats eventually.

The newborn phase goes by quick, so enjoy it as much as possible.

During the newborn days, I attended an open mat here and there when it lined up in my schedule and there was other family around to help my wife with the baby – however for the most part, I did not do much BJJ in that period.

I should also add that the newborn phase may involve more medical appointments for your baby than you are used to – so expect your schedule to be chopped up by appointments and possible medical treatments if your new baby needs anything.

My tip for the newborn phase can be summarized as follows: assume you won’t get any training in and consider any class or open mat attendance to be “bonus training.”

Training BJJ with an infant at home

BJJ Parent After your baby is roughly 2 months old, they are considered an ‘infant.’

Truthfully, the exact distinction is a bit arbitrary for BJJ training purposes – but I’m no pediatrician.

Essentially, after your newborn ‘becomes’ an infant, you will have started to adapt to the realities of being a dad.

Hopefully, your baby is sleeping at least long enough that you and your partner can get enough sleep to be functional. I recommend taking turns on sleep shifts – but that’s another topic.

As you begin adapting to life as a dad, you will be able to make a somewhat more realistic schedule and carve out predictable class or training times, even if it’s less than you are used to overall.

During this time, I was able to get a consistent 2-3 days of training in, but it took a lot of effort and willpower sometimes to make it to class.

I also needed to be very disciplined about taking care of my other priorities so I would realistically be able to train without it being a strain on my family.

During this phase, my wife was also returning to training.

A big shift was going from attending class together (pre-pregnancy of course) to beginning an ‘alternating’ schedule where we take turns with who gets to attend class and who stays with the baby.

If your significant other does not train, then perhaps this won’t be as much of an issue.

However, if your partner has other hobbies, you should ensure that they can still get a chance to participate in those activities while you have a shift on dad-duty.

Manage your personal BJJ expectations

Whether you are a dad or not, learning to manage your expectations is vital for integrating BJJ into your life long-term.

My personal experience upon returning to the mats was that blue belts I used to have no problem with submitting were suddenly giving me trouble passing their guards.

The cohort of purple and brown belts that were my primary competition training partners started submitting me with more frequency.

It took me a month or two before I finally got my ‘edge’ back, however there was no denying just how much improvement everyone else saw during the ~2 months of very spotty training and even worse sleep that I was getting after my baby was born.

In general, life will give you ups and downs that will affect the frequency of training. The biggest thing is not getting discouraged when people who can train more than you start catching up or surpassing you in skill level.

This is something that should make you happy – because after all, it’s a sign that BJJ is a real skill that anyone can get better at.

If there was no way that someone who was slightly worse than you could catch up to your skill level while you are on a hiatus, then it begs the question as to whether you are even learning a real skill!

Regardless, expect to get smashed harder than normal when you return to the BJJ after becoming a new dad – especially when the lower belts get the smell of fresh out-of-shape purple belt blood (or whatever rank you are now).

As a general note, becoming a dad made all of these personal philosophical battles with my own ego that much more apparent.

However, these same dynamics are at play even if you do not have a baby – it’s just that having a baby further highlights many of the humbling aspects of being a BJJ practitioner.

Take advantage of instructionals

Although I could not always get to class during the newborn days, there was a lot of time spent around helping my wife with the baby, changing diapers, and just being available for my family.

In that time, I took advantage of the instructionals on JiuJitsu.com to at the very least mentally stay in the game and look at different moves and techniques that I had not had a chance to check out during my pre-dad training.

You can hold your baby and be available for your family even as you catch a few BJJ video lessons on your phone or TV throughout this time.

If you do not yet have a JiuJitsu.com membership, I recommend checking it out for full access to all of the Gold level courses – especially if you are a recent dad looking to keep up with BJJ however you can while juggling your baby duties.

Don’t forget to enjoy time with your new baby

Jiu Jitsu Baby It was easy to feel stressed as a new dad that the world was passing me by.

Whether it was my training partners getting better at BJJ compared to me, or a lull in my career as fatigue and time demands made getting work done that much harder, the feeling that you are stalling in life might hit you.

Looking back, I say that is not the way to approach this time in your life.

Having a baby is in fact the exact opposite of stalling in life. The few months of having a newborn will be over before you know it. Don’t let the stress of putting other priorities on the back burner ruin your time with your new baby.

BJJ will be there, your career will be there, but your baby will only be a baby for a very limited time.

Please, for all of us dads out there, do not allow the pressures of the outside world to impact your time with your new family.

Before you know it, your baby will be on the mats themself, which will signal the start of an entirely new phase in your BJJ journey as well, however this is something I have yet to experience as my daughter is still a few years off from her first BJJ class.

Training BJJ as a new dad: the bottom line

My biggest takeaway from having a newborn, taking some time off from training BJJ, and then returning to training and competing a few months later is that the time flies quickly.

Your skills and routine in BJJ will return as you get used to being a dad and begin re-implementing the various aspects of your life that go on hold when you have a kid.

Having a kid is stressful enough, so just remember to enjoy the time with your baby as much as you can, and also savor getting smashed as your make your return to the mats.

Hopefully, this gives you a little sigh of relief that you can rest-assured BJJ is not going anywhere and having a child signals your entering a new phase of the martial arts journey, not the end.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport that will involve high-intensity training between you and your partner throughout the course of your BJJ journey.

Although its important to go very hard at full intensity in both training and competition, you should also spend a good amount of time training lighter.

Often called ‘flow rolling,’ rolling light with a focus on technique and positional transitions is an excellent way to add more depth to your game and get more out of your BJJ training.

This article breaks down everything you need to know about flow rolling, including what it is, why its important, and some tips to maximize your flow rolls in BJJ.

Let’s do this!

What does it mean to “flow roll” in BJJ?

Flow rolling essentially means rolling light giving your opponent some room to work and allowing the overall roll to flow between positions and submissions.

For example, suppose you are passing half guard.

In a hard roll, you would be hand fighting battling for the underhook and going for aggressive head position.

You are doing everything in your wheelhouse in terms of pressure and intensity to avoid being swept while you attempt to pass guard. You might even put some grind into your cross face on your opponent.

In a flow roll, you would likely either allow your opponent to get the underhook, or your opponent might allow the pass after a single pummeling exchange.

Passing guard in a flow roll does not mean you suddenly jack the heat up to 100 percent as your chase a submission.

In fact, you should consider giving your opponent just enough room to work an escape, provided they are using good technique.

Generally speaking, a good flow roll should involve a high number of different positions and movement exchanges relative to a more intense roll where a lot of time might be spent battling before any progress is made one way or another.

In terms of submissions, you can submit in a flow roll, however you should not be chasing the tap with every last ounce of strength.

Instead, go for perfection in your technique, grips, and control points while your opponent provides moderate position.

If you get to a position where you can apply a submission pressure, consider easing off enough to allow your opponent to work some defense and escape maneuvers.

Overall, flow rolling is a great way to see exactly where your library of BJJ techniques begins and ends.

The goal of rolling in this way is to ideally go for the most correct “next step” at any given point in the roll.

You will likely find that when forced to slow down just enough to really think through each of your movements, there are gaping holes in what you know how to do that will often get overlooked during the course of a very intense roll when both players are exerting near-maximal effort.

In a nutshell, flow rolling involves each player allowing the other just enough space and time to move to the next technique, ultimately resulting in an almost artistic display of various BJJ positions and transitions as the two players demonstrate their technical knowledge of jiu jitsu.

Why flow rolling is important in BJJ

Although on its surface rolling light might seem counterintuitive in a sport and martial art that is designed to allow you to win a physical altercation, it is actually a key aspect of developing as a martial artist.

The following are the top important reasons to practice flow rolling and the different benefits this type of training.

Finding holes in your game

As I mentioned earlier, technical holes in your game can often be masked by intensity when rolling.

For example, many “tough guy” types will hit a point during rolls where they are stumped, and then they resort to pulling down on your head or attempting to crank your neck, among other common ‘lack-of-technique’ based attempts to beat you in practice despite lack of technical ability.

Note that this is not to say cranking the head shouldn’t be permitted since it is a legal ‘move,’ its just not optimal when attempting to flow roll.

If you slow it down and flow roll, you and your opponent should not be going for this cranky-type approach.

Instead, look for the best technical movement or position change that you should go for during each exchange.

If you find yourself stumped as to the best move from a technical standpoint in certain positions, it’s a good time to make a mental note and discuss the best options with your coach or a more experienced BJJ practitioner.

Allowing you to train more with less injury and faster recovery

Let’s face it. While we all want to feel invincible, hard training will take a toll on your body.

Flow rolling allows you to practice jiu-jitsu and improve your technical game with a much lower impact and injury risk compared to all-out rolling.

Much of the aches, pains, bruises, and bumps you get in jiu-jitsu are not from the techniques themselves, but rather than un-intentional impact of parts of your body onto your opponent’s body, or directly into the floors.

When you flow roll, you can avoid much of these impacts because both of you are allowing each other to work and not attempting to pulverize each other at every chance.

Over time, this can allow you to train more both from faster recovery and fewer injuries over time. In the long run, incorporating more flow rolling into your training will put you ahead of the always-going-as-hard-as-possible students.

Compensation for skill disparities across belt ranks

Flow rolling is very important when upper belts or advanced students roll with lower belts or more beginner-level students.

There is no reason to go as hard as possible when rolling with less advanced students who you can submit with relative ease.

If you are an upper rank and rolling with a lower rank, forcing yourself to flow roll even if the lower ranking student is cranking up the intensity is vital as a mature and experienced martial artist.

Going hard on the tougher-type lower belts once every so often to remind them of the disparity is one thing.

However, when you roll with newer students, especially those who appear more timid, being able to comfortably flow roll with them and allow them to work is a sign that you truly are a more advanced BJJ practitioner.

Flow rolling is fun

While many of us enjoy a nice hard roll, flow rolling can also be exceedingly fun.

It almost becomes a dance as you are feeding your opponent the next option and seeing what they go for without fully resisting with every ounce of effort.

You might often find experienced upper belts laughing as they effortlessly move through sequence after sequence, allowing each other just enough space to flow into the next positional exchange.

At the end of the day, BJJ is supposed to be a fun activity.

If going hard all the time becomes a drag, you may find flow rolling is a great way to get more enjoyment out of your training while simultaneously giving you a serious benefit in terms of your development as a martial artist.

Tips to maximize your flow rolling

As discussed, the goal of flow rolling is not to win every grappling exchange, but rather to follow overall paths in jiu jitsu with a give-and-take between your opponents.

The following are a few quick tips to maximize your flow rolling skills.

Do not use excessive pressure

If you are flow rolling and end up in a dominant position where you can apply pressure, dial back the intensity of your pressure, and allow your opponent to work the escape.

It’s far more important not to get bogged down in a stalled-out positional exchange than it is to win every position, so just remember that 

If you do not know where you are, let your opponent work

If you find yourself lost as to the next move, rather than going into the mode where you just try to stop everything your opponent does, allow them to work their next technique and see where the exchange ends up.

Once you find yourself in a position where you know the next technical option, go for it.

Do not crank submissions

If you get to the finishing position in a submission such as back-take with a deep choke or an armbar position from mount, consider taking the submission just to the point where your opponent might tap, then dialing back and allowing them to work a technical escape if they happen to know one.

Your opponent may tap out regardless, but when you flow roll you should not be chasing it like a life-and-death match if your opponent is working an escape.

Remember that flow rolling is a skill

Far from being a simple matter of flow rolling or not, think of flow rolling as its own skillset within BJJ training.

What this means is that you can get better at being able to flow roll. While some people naturally find themselves flow rolling with their partners, other students have a very hard time relaxing and letting go to the point of being able to flow roll.

This can often be because of competitive natures and egos between training partners.

This is a normal aspect of the BJJ journey, however, understand that developing your flow rolling abilities is a key component of improving yourself as a complete martial artist.

Flow Rolling Should Be a Fundamental Skill

Flow rolling is a fundamental skill in BJJ that allows you to train more, find holes in your game, and overall get more training in while reducing the risk of injury and the constant need to ‘prove yourself’ in the gym.

If you already find yourself flow rolling frequently, great!

However, if you tend to be ultra-competitive in every roll and cannot fathom willingly giving up position, consider reflecting on your overall goals and training in BJJ and give flow rolling a try.

It just may be the best thing you do for your BJJ game.

The Kimura is a classic BJJ submission that has been in the game decades ever since Masahiko Kimura broke Helio Gracie’s shoulder with the technique in 1951.

The Kimura is a shoulder lock that attacks the shoulder joint by putting a 90-degree bend in the elbow, then internally rotating the shoulder beyond its normal safe range.

In the JiuJitsu.com Kimura Secrets with Rafael Lovato Jr. Instructional, BJJ master Rafael Lovato Jr. shows us his full arsenal of kimura attacks that appear when you manage to secure top side control.

In this technique breakdown, we highlight three of the top videos in this series to give you a sneak peek at this amazing BJJ instructional.

Kimura from Side Control

This first variation is the fundamental kimura from side control setup.

To perform this technique:

  1. Begin in top side control with you left arm crossfacing your opponent. For the purposes of drilling this move, your will already be controlling your opponents left elbow with your right arm by wrapping behind their triceps.
  2. As you scoop their left arm to set up the kimura attack, you opponent begins framing on your hip or blocking your legs with their right arm to prevent the spin-around.
  3. Use your left hand and come inside your opponent’s wrist to strip their post and pin their arm to the floor with your hand – from there, slide your left shin over their biceps to pin their left arm to the floor.
  4. Windshield-wiper your right shin over your opponent’s arm to replace your left shin controlled your opponent’s arm.
  5. Once you have the switched your shin-pinning leg, use your arm-wrap grip on their left arm with your right arm to further to move their left hand towards the front of their body. 
  6. As you manipulate their arm, step up with your left leg for more leverage before dropping your left knee on the other side of your opponent’s head. The goal is to get their arm far enough across to sink your chest pressure onto the back of your opponent’s triceps, pinching their triceps between your hand and your chest.

    Note: that you should still be pinning their right arm with your right shin.
  7. At this point you need to switch the arm you are using to control the kimura and set up the finish. To do this, lift their left arm up with your right arm and slide your forearm behind their elbow to secure a deep kimura.
  8. As you switch your arms, immediately use your right hand with a monkey grip to grab their hand just above the wrist such that you are securing part of their hand as well.
  9. Grab your right wrist with your left hand using a money grip and secure a tight kimura grip.
  10. For the finish, lean down onto your grip to establish a very firm, secure connection to their arm.
    Keep your elbows connected to your torso as you lift, applying the full force of your core and torso to separate your opponent’s hands.
  11. Rotate their hand and shoulder away from their torso for the finish.

Note that you may need to do two quick pulls to separate your opponent’s defensive grip and set up the finish.

Kimura from side control when opponent frames on neck

Normally, an opponent in bottom side control will not surrender control of their arm so easily.

Commonly, they will frame on your face or neck with the blade of their hand.

In this sequence, as soon as you feel their hand blade against your jaw line, you know you have the option to attack the kimura.

To perform this setup variation:

  1. Let go of the cross face with your left hand and reach your left arm across their face as you shift your weight towards your left hip and begin weaving your left arm under their left triceps.
  2. Once you establish this control, grip your own collar with your left arm. Attempt to keep their arm pinched in your elbow and secure the portion of their arm just above their elbow to minimize their ability to move the upper arm.
  3. Clear your left leg past their right arm and step your left foot to the far side of their head to set up your base for the attack. As you do this, keep your right hand and arm active to prevent your opponent from getting their legs involved.
  4. To set up the kimura attack, lift their left elbow with your right arm as your shrug your left shoulder and bring your opponent to their right side on the floor. At the same time, drag your left knee towards their head and pinch their head and upper chest between your knees. The left shoulder shrug should cause your opponent’s arm to clear past your face.
  5. Immediately grab their left hand using a monkey grip with your right hand.
  6. Grab your kimura monkey grip with your left hand on their right wrist.
  7. From there, finish the move as you did in the first variation.

Kimura setup variation for defeating common reactions

Most people with some experience know they are in trouble when you have the arm isolated inside control and they feel you stepping over their head.

Typically, they will try to block you from stepping over their head in one of the following ways:

  1. Blocking your left thigh from stepping over by framing their right arm on your left hip
  2. Grabs your pants leg with their hand

When your opponent defends by blocking your hip, bring your knee inside their arm then cut it over their bicep.

From there, switch your control by placing your right foot and pinning their arm before doing a final windshield wiper to completely clear your left leg.

If your opponent tries to block your step over by gripping your pants – in this example case your left pants – perform the following sequence:

  1. Extend your left leg straight. If your opponent keeps the grip then their arm will now be extended. From there, weave your right foot over their bicep to staple their arm to the ground under your shin.
  2. Slide your right leg down their arm to pressure their grip, then kick your left leg free for the final step over.
  3. Then, finish the technique as before.

Kimura Setups: the bottom line

The kimura is a commonly seen technique, and as such, most BJJ players worth their stripes will see it coming a mile away.

The key for successfully finishing Kimura attacks is ensuring that your setup is flawless from the moment you secure side control until the final twist and finish of the submission.

The true mastery in Rafael Lovato Jr.’s Kimura techniques is his ability to setup the needed grips and positioning long before he attempts to put any force into the actual submission.

Additionally, Lovato has an arsenal of submissions you can transition to should your kimura attack fail, including the Head and Arm Ezekiel choke, the paper-cutter, and the Bow and Arrow choke.

For complete access to all of the details on mastering the Kimura finish and related submissions, as well as our complete library of premium BJJ technique library, click here!

If you’re new to Jiu Jitsu but already smitten with the art, there is a good chance you’ve already encouraged your close, non-BJJ training friends to join up.

As the saying goes, there is no one more zealous than the recently converted – and this certainly holds true for BJJ in many cases.

BJJ Friends

Despite your enthusiasm for BJJ, I firmly believe there is a thoughtful approach you should apply when trying to get your friends to train BJJ.

In this article, I break down what I see as the common ways to get your friends into BJJ, and a few pitfalls and methods to avoid in order to maximize your chances of recruiting your friends into the epic world of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Let’s do this!

Identify whether your friend is a prospect for training BJJ

You often hear people say, “anyone can learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.”

This statement is often confused with the notion that virtually everyone would love BJJ if they would just try it.

However, I personally do not think this is the case. In fact, I tend to see a like for Jiu Jitsu as a binary situation.

Someone will either ‘get it’ or they won’t.

If you’re friends or acquaintance does not appreciate the utility of the skill of BJJ or does not like being in close contact with sweaty strangers, there is probably little you can do to get them into BJJ.

On the flipside, many people intuitively see the appeal of training an effective martial art such as BJJ, and want the fitness benefits or enjoy the activity in itself.

You will likely have more success with this type of individual in terms of getting them to start BJJ.

However, even with that, getting good at BJJ requires long term commitment to the art, including carving out multiple days per week.

Even for someone who enjoys BJJ, committing to training even once per week is a tall ask for an otherwise busy person.

Think about it, many people enjoy various active activities like hiking, but that really means they go once or twice per month.

When it comes to BJJ, that won’t cut it for improving, which essentially means they will show up and get demolished by even a 3 month white belt. This makes it unlikely that they will continue.

So, if you really plan to get someone into BJJ, they must first have the interest, and second of all have the time and inclination to show up consistently.

If you know your friends well-enough, you can probably predict which ones are likely prospects for BJJ.

Encourage your friends to come to a beginner BJJ class

Jiu Jitsu Friends Once you have identified a BJJ-prospect friend, you should encourage them to come to a beginner class or all-levels class at your gym.

Ideally, introduce them to the most beginner-friendly class and coaches at your gym.

For average individuals starting BJJ, it’s probably best you don’t put your friend through the BJJ wringer as you try to convince them to begin BJJ.

One caveat is that if your friend has experience in another martial art, such as wrestling, they may need to get submitted a few times to understand the effectiveness of BJJ.

If you are not skilled enough to submit your friend with experience, I recommend having them roll with a good upper belt.

For example, a great college wrestler can probably give the average blue belt a run for their money, so to really “prove” the effectiveness to them, they should get ran-around by a more experienced BJJ artist.

You must understand that these different backgrounds will affect whether someone will be more convinced by getting demolished by a smaller weaker opponent or be more convinced that they will be welcomed in the gym, and no one wants to hurt them.

Hopefully, you know your friends well enough to decide which of the above categories they fall under.

Organize garage BJJ training sessions

BJJ Home Garage Gym For some people, the thought of going to a Jiu Jitsu academy and potentially paying a monthly membership for something they have a casual interest in might be overwhelming.

Enter the garage training session.

A garage training session is essentially any training session where someone rolls out a few BJJ home mats in the garage, back yard, or living room and has some friends over for casual rolling or drilling.

This is a good chance to get your friends to meet up, show them a few moves, perhaps tap them out a few times, and give them a taste of what BJJ has to offer without having to psyche them up to get to an actual practice.

In fact, I have seen many “garage dojo converts” who started training casually with a more experienced friend and ultimately got bit by the BJJ bug and ended up officially joining a gym.

Don’t overdo the encouragement

There is a fine line between encouraging your friends to join in BJJ and becoming the nagging friend who won’t shut up about your newfound hobby that nobody else in your friend group cares about.

In fact, this can be a quick way to suddenly stop receiving invites to parties and events from your non-BJJ friends.

After your initial BJJ discussions, I would lay off continuing to actively pester your friends to join BJJ.

Instead, make sure you yourself stay committed.

Over time, if it was meant to be that a given friend of yours ends up joining BJJ despite early refusals, then your best bet is having them see you develop and grow as a martial artist over time to actually demonstrate the long term benefits and results of committed BJJ training.

For example, seeing you win a competition, perhaps successfully defend yourself in a fight, or simply watching you lose weight and get in better shape are all longer term, indirect encouragements that can help convince your friends into starting BJJ without getting kicked out of your friend group.

Getting your friends into BJJ: the bottom line

Despite what many practitioners may claim, BJJ is not for everyone.

Although anyone can improve their grappling, many individuals simply do not see the value in developing that skillset.

Alternatively, they may simply want to avoid the sweaty discomfort associated with BJJ even if in theory they see the benefits of training.

Regardless, for friends that do have active interest in starting BJJ, gentle encouragement and bringing them to the beginner class is the best way to get them started training – experienced wrestlers notwithstanding.

If early encouragement fails, your own long term commitment and development in BJJ will end up being the best selling point towards convincing your friends to do BJJ.

If they still do not get into BJJ despite all these different types of encouragement, then it probably was never meant to be.

Regardless, embrace your own training, enjoy the ride, and perhaps at least a few of your non-BJJ friends will end up seeing the light.

Let me paint a quick picture for you…

You walk into a BJJ gym and see a group of people dressed in special outfits.

You notice them perhaps bowing in and out of class. There is a deference to the coach and long-time practitioners that goes beyond normal social dynamics outside of the dojo.

You notice ritualized infliction of discomfort by advanced members directed at newer members.

At the end, the leader of the group may give a speech about improving yourself, being disciplined, and how this activity known as BJJ can completely change your life for the better.

Finally, students flock up to you asking whether or not you plan to join.

All of this begs the question – is Jiu Jitsu a cult?

In this article, I pick apart the question of whether or not Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a cult and critically examine the dynamics that beg the question in the first place.

Okay… here we go.

BJJ Cult

What is a cult?

According to Wikipedia, in modern English the word cult refers to a social group defined by “unusual religious, spiritual, or philosophical beliefs, or common interest in a particular personality, object, or goal… the word cult is usually considered pejorative.”

Often, the word cult connotes some sort of physical harm, or even death, occurring at the hands of the leadership towards the followers, or at the hands of the followers towards non-members. This type of group is typically called a destructive cult.

Although cults can be destructive directly and indirectly, it is not a hard requirement per se.

The cultish aspects of BJJ

It is undeniable that BJJ can have cult-like elements.

After all, the desire to submit your opponents and the belief that being better at such a task has its merits even for people not in violent jobs or occupations can certainly be considered “unusual.”

This activity can also cause physical and emotional harm for some individuals involved. In fact, most long term “members” have a laundry list of injuries due to their participation in jiu jitsu.

It goes without saying that if you participate in BJJ for years, you will probably spend tens of thousands of dollars on memberships, special outfits, competition events, and other associated costs of Jiu Jitsu – perhaps can we call this financial harm?

Furthermore, showing up a few times per week and giving deference the coach (aka ‘personality’) certainly has the potential to be cultish.

Additionally, you often see a fanatical obsession with BJJ being the greatest thing to have ever existed ever, like ever in history. You just have to try it and you will get it.

Finally, BJJ black belts are often venerated beyond what is appropriate even for skilled individuals.

It’s not uncommon for both BJJ practitioners and non-practitioners to assume that a BJJ black belt has some deeper insight into life that you might one day hope to absorb a small piece of.

Despite this, stories of venerated black belts with high profile gyms and/or BJJ moves named after them sexually exploiting students (followers?), or at the very least covering for this behavior, are sadly becoming more common as people come forward with their stories.

When you consider all the above factors, its not unreasonable to point out that there are some cult-like elements.

But does that mean BJJ itself is a cult?

BJJ is not a cult – but your gym might be

Joking aside, BJJ as an activity is not a cult.

Although it can be very addicting to train BJJ, you are free to check out at any time, and you can (usually) leave.

While some people may become fanatical in their training to the detriment of other aspects of their life, this is usually a personal decision as opposed to pressure from the group or gym itself.

With that said, individual BJJ gyms could certainly be cultish.

I have personally not trained at a gym that felt like a cult, but I have heard stories about certain gyms or affiliations having more “cult like tendencies” than others.

Typically, these include requiring you to wear specific apparel and BJJ Gis, denigrating other schools and affiliations as fundamentally ‘doing it wrong,’ and a fanatical fervor among students that the methods at their gym are far and above superior to other BJJ training styles and certainly better than any non-BJJ activity.

Furthermore, an individual BJJ instructor may display cult-leader-like characteristics on both a positive and negative side.

These include a strong charisma that causes followers to flock and venerate the instructor over other individuals beyond what is deserved based on the instructor’s knowledge of BJJ.

Additionally cult-like tendencies could be spoken or unspoken expectations for students that stray beyond what the students themselves want out of BJJ – for example, requiring a certain amount of attendance or competition participation lest the students be ridiculed or otherwise shunned from the overall group.

Finally, on the darkest side, instructors who take sexual or financial advantage of students via to the instructor’s position in the gym would be the highest and worst example of cult-like tendencies in BJJ, especially when other members of the group make a concerted effort to cover up the incident as opposed to finding justice for the victim.

Although the above scenarios are few and far between, they do happen and it is worth being aware of this fact.

How can I tell if my BJJ gym is a cult?

Alright, so for the most part, BJJ is not a cult.

However, I would be remiss if I didn’t touch on a few ways you can detect cultish-ness in a BJJ gym.

Generally speaking, you should guard against the following dynamics:

  • The instructor denigrates students, especially in front of other students, fostering a hostile dynamic on the mat
  • Excessive financial obligations that you did not sign up for
  • Sexual or physical abuse at the hands of instructors or ranking students that gets covered up by members of the community
  • Requesting or demanding more from you as a student than you willingly want to give
  • Participation and involvement with the gym negatively affects non-BJJ aspects of your life

Chances are the above dynamics are not occurring in your gym. However, if you recognize the above situations, you should strongly consider switching to another gym.

Our Take

Although we had some fun in this article, I’m going to state that I do not believe BJJ is a cult.

While some gyms have the potential to be destructive or otherwise display cult-like tendencies, the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu itself cannot reasonably be called a cult.

Nevertheless, if you do find the culture of your gym destructive in any way, it’s a red flag that you should bail lest you get pulled deeper in to the dynamic.

At the end of the day, BJJ should improve your life and well-being on the whole.

Most importantly, it should be intrinsically rewarding (mostly) fun.

Although most of us BJJ folks do not start training to be champion competitors, competition is still a big part of overall Brazilian Jiu Jitsu culture.

As a newer player, understanding the role of competition as it relates to your personal development in BJJ is important when it comes to deciding whether you personally should compete in BJJ.

Overall, I think competing in Jiu Jitsu has many benefits even for hobbyist and recreational BJJ artists.

Nevertheless, there are a few reasons why you might choose not to compete, or at the very least, not make competition a major part of your Jiu Jitsu journey.

In this article, I’ll break down my thoughts on how to decide whether or not you should compete in BJJ.

Ready?

Combache!

What is BJJ competition?

BJJ Competition

Unless multiple people from your gym sign up for the same bracket, you are typically competing against a person from another gym who you may or may not know.

The aggression and intensity are almost universally higher in competition when compared to training in your home gym.

In traditional tournament format, you will grapple your first opponent, and then the winner will grapple the winner from another match in your division until one player remains at the final match, earning themself the gold medal and top rank on the podium.

Other tournament formats include round-robin, where all players in the division grapple each other and the player with the most wins overall wins the event, as well as double-elimination where you have a second match even if you lose your first match.

Finally, ‘superfight’ competitions involve a facing single opponent, typically on a stage or in a cage with only one match at a time, like an MMA fight night except just doing BJJ.

Any of the above formats are considered BJJ competition, although the most common format for tournaments is the single or double elimination bracket.

The Benefits of Competing in BJJ

Overall, competing in BJJ is a good way to test your skills in a more realistic setting compared to rolling at the gym.

Since you are generally facing someone of similar skill level and size, this eliminates most of the advantage/disadvantage that comes with being bigger or smaller, respectively. 

Since you aren’t a frequent training partner with your opponent, you have little to no sense of camaraderie or rapport before the match and the pressure tends to be higher than even a hard roll in the gym.

This allows you a more realistic look at how your skillset compares against similar levels from other gyms.

Rolling against the same people in your own gym all the time can give a false sense of your skills.

You are more used to your partner’s game and have less of the pressure associated with an intense roll against a relatively complete stranger.

Competition cuts through all that noise.

In terms of skill development, people who compete more are often more motivated to train, which typically results in them accruing more mat time in the same period as compared to someone who is not actively preparing for a competition.

When iterated over months and years, this results in the more active competitors developing at a faster rate and possibly ranking up sooner.

Furthermore, hard competition reveals the holes in your game you may not have been aware of before. This gives you insight on what to focus on going forward to reach that next level in BJJ.

Overall, competition tends to be a serious boon to your game and development as a martial artist.

All things being equal, competing more will make you get better faster at BJJ.

The Downsides of Competing in BJJ

BJJ Tournament Loss Although BJJ competition does provide excellent benefits to your game, there are some downsides to be aware of when considering the role of competition in your training.

Competition is stressful

Let’s face it. Not all humans are equally competitive.

While some of us may be hungry for victory and intensity in our training, you may find the intensity and stress of competition makes BJJ less fun and adds unnecessary stress to your life.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. After all, unless you plan to make a living doing BJJ, the whole point of BJJ is to be fun, rewarding, and beneficial to the rest of your life.

If the stress of an upcoming competition negatively affects your family or professional life without providing any benefit, it is probably not something you should focus on.

Losing sucks

We can all agree that for the most part, none of us enjoy losing. In competition, your team, coach, friends, and possibly children are all watching you.

Getting demolished by an opponent in competition in front of people you know can be demoralizing.

Furthermore, you may personally find your ego bruised after a bad loss. Although it is good to be humbled with a reality check of your actual skills, the worst possible outcome would be you quitting BJJ after a bad loss.

For the most part, this happens most frequently at white belt. By the time people get to blue belt, they are far less likely to quit after a bad competition performance.

Although my personal opinion is that getting humbled this way is important for maximal development as a martial artist, I also firmly believe that your BJJ journey should work for you, your personality, and your lifestyle.

If competition losses might make you quit BJJ, I would say don’t compete.

Competitions take time and money

Most competitions take place on weekends and generally involve weighing-in earlier in the day and then waiting around at the tournament until your bracket is up.

Additionally, registrations often cost around $100 USD and sometimes more if you sign up for both Gi and No Gi brackets.

As a man with a wife and child, my weekends are among the few precious days I get to spend with my family.

Although I can bring them to the tournament, there is only so long I can keep my kid and wife happy while I wait for my bracket.

Furthermore, competing often requires some amount of travel, which puts an additional time and money burden on doing BJJ competitions.

If your budget is tight and your time is limited, competitions become much more difficult.

While competitions do have many great benefits, I cannot deny that the above factors might influence you not to compete.

Do you need to compete to rank up?

Podium Promotion Competing does tend to speed up your skill development in BJJ and having a stellar performance in your bracket might encourage your coach to promote you sooner rather than later.

However, I have never once trained at a BJJ school that had a hard requirement for competition in order to get promoted.

Even the most competition focused school I have trained at would promote dedicated students who show skill and commitment worthy of the next rank, even if they rarely or never compete.

This is at the discretion of your coach and your school may be different, but for the most part, avoiding competition will delay but not negate your promotion in belt rank.

Deciding to Compete in BJJ

At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether competing in BJJ makes sense for your goals and lifestyle.

The bottom line is that BJJ is supposed to be fun and enriching.

If competition improves that aspect of your training, you should compete.

If not, then don’t sweat it, just show up and train.

BJJ Class If you train at the average BJJ gym, you show up, the instructor shows a move or series of moves, you drill them, maybe positional spar, then go live with rolling.

But is this really the best or only way to run a BJJ class?

Unfortunately, this structure is dated at best and does not make a whole lot of sense compared to most other learning activities which have some degree of curriculum associated with their teaching methods.

Having trained at many different BJJ schools over the years, I have experienced the difference in skill development that happens with a structured curriculum compared to a more lackadaisical approach to BJJ pedagogy.

In this article, I’ll discuss the major issues as I have seen them with the lack of BJJ curriculum before discussing a few potential shortcomings with the curriculum-based model.

For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to BJJ gyms without curricula as “typical BJJ gyms,” but I do acknowledge that many gyms are developing a true curriculum, so eventually, the non-curriculum gyms will not be “typical” – I hope.

Here we go!

The “Typical” BJJ Gym

While some gyms have a dedicated beginner curriculum, far too often, a gym will have several different coaches who handle the various classes.

Depending on the specific coach’s background, they typically focus on moves that are personally good at or have a good understanding.

More accomplished coaches will have more moves to show you with better details on each.

However, the lower ranked or lesser skilled coaches may or may not have clear direction on what to teach, and often rely on “fundamentals” such as closed guard moves.

The problem is, if they do not have the details down per a higher ranking or more experienced coach, the students do not learn the nitty-gritty components that make fundamental BJJ actually work on resisting opponents.

Don’t get me wrong, students can get very good provided they consistently show up to these classes.

But, over time, you will have broad discrepancies in student knowledge of different positions and submissions.

Furthermore, the mish-mash approach to showing techniques slows student development over time.

Think about it, if you show up to class every day of the week and learn a different move each time, you will probably have an additional 5-6 moves that you really can’t perform.

Put it simply, a lack of clear organization will delay you from getting specific moves into your arsenal.

It’s like showing up to math class every day but learning addition one day, calculus the next, then going to subtraction, division, and finally finishing the week with trigonometry.

In essence, no respected teaching method follows this approach, except in BJJ.

BJJ Gyms with Clear Curricula

BJJ School Compare the “typical” gym to a more developed gym with an intelligent curriculum development.

At its simplest, a good curriculum may just mean all coaches focus on a specific series across a week or even a month.

While you might learn variations or different details depending on the opponent’s reaction, the overall flow of the moves will be the same and work together cohesively.

Assuming you complete the series of classes focused on that move, you should have the overall steps down as well as a few variations based on the common reactions you get from opponents when attempting these moves.

A more complicated curriculum might involve very specific techniques or series that students must demonstrate to receive their next promotion.

Although no two BJJ players will have identical technique, this highly developed curriculum method ensures that students theoretically do not lack fundamental knowledge as they advance through the ranks.

At lower ranks, the ability to submit a given opponent does not mean you have the basics down, and you can still be missing very fundamental aspects of BJJ even as you begin tapping better opponents.

Don’t get me wrong, you will still have ‘non-curriculum students’ who are better than ‘curriculum students’ at the same belt level.

However, it has been my experience that schools with clear cut guidelines on what the coaches will teach generally results in more technically-sound students across all belt levels.

The downsides of BJJ curriculum

Although I am generally a proponent of BJJ curricula, there are some downsides that can happen when schools are very curriculum heavy.

Coaches are forced to teach moves they may not be as good at

If a lower ranking coach is tasked with teaching a specific move, there is a chance they may not actually be proficient enough to make that move work in live rolling.

This is especially true when mid-skill coaches such as high blues and purple belts join a new school with dedicated curriculum and end up coaching.

Ideally, a curriculum-coach will have a lot of experience with that specific method and technique series – but this is not always the case and results in coaches lacking the fine details that make a move work.

Students become linear in their game

A curriculum based BJJ class is only as good as the underlying curriculum. If the curriculum is too linear or does not address the fact that certain moves are better for certain body types, it can limit rather than help student growth in the martial art.

The curriculum becomes cult-like

One thing I’ve noticed in my six years on the mat is that schools with hyper-specific curriculum can result in students thinking that is the only ‘correct way’ to learn BJJ.

I notice this especially with students who only have exposure to one gym.

When it comes to being a well-versed and effective BJJ artist, this can become problematic.

The best BJJ curriculum: the bottom line

Ultimately, sticking with BJJ for years is the only route to mastery, even if your school has the greatest BJJ lesson plan in the world.

While I do recommend finding a gym with dedicated curriculum if your goal is to maximize your development.

However, I believe it’s far more important that you like your coach, training partners, and gym culture and environment, even if there is not a serious focus on specific curriculum.

At the end of the day, BJJ is supposed to be fun.

Getting better quickly at BJJ is certainly rewarding, but if you hate your gym and coaches, the best curriculum won’t be worth much to you.

If you’ve made it past white belt in BJJ, you may be concerned about getting tapped out by lower ranks.

Those unacquainted with BJJ might assume that an upper rank should never tap to a lower rank lest they be stripped of their belt and kicked out of the dojo in shame.

They could not be more wrong.

In fact, I would venture to say that if you never get tapped by lower belts, you may be doing something wrong.

In this article, I break down everything you need to know about getting tapped out by a lower belt in BJJ.

By the time you finish reading, you will be excited to get submitted by a lower rank.

Okay maybe I’m exaggerating, but here we go.

Getting Tapped By Lower Belts BJJ

Why Lower Belts Might Tap Upper Belts in BJJ

There are a few reasons you might get submitted by a lower ranked BJJ person.

They have experience in another grappling art

White Belt vs Black Belt While Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has arguably the most developed ground fighting techniques, it is far from the only martial art with great submissions.

Arts such as Judo, Sambo, and catch wrestling have tons of submissions. Someone might have years of experience in one of these arts and come to your dojo to try out BJJ.

While they are not white belts in the scheme of fighting, they are unranked in BJJ and must still don the white belt when stepping on the mats in a BJJ gym.

On the other hand, you might be blue or even purple belt with less overall experience grappling.

With this in mind, getting tapped by a BJJ white belt does not mean your BJJ sucks (well, it probably does but that’s another topic). It just means your opponent had real grappling skill from another art that you had the opportunity to experience.

This is actually a great boon to your own BJJ training.

In a ‘real life’ situation, you do not know what experience your opponent or enemy has.

As such, being familiar with other styles of grappling and adapting your BJJ to deal with them will make you grow as a martial artist and give you a much better skillset in overall grappling.

You are trying a new technique

One of the biggest mind-blown-from-BJJ moments I had was during my blue belt years. I was drilling the scissor sweep with a skilled purple belt.

The scissor sweep was the first fully technical sweep I hit as a white belt, and as such, holds a special place in my heart.

I commented to the purple belt that this was ‘the first sweep I ever hit in BJJ.’

To my surprise, his response was ‘wow, I’ve never hit this sweep.’

Here comes the ‘aha’ moment. This guy was a legit purple belt who tapped me out plenty of times, yet I had more experience with a certain technique than he did!

The lesson here is that virtually every BJJ artist, including black belts, have moves they are better at and moves they rarely, if ever, use.

It may be better to conceptualize belt ranks in certain techniques or styles of play as opposed to thinking that a higher belt rank knows every possible move better than you do.

For example, one player might have a very sophisticated leg lock game but is weaker on passing. This person might be a purple belt with ‘brown belt level leg locking’ but ‘blue belt level passing.’

Let’s say you roll with this guy or gal and you just got your blue belt. You have a few slick submissions in your arsenal, especially the triangle from guard.

For all you know, during this particular roll your opponent is trying to improve their passing and thus are avoiding going for their ‘A-game’ leglock attacks.

As they try to pass your guard, you catch them in a triangle, one of your strongest submissions.

Yes, you just tapped out a higher rank.

But… they were specifically avoiding their best techniques to focus on their weaker passing. This put them face to face with your best technique, the triangle, and yes, you caught them.

In a competition setting, you probably would have gotten leg locked in less than 30 seconds – most people do not experiment with their worst moves during competition.

However, getting tapped out in practice is different.

The dojo is the place to try new techniques and fail until you get better. This will almost inevitably mean a lower rank gets a better position on you or taps you out.

As an upper belt, if you never mess around with techniques you suck at in the gym for fear of getting tapped out, your game will not develop as fully as it might have, and you will become a one-dimensional grappler.

Trying techniques out on lower belts is key because in terms of the specific technique you are working on, you will never pull it off on someone your rank until you hammer-out the details.

The only real way to do this is by practicing the technique on opponents of lesser skill – and this may mean you end up getting tapped out by said opponent.

If this happens, congratulations!

You are working on your weak points and improving a different aspect of your grappling.

In the long run, this will make you a formidable grappler with an arsenal of options for every opponent.

If your leg lock fails, oh well – you’ve been hammering in your passing as well!

They are just a tough SOB

Large Man Jiu JitsuSome people walk in off the street with no experience in martial arts but are just tough as nails. 

Typically, these type lift weights or play in a contact sport like football that makes them tough despite lack of real technique.

I remember having a massive football player in my guard once after getting tackled to the floor in open mat.

I stupidly allowed him to get a deep double collar tie on my head and he cranked… hard.

I tapped very quickly.

Although my ego was a bit bruised, I learned a key lesson about not letting mutant sized individuals get a good grip on my neck and head.

A similar thing happened with the same guy when I had his back.

I overextended my arm going for the choke and he got a two-on-one grip and armbarred me with brute force, his shoulder under my triceps acting like a fulcrum to pop my elbow.

Although this lesson stung a bit, it stuck with me.

Since then, I have never shot my arm straight out and deep when trying to get the rear-naked choke.

This was a very important lesson, especially for self-defense reasons.

The chances you tussle with a muscular but technique-less opponent are non-zero, and as a martial artist, you must be able to keep yourself safe from bad technique as well as good technique – after all, a broken arm is a broken arm.

For the record, I still know this guy. He’s a great training partner.

Tapping to lower belts: the bottom line

Whether your opponent has experience in other arts, you are trying a new technique, or the dude/gal is just a total savage without any real skill, you will most likely get tapped out by a lower rank in BJJ at some point in your training.

While it may bruise your ego (hopefully temporarily), you should take this as a sign that you are growing your BJJ and getting great practical experience if you ever need to use BJJ in a real-world scenario.

No one ‘likes’ getting tapped by lower belts.

But in context, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it and it is a good sign you are on the right track with your long-term development as a grappler.

Cheers to getting tapped out by lower belts!

How to Set SMART Goals For BJJ

Effective goal setting is a must when it comes to improving at anything. Nevertheless, setting goals in BJJ can be challenging or downright demoralizing if your goal setting process is not effective.

On the other hand, if you use proper goal setting techniques and strategies in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you can see you ‘skill-return-on-mat-time’ (a mouthful, I know) significantly upgraded.

Setting great BJJ goals and sticking to them will help you progress more with the mat time you have available.

This article breaks down everything you need to know about setting SMART goals for BJJ to maximize your development as a grappler.

Let’s do this!

What is a SMART goal?

Although the term goal setting is often used informally to refer to any want or desire, there is an actual method when it comes to separating “good goals” from “bad goals.”

‘SMART Goal Setting’ is the term of art used by many professional coaches to categorize the effectiveness of a given goal.

The acronym stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely/Time oriented.”

Let’s do an example relevant to BJJ in each of these categories.

Specific

For “specific,” consider the following two goals:

  1. Get better at Jiu Jitsu
  2. Attend 3 BJJ classes per week this year with 2 weeks off.

Which goal is more specific?

Of course, number two.

Note that attending 3 classes per week is something you have direct control over, while “getting better at BJJ” is a nebulous concept that is somewhat meaningless in of itself.

If you attend three classes per week, you will get better at BJJ.

However, if you just “want to get better at BJJ,” you may or may not actually be going to train, and you will certainly have days where you appear to be getting worse at BJJ – it is simply not a reliable metric.

Measurable

Although you know it when you see it (or feel it), BJJ skill is difficult to actually measure.

Unlike something such as losing weight or lifting more weight, quantifying BJJ improvement is tough.

The best bet falls back to our first example.

Training 3 days per week is a measurable goal in of itself because you can count your class time (down to the minute if you’re crazy about it).

For the goal to truly be effective, you need to have some means of quantifying whether you are hitting it or not.

Attainable

Ensuring your goal is attainable is the next SMART goal step.

This is somewhat more subjective because certain people may be able to achieve ‘more’ in a given time frame.

However, if you are a middleweight 2 stripe white belt and your goal is to be a heavyweight black belt in 2 years, this is not an attainable goal.

The goal must be attainable by the laws of physics and biology, as well as attainable given your tools and background.

Realistic

The ‘R’ in SMART stands for realistic. 

While similar to ‘attainable,’ a ‘realistic’ goal depends very much on your own personal schedule and abilities.

For example, training three days per week is specific, measurable, and attainable by the laws of physics, but if you are working full time and juggling kids, it may not be realistic for you.

Perhaps one open mat on the weekends is more realistic goal for you at this point in your life… and that’s okay!

Setting a goal that is realistic will give the satisfaction of completing a goal and will still help you progress in BJJ.

If you literally cannot train three days per week right now, then setting a 3 day per week training plan is not a SMART goal.

Timely/Time Bound

The final component of SMART goal setting is making sure your goals have some time limit.

For example, training three days per week this calendar year has a time limit on a weekly basis as well as an annual time limit at which point you can reassess.

Planning to train 3 days per week indefinitely is less effective because it does not account for life changes, potential BJJ competitions, etc.

Overall, SMART goal setting is a good framework for developing goals that make the most sense for you personally, and ensure you get the satisfaction of reaching them.

Do you actually have control over your goals?

We all know that ‘life happens’ and that you cannot control everything even if it seems possible in the beginning.

With this in mind, its best to set BJJ goals that do not depend on a ton of external forces.

For example, if your goal is to ‘win XYZ tournament,’ you only have control over the training you do leading up to the competition.

You cannot control the skill or drive of your opponents.

You cannot fully control whether you feel ‘off’ or ‘on’ come competition day.

You cannot control the referee if they make a questionable call against you.

The point is, you can train hard, focus, research your opponents, eat right, and it can still go south come competition day.

The good news is you have control over those other factors.

If competition victory is what you desire, build your goals around what you need to do to increase your chances of winning.

For example:

  • I will train 5 times per week in the three months leading up to competition
  • I will eat 3 servings of vegetables per day
  • I will drill the defense to my opponent’s A-game submissions 3x per week
  • I will do strength training twice per week
  • I will not drink alcohol when recovering from training

Of course, you can do all the above and still lose, or skip out on several of these bullets and still win.

The point is, you only have control over those factors, and you cannot ultimately control the outcome of a tournament.

Another great example would be aiming for a belt promotion by a certain date.

You could get injured and must take time off, your coach might want to see more growth before promoting you, or you may just not be ready for that next belt!

If getting belted is still your goal, focus on the process that will make it happen showing up to class and training with purpose as often as you can.

SMART Goal Examples in BJJ

So far, we’ve looked at training volume goals (3 classes per week), and competition prep goals.

But are there more options for great goal setting in BJJ.

While we can’t flush out every last option, here are some additional example goals in BJJ that fit into the good goal category, some of which are mutually exclusive:

  • I won’t attempt to pass guard during rolling so I can focus on leg locks
  • I won’t attempt leg locks so I can focus on passing
  • I will let my partner of lesser skill mount me once per roll to dial in my escapes
  • I will watch 1 jiu jitsu instructional per week in addition to class and attempt the move
  • I will not pull guard

Although some of these are a bit cheeky, you can see how they are each small components that fit into the broader ‘non-SMART’ goal of getting better at BJJ relative to your current skillset.

However, they are far more bite-sized and manageable, allowing you to attack them with vigor and experience the satisfaction of checking goals off your proverbial list.

Goal setting in BJJ: the bottom line

Regardless of which goals you pursue in BJJ, you should be enjoying yourself.

Assuming you are not a professional competitor or coach, virtually every goal in BJJ is more personal development and less professional development.

With that in mind, do not stress yourself out so much about dialing in every last goal.

You should be utilizing SMART goal setting when planning out your goals.

However, sometimes, you just gotta show up, get some rolls in, and have fun.

If you ask an average person about the benefits of Jiu Jitsu or martial arts in general, you’ll probably hear the notion of ‘learning respect’ associated with the various martial disciplines.

The idea of respect as a core component of martial arts is an old concept.

Jiu Jitsu Respect

Perhaps due to the Japanese origin of many martial arts such as karate and our very own Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the cultural idea of deeply respecting the instructor or other individuals is baked-in to many traditional martial arts cultures.

But is the concept of martial arts fostering respect still valid in the era of vitriolic public feuds between top athletes, high ranking black belts getting called out for poor conduct, and the simple fact that BJJ has become insanely popular across the globe?

In this article, we will discuss whether BJJ continues to ‘teach respect,’ and will also highlight some of the major shortcomings with assuming that commitment to BJJ correlates to good character, and how different issues can arise.

Let’s do this!

What does ‘respect’ mean in BJJ?

A big issue with discussing respect in BJJ is defining the term to begin with.

Respect in BJJ can mean different things to different people in different circumstances (that’s a mouthful, I know).

For example, respecting your training partners during class is a different ‘thing’ than respecting your opponent during competition.

Additionally, respecting your instructor for their BJJ skills is very different than blindly believing they have answers to deeper questions outside of BJJ, absent some other evidence of their experience.

Respect in BJJ with new vs advanced students

When you first start BJJ, being respectful usually revolves around listening to your instructor, staying humble, and not coming into class with a chip on your shoulder.

Depending on your school, the concept of being respectful will change as you advance rank.

For example, as a white or even blue belt, ‘talking smack’ about opponents’ skillsets or trying to coach other white belts can come off as disrespectful.

On the other hand, an advanced student who never corrects or helps coach lower students could come off as disrespectful.

That same advanced student might discuss an upcoming match and say “I think I can beat this guy because his guard is weak and he got heel hooked in his last match.” 

Unlike a white belt claiming to be better than someone else, the advanced student has the background and skills to actually assess their opponent.

Plus, if they are going to roll against the opponent in a match, they still have to put their money where their mouth is, which somewhat trumps whatever ‘smack talk’ they did before.

If they lose, it’s their ego that feels the ultimate sting.

Unfortunately, depending on the school, many of these subtle aspects of ‘being respectful’ are not specifically taught in BJJ.

You have to rely on social cues and self-reflection in many cases if you truly want to influence whether people think of you as a ‘respectful martial artist.’

Respect among professional BJJ athletes

What about high-profile athletes publicly feuding with one another?

Ultimately, professional sports, especially combat sports, have a mean competitive aspect that can get amped up when it comes to top performers going back and forth.

Hyping up an MMA fight through public feuding is a well-known strategy for selling tickets, and you should expect to see some of that at the highest level. 

As such, it is not necessarily a sign of disrespect for top BJJ athletes to have back and forth with each other over social media.

However, there is a line somewhere in the sand where people will increasingly see you as a jerk, regardless of your skill level, if you take things too far.

If you follow the high level BJJ scene at all, you are probably familiar with the dynamic I am discussing.

Athletes at the top level must weigh the overall hype benefits of being outspokenly ‘trash talky’ with the fact that as the rhetoric gets more extreme, the athletes can alienate their fans, which may or may not be something that concerns these athletes.

Respect among ranking black belts

Jiu Jitsu Respect

The final ‘respect’ I want to highlight in BJJ is the respect given to black belts in your school or local community.

A big issue I have with martial arts overall is the fact that people assuming having a black belt gives someone a deeper wisdom on life, regardless of additional evidence to the contrary.

You should absolutely respect a legit black belt’s skillset in BJJ.

However, barring your black belt having other relevant life experience, you should not assume that they can give you any insight on to how you should be living your life.

On the darkest side of this discussion we have black belts who take advantage of students financially or sexually – or may be involved in covering that behavior up among their other ranking students.

In my opinion, this is by far the most egregious form of disrespect you will encounter in BJJ. 

Perhaps I am speaking out of turn given that I am a purple belt at the time of this writing.

However, I firmly believe that holding the rank of black belt should go hand in hand with increased respect toward students and a greater responsibility to care for your community.

Many BJJ black belts embody this form of respect. This will most likely be reflected by the way others discuss the given black belt individual.

Black belts who abuse their authority and rank are thankfully less common than the respectful ones.

However, there is no shortage of examples of ranking, well-known BJJ black belts being involved with various forms of student abuse.

So, does BJJ actually teach respect?

I’m going to be blunt and contrarian.

I do not believe that training BJJ guarantees you will learn to be respectful.

While it will be hard to get through white and blue belt if you are a total jerk in class, even Michelangelo can’t make a beautiful statue out of horse manure.

An individual who fundamentally does not respect other people will not be influenced in the long run by getting better at Jiu Jitsu.

In fact, there is a good chance that if you take a bad person and give them fighting skills, you will exacerbate the problem rather than mitigate it.

The bottom line: respect in BJJ

Regardless of where you are in life and what hobbies and groups you associate with, being a respectful person tends to get you further.

This is true in BJJ. While you may not get kicked out for minor disrespects, you will gain a reputation for being ‘that type of guy/gal’ if you do not work on being respectful.

Ultimately, respect comes from within, and you cannot assume that training BJJ will turn an otherwise disrespectful person into a wise sage-guru-master if they stick with it long enough.

On that happy note, be respectful and have fun training BJJ!

You already know that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a contact combat sport. Given that fact, injuries in BJJ are an inevitability.

But what injuries are most likely to occur during your BJJ training?

In this post, we break down the research on injuries in BJJ.

BJJ Injuries

By the time you finish, you will know exactly which injuries to expect, and the relative frequency of each during BJJ training.

Let’s jump in!

Injuries in BJJ: A Quick Overview

There are two major recent survey studies on injuries in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes.

A 2019 survey conducted in Ontario, Canada looked at 70 BJJ practitioners, with most practitioners happening to be white or blue belts.

Overall, 64 percent of respondents reported injuries during training, while 21 percent of respondents reported injuries during competition.

The injury categories in this survey are as follows:

  • Sprains – 61.4% of respondents
  • Strains – 57.1% of respondents
  • Fractures – 18.6%
  • Lacerations – 12.9%
  • Dislocations – 11.4%
  • Concussions – 7.1%

Note that respondents could report multiple injuries, thus the percentages are based on how many respondents had that type of injury, not what percentage of total injuries fell into each category.

A more recent 2021 survey from Brazil focusing on orthopedic injuries only found that out of 94 respondents, 85% reported an ortho injury occurring in the past 2 years.

The most commonly injured area was the fingers (44 injuries), followed by the shoulders (37 injuries) and knees (32 injuries).

Additional injury sites included the ankle (19 injuries), elbow (16 injuries), and lumbar spine (12 injuries).

Overall, it’s clear that sprains and strains are by far the most common injuries in BJJ, with more serious injuries occurring less frequently.

BJJ Injury Breakdown

The following section discusses the types of injuries in a bit more depth, including severity, treatment protocols, prevention, and general recovery outlook.

Sprains

BJJ Heel Hook Injury Sprains are a stretching or tearing of ligaments, which are tough bands of fibrous tissue that connect two bones to one another.

Sprains can be very painful, and commonly affect the ankle and knee.

Signs and symptoms of sprains include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Limited movement at the affected joint
  • A “pop” in your joint at the time of injury.

Mild sprains can be treated at home, however severe sprains should be addressed by a medical professional.

Treatment includes physical therapy and possibly surgery for severe sprains.

If possible, strengthening the areas above and below the sprain can improve healing.

Prevention is best accomplished by frequent stretching and strengthening exercises.

Strains

Strains are an injury that affects muscles and tendons, the latter of which attaches muscles to bones.

Minor strains may simply be an overstretch to these tissues. Severe strains can involve complete tearing of the muscle or tendon.

Signs and symptoms of strains include:

  • Pain or tenderness
  • Redness or bruising
  • Limited motion
  • Muscle spasms
  • Swelling
  • Muscle weakness

Mild strains can be treated at home, while severe strains that involve severe pain or numbness should be treated by a medical professional.

Strains can occur during a single traumatic event. They can also be the result of chronic overuse due to repetitive motions.

Like sprains, risks of strains can be minimized by regular stretching and strengthening of relevant muscle areas.

Fractures

Broken Arm in Jiu Jitsu Fractures are an actual break in the bone and require rapid medical attention in virtually all cases.

Fractures are far less likely to occur in BJJ compared to sprains and strains, but they do occur often enough to be of concern.

Symptoms of fractures include pain, visible breakage in the bone, swelling, bruising, and in severe cases, a penetration of bone through the skin – known as an open fracture.

Minor fractures can allow the individual to go to the doctor or hospital.

Severe fractures warrant calling 911 or local EMS service, especially if:

  • The person is unresponsive, isn’t breathing or isn’t moving. Begin CPR if there’s no breathing or heartbeat.
  • There is heavy bleeding.
  • Even gentle pressure or movement causes pain.
  • The limb or joint appears deformed.
  • The bone has pierced the skin.
  • The extremity of the injured arm or leg, such as a toe or finger, is numb or bluish at the tip.
  • You suspect a bone is broken in the neck, head or back.

In the above cases, avoid moving the person at all costs and wait for medical personnel to arrive.

Immediate treatment involves stopping bleeding, immobilizing the injured area, applying ice packs, and treating for shock.

Long term recovery often requires some form of cast and physical therapy.

Weight training can help strengthen bones and prevent injuries. However, most fractures are the result of acute traumatic injury and cannot always be prevented.

Lacerations

Jiu Jitsu Cut Lacerations are cuts to the skin typically caused by a sharp object. In the case of BJJ, lacerations often occur when players have bone-to-bone impacts that split the skin at the location of impact.

A good example of laceration causes in BJJ is when players bonk heads and one player split the skin near the eyebrow.

Due to the bleeding, lacerations are easy to identify.

Treatment involves stopping the bleeding and bandaging. Severe lacerations require stitches or other medical care.

The only real prevention for lacerations is avoiding the impact in the first place.

Dislocations

Dislocated Ankle BJJ Dislocations are severe injuries to the joint in which the ends of your bones are forced out of their normal positions.

Dislocations deform and immobilize your joint and are typically very painful.

Commonly dislocated joints include the fingers and toes.

Elbows, knees, and shoulders can also become dislocated, which is not fun, to say the least.

Dislocations are typically the result of acute traumatic injury. Many submissions would dislocate the joint if taken to completion.

However, most BJJ dislocations are going to occur from unintended impact as opposed to intentionally popping it via submission.

The best prevention for dislocations is avoiding the traumatic injury to begin with.

Luckily, dislocations are far less common than strains and sprains, which are less severe.

Concussions

Jiu Jitsu Concussion A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by impact to your head. While temporary, concussions affect your brain function in a variety of different ways – all of which are unpleasant.

Concussions can involve the loss of consciousness, but most do not.

Given that BJJ is not a striking sport, the main mechanism of concussion in BJJ will be slams to the mat or unintentional impact to the head.

Concussions can cause a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Blurry vision

Lingering concussion effects include:

  • Concentration and memory complaints
  • Irritability and other personality changes
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Psychological adjustment problems and depression
  • Disorders of taste and smell

In severe cases, blows to the head can cause bleeding inside the brain, which can be fatal.

Treatment for concussions requires avoiding vigorous activity while signs and symptoms of concussion are present.

Avoiding additional head injuries while concussed is also vital for preventing serious and permanent brain damage.

To avoid concussions in the first place, agree with your partners not to perform slams or high-arch throws during training.

In slam-legal competition, if you feel at risk for getting slammed, abandon the position. It’s not worth holding on to a triangle and risking a traumatic brain injury.

Injuries in BJJ: It Happens To Everyone

If you do BJJ long enough, you are going to get injured at some point.

Even if you do not compete, most reported injuries occur during training, not competition, so you really cannot avoid it even as a recreational athlete.

The good news is, you can reduce your risk of the most common types of injuries through stretching and strengthening.

Additionally, the most frequent BJJ injuries are sprains and strains, which are largely treatable and have a good overall outlook for recovery.

Severe injuries are going to be more common if you go hard during rolling and can potentially be devastating.

Even if it does not happen to you personally, you will likely at some point witness an injury in BJJ that requires EMS personnel to carry the victim out on a stetcher.

Luckily, severe injuries are far less common in BJJ and make up a smaller percentage of the total injuries that occur.

Regardless, you must mentally prepare for the fact that you will be injured at some point in your BJJ journey.

But don’t worry – in most cases, you will make a full recovery.

Cheers to happy and safe training!

Perhaps you noticed the slightly reddened eyes or hint of weed smoke on your training partner’s BJJ Gi.

Maybe it’s the dispensary sponsorship of your favorite local athlete that really brought it to your attention.

Or… possibly, you are the one with the reddened eyes and ‘essence of ganja’ on your attire.

Regardless, if you’ve been in the BJJ scene long enough, you’re probably aware of the major crossover between the Jiu Jitsu and cannabis subcultures that continues to explode in popularity and attention.

In many ways, BJJ and cannabis (aka “weed, pot, or marijuana”) go hand in hand.

Image source: VICE

Until recently, both were counter-culture type activities that cater to folks who are not in the mainstream in one way or another.

Now, both activities are very mainstream.

In some ways, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and cannabis seem to be odd partners.

After all, BJJ is a combat sport that requires discipline, focus, and peak physical condition for the best performance.

Marijuana was until fairly recently an illegal drug with a mainstream reputation for producing burnouts, lack of motivation, and underachievement.

The ‘truth,’ whatever that means, is somewhere in between.

While cannabis is a drug that can have harmful consequences in certain circumstances, many people, athletes included, use it sustainably and relatively safely for recreation, medicinal value, and to enhance a given BJJ training session.

In some cases, competitive BJJ training will be demanding and require ultimate focus unhindered by any additional chemicals in your brain.

Other times, catching a good buzz before an hour or two of training can be a great way to maximize the enjoyment of your session and hit different flow states.

In this article, I break down cannabis in modern BJJ and discuss a few pros and cons of using cannabis in conjunction with your training.

So, sit back, spark one up (or not), and enjoy the article! 

Cannabis in Modern Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Given its decades long history of being very illegal, it was not until recently that cannabis could even enter mainstream discussions as something other than a very bad thing that you should never do, ever.

However, as more and more developed countries move towards decriminalization, medical use, and all-out recreational marijuana, high profile individuals at different levels of the BJJ community seem far more willing to be open about their marijuana use.

While bad boy counterculture names such as the Diaz brothers and Eddie Bravo never had issues openly talking about their weed smoking (or at least, none that they cared about), times are certainly different today than they were just 10 years ago.

These days, dispensaries and cannabis product brands across the United States sponsor both BJJ and MMA athletes under no uncertain terms.

On an even bigger note, in 2018 the High Rollerz BJJ promotion became the first tournament of its kind to be openly supportive of cannabis. 

Specifically, the tournament requires, or at least allows and recommends, competitors to ingest cannabis before they compete.

Additionally, winning a High Rollerz bracket usually gets you some cannabis goodies, including pipes, bongs, and even large amounts of actual cannabis depending on which bracket you won.

Given that High Rollerz has now hosted events in multiple states with filled-out rosters, I’d hazard to guess we will see more promotions running similar types of events going into the future.

On a more subtle note, non-disparaging talk of cannabis use in BJJ gyms is on the rise, and you may even find a couple of the trainees toking up out back before or after class.

From the overt sponsorships and pro-weed BJJ tournaments to the softer, subtler social situations, the overall integration of weed culture into BJJ gyms is obvious to most BJJ folks training at regular gyms in major metro areas.

Benefits of cannabis for BJJ

Cannabis is here to stay in BJJ culture – but is it beneficial?

Truthfully, the best answer is it depends on who you ask.

Many “canna-athletes” self-report that cannabis helps their BJJ performance.

For example, in 2018 Kron Gracie discussed his heavy cannabis use with B-Real from Cypress Hill, saying “you can be a functional athlete and smoke weed,” among a few other fairly epic one-liners.

A 2020 article from Cannabis Aficianado discusses some top pro MMA fighters who openly support cannabis, including the famous Diaz brothers in addition to names such as Jake Shields and Sean “Suga” O’Malley, who now has his own cannabis strain.

It is worth noting that not all of the fighters mentioned above claim to use cannabis directly for performance benefits, nor do they all brand as canna-athletes.

However, between injury management, recovery, and of course, fun, many high-level martial artists are publicly supportive of cannabis use.

For pro athletes, the question of whether cannabis actually improves performance has legal ramifications, given that performance enhancing substances are frequently banned.

Recently, the Nevada Athletic Commission (NAC) determined that cannabis is not considered performance enhancing, which contradicts the World Anti Doping Agency’s (WADA) classification of cannabis as dangerous and performance enhancing.

This is good news for athletes subject to the NAC’s rules because it means they can decide for themselves if they want to use cannabis for recovery or perceived performance benefits, as opposed to having the commission rule it’s use out completely.

For us regular BJJ folk, smoking cannabis can be an enjoyable way to enhance the training experience. In our case, we set our goals and expectations for our training.

If you personally find being a little (or a lot) stoned during your training helps you get the most out of your BJJ, then, toke up (if it’s legal where you live, of course).

Downsides of Cannabis for BJJ

Nothing in life is free, and this certainly applies to using substances like cannabis.

Although cannabis feels good to many of us, there is no denying that it can affect working memory and learning ability.

While this may or may not be sufficient to hinder your learning of BJJ, if you find yourself too stoned to follow the directions, you are doing yourself and your partners a disservice and would be better served to train with a clear head.

Additionally, there is no denying that smoking anything will have some impact on physical performance. After all, your lungs bring in the oxygen needed to power your whole system during training.

Interfering with this by inhaling foreign matter, including smoke from cannabis, should be an obvious concern in terms of maximizing your respiratory performance.

Nate Diaz While it’s clear that some athletes such as the Diaz brothers seem to have insane cardio despite their cannabis use, they may be the exception rather than the rule.

Furthermore, if you do a ton of hard training, you may mask the lesser downside of inhaling cannabis smoke by having a much greater overall aerobic fitness from your training.

Regardless, it is your personal choice to ingest things or not (if legal), but just keep in mind that smoking anything should be a concern when looking at optimal lung function.

Beyond the direct health effects on you personally, you should consider your training partners before hotboxing your car in the parking lot.

If your Gi smells like used bongwater and your breath is like an ashtray, you are punishing your training partner for your choice.

Furthermore, if you are too stoned to keep up in class either intellectually or physically, you should rethink how much weed you smoke before training.

Tips for using cannabis with BJJ

By now you have the gist of some major pros and cons of smoking weed for BJJ.

Assuming you decide you do want to partake in both activities (weed and BJJ), the following tips can help you avoid the pitfalls of weed smoking and still get the beneficial components.

  1. Consider using a vaporizer or edibles – this might be tough for you die-hard doobie smokers, but using a vaporizer or edible cannabis eliminates much, if not all, of the risk from smoking, including health and stinkiness factors.
  2. Know your tolerance – for the sake of your training partners and your own time, do not get so high before class that you cannot mentally follow practice.
  3. Mix it up – consider doing some training in a sober frame of mind in addition to your ‘enhanced’ training to ensure you get the ‘best of both worlds’ and know exactly how cannabis affects you during training compared to being sober.
  4. Make sure your gym is okay with it – while I don’t recommend going right up to a new coach and asking if you can show up stoned, before your first pre-class mind-melt session, you should gauge the vibe of your school to make sure you do not offend the instructor. Be respectful.

Cannabis in BJJ: the bottom line

With current trends, legal cannabis use is here to stay in BJJ.

As with any activity, there are pros and cons to smoking weed in conjunction with BJJ training that you should continually consider if you partake in these pursuits.

So, be realistic about your goals in BJJ and whether using cannabis supports or hinders them.

From there, relax, have fun with training, and toke up if you so choose!

Holiday BJJ Guide The Holidays are upon us this year, and that means more eating and probably fewer days of training Jiu Jitsu.

Whichever Holidays you celebrate during the winter season, if you’re like us at JiuJitsu.com, you want to balance celebrating with friends and family while enjoying rich delicious food, all without losing every ounce of BJJ progress you made since your last new years resolution.

This can be challenging for many of us ‘typical’ BJJ trainees juggling life, family, and our love for the grappling mats.

The good news is you can fully enjoy your holidays without demolishing all your BJJ progress.

In this article, we will discuss the best strategies for enjoying your holidays without losing your BJJ progress and ensuring you hit the new year with a running start towards your next round of BJJ goals.

Without further ado… combate!

Plan Out Your BJJ Competitions From December To February

This applies mainly to serious competitors but is relevant to hobbyists as well.

In a nutshell, if you plan to compete between December and February (with the goal of doing well), you will need to make sure you prioritize your training.

Additionally, if you have to be on a certain weight on a given day, you will have to moderate your consumption of holiday sweets and treats.

If competition success in BJJ matters to you over the holidays, expect to skip out on a few family game nights or slices of pie if that’s what it takes to get your training in and be on weight.

But don’t worry, you can still enjoy the holidays, just know you have additional priorities.

Adjust Holiday Training Expectations

Let’s say you do not plan to compete in the Holiday season, or if you do, you aren’t signing up for an ambitious bracket and do not care about winning.

In that case, planning to spend a bit more time with family over the Holiday weeks might be a better priority.

Training two or three days a week will keep you from stalling or regressing in BJJ skill, but still gives you the flexibility to enjoy evening with family and avoid stressing about your holiday indulgences.

Remember that BJJ is a long game.

You need a schedule and mental flexibility to keep training while enjoying every other aspect of life – especially if BJJ is your hobby, recreation, and stress relief as opposed to your professional career.

If every Holiday season becomes a drag because you overstress missing practice and enjoying a meal with family, is that really sustainable for decades?

Stick To Your Schedule

Once you have assessed your schedule and holiday plans, it’s vital that you commit to your holiday BJJ schedule with the same ferocity you would (theoretically) approach an ADCC training camp.

For example, let’s say you commit to one training per week for the 2 weeks over Christmas (if that’s the holiday you celebrate).

You must diligently avoid making plans around your decided class time. Recall that you already opened up your week for holiday celebrations – don’t let the boundaries creep once you have committed to your plan.

Perform Non-BJJ Workouts

Even if you are making only one of two BJJ practices per week over the holidays, you should still find the time to do shorter bouts of exercise to avoid becoming a complete couch potato.

A 20 minute jog takes far less time and effort to coordinate than a 2 hour evening BJJ class.

Although the jog is far less fun than doing BJJ, getting a couple runs in per week will go a long way towards keeping you from being as out of shape when you do finally return to the mats.

With the flexibility and reduced time demands of shorter workouts, you can maintain your fitness while still enjoying the holiday festivities.

Plan Your Return To Action

As we know, the Holiday season comes and goes quickly.

If you plan your post-Holiday return to training, this can help alleviate the stress you might feel with reduced training over the holidays.

You aren’t quitting BJJ or falling off the wagon, you are just training a little less to ensure you fully enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer.

Of course, this does ultimately depend on you following through on your New Years commitment. However, if you are already reading this article and considering your options, this probably won’t be an issue for you.

Holiday BJJ Training: Enjoy It!

There’s no denying the importance of enjoying the holidays.

While dedicated BJJ professionals may need to skip out on aspects of the holiday season to stay competition-ready, for most of us who do BJJ recreationally, striking a balance with family, food, and friends over the holidays is important – especially if you value these aspects of holiday celebration.

Planning out your competitions can help you realistically assess how much you need to train. From there adjusting expectations, sticking to your schedule, and keeping in shape with shorter non-BJJ workouts can help you enjoy the holiday season without losing all your hard-earned gains.

Finally, plan your post-holiday return to the mats and fully commit to getting after it come the New Year.

Happy Holidays!

IBJJF

Whether you are new to BJJ or a long time jiu-jitero or jiu-jitera, you have certainly heard of the IBJJF.

When it comes to traditional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, the IBJFF is the premier organization for hosting most of the tournaments that earn competitors the most respect and clout in the world of BJJ.

Additionally, the IBJJF hosts many local and regional tournaments.

Competing in IBJJF is similar to many other tournament formats, however there are a few IBJJF-specific things you should think about when getting ready to compete.

This article breaks down everything you need to know about competing in your first IBJJF tournament.

Let’s dive in!

What Is The IBJJF?

The IBJJF stands for the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation. The IBJFF is a private, for-profit organization that has dominated the BJJ tournament scene up until quite recently, when other promotions and rulesets such as ADCC and EBI began to take prominence.

The IBJJF is big on rules and competing successfully in IBJJF requires you to understand these rules as well as the scoring system in order to give you an advantage over your opponent.

Overall, the IBJJF has set the standards for traditional, points-based jiu jitsu competition.

Until quite recently, most points-based rule systems relied on the IBJJF ruleset.

Prepping For Your First IBJJF Competition

IBJJF Tournament

I’m going to make two assumptions before diving in to the specific tips for preparing.

The first assumption is that you are trying to win.

While you may not aspire to be the next black belt world champion, you signed up to do as well as you can against the opponents, not just to step on the mat for the experience.

The second assumption is that you are training at least three days per week.

If you are serious about competing, you should be training three days minimum, and ideally more than that. This is a universal in BJJ competition and is not specific to IBJJF.

Assuming your goal is to perform as well as possible to win within the IBJFF ruleset, the following tips can help you prepare to put on your best performance possible during your first IBJJF tournament.

1. Learn The IBJJF Ruleset

The IBJJF ruleset is among the strictest in BJJ, especially so at the lower levels of competition. The rules vary with belt level and revolve primarily around which submissions are legal or illegal at each belt.

Some of the key standout rules across all levels in IBJJF Gi are:

  • No reaping or heel hooks in Gi at any level
  • No slams
  • No suplex takedown techniques landing with the opponent’s head on the ground

The following applies to purple belts and below in Gi and No Gi:

  • No heel hooks or any of the techniques banned at black belt
  • No toe holds
  • No knee bars
  • No calf slicer
  • No bicep slicer

At the white belt level, the following techniques are prohibited in addition to the above techniques:

  • No compression locks squeezing the torso with legs while opponent in your closed guard
  • No wrist locks
  • No single leg takedown while the attacking athlete has their head outside the opponent’s body

Note that as of 2021, heel hooks and reaping are legal at brown and black belt No Gi.

As you can see, most of the leglock game does not exist in IBJJF at the lower levels. Although this would have been normal a decade ago, these days, many mainstream tournaments are allowing most, if not all leg locks at the blue belt level.

Additionally, many no gi tournaments do not really distinguish between belt levels, particularly as competitors become more advanced, and so you can expect purples and even blue belts in the same bracket as black belts – but not in IBJJF.

It’s key that you understand which techniques and positions are illegal in IBJJF to avoid an immediate disqualification loss.

2. Focus On The IBJJF Point System

IBJJF Point System

Although the goal of BJJ is submitting your opponent, it is unrealistic to expect that you will crush the bracket and submit every opponent.

For winning IBJJF consistently, you must learn the IBJJF point system.

The system is straightforward in most cases. Points are awarded for position advancement if you can hold the position for three seconds.

The positional points breakdown is as follows:

  • Takedown or sweep with control in top position – 2 points
  • Knee-on-belly – 2 points
  • Passing guard and stabilizing a top control – 3 points
  • Mount, back mount, back control – 4 points

Before you commit to a submission attempt, its worth trying to rack up some position points. This allows you to take risks when attacking submissions. If you lose the position and your opponent recovers a good position, they are now better able to score on you.

This is less of an issue if you are already up on points, as your opponent must now run out the clock trying to catch up or submit you.

This situation gives you the advantage of patience and timing, although you’ll be dealing with a desperate and aggressive opponent.

On a similar note, you must know when a position receives a score and when it doesn’t.

For example, if you rack up points passing your opponent’s guard and your opponent recovers some form of guard, you can now score those points again if you pass again.

The implication of this can be counter-intuitive. Although escaping from bottom position displays superior BJJ than being stuck under control, it opens you up to get scored on all over again.

Consider the following situation:

You are up on points 6-5 with a minute left but your opponent is in top side control. In this case, you might consider not fully trying to escape but instead defend against further positional advances. After all, if they passed your guard once, they could probably do it again.

You cannot afford that if you want to win in this scenario, so perhaps consider not escaping to deny your opponent the scoring opportunity.

Knowing the ins-and-outs of the points system gives you a major advantage in IBJJF tournaments independent of specific skill level.

3. Know About Advantages and Penalties

Advantages and penalties are a sort of secondary points system. In the event of a tie, the advantage and penalties accrued during the match will decide the victor.

Advantages are typically awarded for aggression and other forms of minor control or attempts at techniques that may fail but keep the action going.

You do not need to fully score points to get advantages.

Penalties are given out for lack of activity on behalf of one or more competitors, or for minor fouls.

For example, if you have top control but are not trying to advance position for more than 30 seconds, you will probably get a penalty.

Furthermore, fouls such as grabbing the fingers can earn you a penalty. Note that too many minor fouls will result in disqualification loss.

Finally, Do not under any circumstance talk to the referee. This will get you an immediate penalty every time.

Similarly, major fouls such as banned submission attempts will cause immediate disqualification.

Understanding the advantage and penalty system in IBJJF can be the difference between hitting the podium and going home empty handed, especially when the skill levels of you and your opponent are closely matched.

Note that advantages and penalties are not considered if one competitor is ahead on points at the end of the match.

4. Be On Weight Ahead of Time

Many IBJJF tournaments have you weigh in right before competing. This is not enough time to recover from any real weight cut and expect a good performance.

Your best bet is to sign up for a weight class that you already walk around at.

At most, you can eat lightly the day before if you need to drop a pound or two.

However, planning to cut more than a couple pounds is not recommended when the weigh-ins are immediately before competing.

5. Focus On Cardio

Coming into the match with good cardio and knowing how to pace yourself is key to winning the bracket in IBJJF. Often, you must win 3 to 6 matches with relatively little time in between to reach the podium.

If you blow your whole gas tank in the first match, even if you win, you are setting yourself to gas out in the later matches.

Avoid this by focusing on your cardio and learning how to pace yourself. Find an intensity you can sustain for 5 or more minutes for multiple rounds, interspersed with more explosive scrambles.

Even the most conditioned athlete must learn to pace themself, especially if they want to win a stacked bracket.

Prepping For IBJJF: The Bottom Line

If you compete enough in BJJ, you will inevitably do an IBJJF tournament.

While you should follow the advice in this article to maximize your shot at hitting that coveted podium, do not forget the most important aspect of competing in BJJ as a recreational athlete:

Have fun and embrace the growth!

Disclaimer: weight cutting can be dangerous and should only be performed under medical supervision. This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning weight cutting activities.

Weight Cutting For BJJ

Whether you are an experienced competitor or just signing up for your first Jiu Jitsu tournament, you’ve undoubtedly grappled with the decision of whether to cut weight for BJJ.

Cutting weight for BJJ or any combat sport is a process that is frequently misunderstood despite its important role in martial arts competition.

Often, newer competitors try advanced and or niche methods they do not fully understand in an effort to cut weight when it may not be appropriate.

Furthermore, many people confuse the terms “cutting weight” with “losing weight” or use them interchangeably, despite their being very distinct differences.

While the traditional weight cutting often depicted in MMA promotions may get a bad reputation for health or fairness reasons, cutting weight has been and will continue to be a key aspect of competitive martial arts.

Regardless of your competitive goals in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, if you plan to compete at all, you need to understand the basics of cutting weight vs losing weight to decide if it is worth cutting down to a lower weight class.

This article breaks down everything you need to know about weight cutting for BJJ including the benefits, risks, best practices, and the difference between cutting weight and losing weight.

Let’s dive in!

Why Do Competitors Cut Weight For BJJ?

Cutting Weight for BJJ The basic idea of a weight cut is that for weight-class sports such as wrestling, MMA, and BJJ, you will have an advantage by being on the bigger end of whatever division you compete in.

Most divisions have an acceptable weight range of 10 to 15 pounds – in theory, the closer you are to the top end of the cut off, the more mass you can bring to the fight, which should give you a strength and weight advantage.

The idea of cutting weight is to drop a bunch of “scale weight” leading up to the event – which mostly consists of food and water in your body, to come just under the upper limit of your weight class.

After weigh-ins, you will re-feed and rehydrate back to your “normal weight,” which is typically 2 to 15 pounds above the cutoff of your weight class for most BJJ events. Though it’s important to note that all organizations weight-in schedules are different. For example, in IBJJF tournaments you weigh in immediately before your brackets scheduled fight time. This doesn’t leave much time to properly hydrate.

In a perfect world, you are now competing in a division against people who are truly 5 to 10 pounds lighter than you if they did not cut weight.

At the very least, you will not be on the losing end of that equation.

Cutting Weight vs Losing Weight: What’s The Difference?

The terms cutting weight and losing weight are frequently used interchangeably, although they are not the same thing.

Losing Weight

Losing weight refers to the process of shedding body fat and sometimes muscle as a result of eating fewer calories than you burn.

Traditional weight loss programs target this type of weight loss – in fact, most of the time, “weight loss” really means “fat loss,” since most weight loss programs are meant for health and aesthetic goals, not simply to be skinny and malnourished with no muscle.

Traditional weight loss/fat loss is accomplished by reducing overall caloric intake and increasing physical activity over extended periods of time such as weeks to months.

For fat loss, losing a pound of weight per week is considered a good, sustainable rate of loss. This requires a daily caloric deficit of around 500 Calories to see a pound of fat loss in a week. At this rate, losing 10 pounds should take roughly 10 weeks.

Note that during traditional weight loss, your water weight will fluctuate daily and you may “lose” more or less than a pound per week on the scale, but the underlying loss of fat is the mechanism we actually care about in that instance.

Cutting Weight

Cutting weight is a different process altogether. When cutting weight, the goal is to sweat out as much water from your body as you can while also reducing the weight of the food in your digestive tract leading up to your weigh-in.

Typically, athletes begin a “weight cut” about 10 days out from an event, with the final 3 to 5 days comprising the bulk of weight cutting activities.

Weight cutting strategy generally revolves around reducing carbohydrate and salt intake while drastically increasing sweat output by using a sauna, sweatsuit, and extended periods of medium-intensity training to sweat as much as possible.

The closer to the competition, the more focus on sauna and low impact sweating activities to avoid any last-minute injuries.

While some minor fat loss may occur as a side effect of the increased activity and potentially reduced caloric intake, the goal of a weight cut is to be under the weight cutoff when you step on the scale before fueling back up for the final preparation.

A key note on cutting weight is that you really need the weigh-ins to occur the day prior to fully rehydrate if you cut more than a few pounds. This is why professional fights typically weigh-in the night before – that way athletes can get IV drips and whatever resources they need to physically recover before the fight.

Weight cutting takes a major toll on the body, and if you do not properly refuel immediately after, your physical performance will suffer.

If you are cutting weight with just a few hours or even minutes between weighing in and competing, you will not be physically capable of performing to your maximum potential in the event.

Should I Cut Weight For BJJ?

Now you have had a brief look at the differences between cutting weight and losing weight, you’re probably wondering, should I cut weight for BJJ?

The answer really depends on which tournament you are doing, the structure and timing of weigh-ins, and how it fits into your medium and long term competition goals.

Cutting Weight For Your First BJJ Tournament

BJJ Tournament

If this is your first BJJ tournament, you should not concern yourself with a complicated weight cut.

Even if you have 24 hours, there is too much going on the first time you compete to have this added stress.

Unless you are already experienced with cutting weight for wrestling or another sport, focus on your gameplan, technique training, and having fun the first few times you compete.

In terms of picking a weight class, your best bet is to eat a light but nourishing dinner and see where your weight is the next morning, then sign up for whatever weight class you fall into.

Often, eating a heavy meal full of carbohydrates and salt can add 5 or more pounds of water and food mass, which in of itself could bump you up a full weight class.

Previous disclaimers aside, if you are right on the cutoff and can drop a weight class by just eating a light meal, that will typically make your tournament experience far more enjoyable.

On the other hand, if eating a light meal still puts you pounds above the cutoff, just focus on the tournament this time around.

If you are competing in a gi tournament, you’ll most likely need to weigh-in with your BJJ gi and belt on. This is often an overlooked aspect of weight cutting, you will need to factor in 3-5lbs in additional weight for your gi.

Cutting Weight For Super Fights & Day-Before Weigh-Ins

Super fights are a competition format where you and a single competitor have a 1-on-1 single match in a similar style as an MMA event, just with grappling.

Typically these events have a day-before weigh in and you only have a single match against your pre-determined opponent.

In this case, cutting weight is more appropriate. You will agree upon a weight cutoff with the promoter and your opponent, and you are then responsible for making that weight.

If you are doing a super fight, you are probably a bit further into your training, perhaps a blue belt or higher.

At this point, you have a gameplan and are not a first time competitor, and it is appropriate to add weight cutting into your competition plan.

The same can be said for tournaments that have day-before weigh-ins. Depending on the level of event, you may decide cutting weight is worth it.

Cutting Weight For Higher Level Tournaments

Large tournaments such as ADCC may be worth cutting weight for. At this point, you are competing at the professional level and likely have at least one major weight cut under your belt.

Often, weigh ins occur on the same day, so you should know your body by now well-enough to decide exactly how much weight you can cut and still perform well the same day.

By the time you reach this point in your career, weight cutting will not be new and you probably have it dialed in.

How Do Cut Weight For BJJ

So you’ve decided to do your first weight-cut.

Now what?

True weight cut

There is no one-size fits all formula for weight cutting, and you will likely need a few iterations before you dial your method in.

Nevertheless, cutting 5-15 pounds of water weight is best achieved through the following:

  1. Increased water intake (1 gal+ per day) 3-5 days before weigh ins, moderate salt and carbohydrate reduction
  2. Further increases to water intake (2 gal/day) when 2 days out from weigh-ins. Drastic salt and carb reduction.
  3. Stop water intake 1 day out from weigh ins, no salt or carb intake
  4. Add sauna/sweat output throughout to keep water cycling
  5. The final day of weigh ins you shouldn’t have much at all unless you are already under your weight, your body will flush most of the water out since you have had no carb and salt intake.
  6. Weigh-in.
  7. Rehydrate with electrolyte water, refuel with high glycemic carbohydrates, get a good night’s sleep.
  8. Compete!

Cutting more than 10-15 pounds gets even more difficult and extreme and should only be done under the supervision of an experienced professional.

Pro tip: do a ‘practice weight cut’ before signing up for a tournament to gauge exactly how much you can realistically cut in a week.

Amateur Weight Cuts

Although this isn’t technically cutting weight, if you are a hobbyist competitor looking for an advantage without the entire weight cutting process, eating lightly the day or two before weighing in can be a quick and easy way to drop down 2-5 pounds and potentially land in the lower weight class.

This only really works if you are close to the cutoff already but is worth mentioning as a theoretically in-between form of ‘cutting weight.’

Dropping a Weight Class

You sometimes hear about athletes “dropping a weight class.”

This typically refers to the process of an athlete strategically losing weight and/or bodyfat leading up to a fight camp.

This athlete will be cutting weight in the week before competition regardless, so the ‘dropping a weight class’ term really refers to getting the athlete to a low enough weight where a further cut into the next lower weight class is possible.

For example, if an athlete can cut 15lb pounds from 170lb to make a 155lb division, then dropping a weight class would require them to lose an additional 10lb to walk around at 160lb and be able to cut down to 145lb.

At a certain point, you can only cut so much weight in a week, so large weight class reductions will require longer term strategies to walk around at a lower weight to begin with.

The Downsides of Cutting Weight

Although cutting weight can give you a strategic advantage, there are some major downsides to cutting weight you should consider before signing up for your division.

1. Cutting weight sucks

No ifs, ands, or buts. Restricting carb, salt, and water intake to drop weight is not comfortable. Every cell in your body will scream at you and by the time you step on the scale you’ll be craving plain water more than pizza because of how dehydrated you are.

2. Cutting weight can reduce performance

If you are 10+ pounds dehydrated and underfed, you won’t perform. Even a carefully planned refeed may leave you at 90% of your full potential, but this may be worth fighting a smaller weaker opponent.

3. There may be a monster in the lower division

The entire premise of cutting weight is to have easier opponents to beat. 

Often, especially at non-black belt levels in local tournaments, a player in a lower weight bracket might be far tougher than every bigger guy in the bracket above.

Remember, Jiu Jitsu is supposed to let smaller folks beat bigger folks with technique.

Sometimes, the smaller technical opponent is much tougher than the larger stronger opponent. If this happens, you may have completely defeated the purpose of cutting weight.

Cutting Weight Facts

The following are a couple additional facts about cutting weight:

Water is stored in muscle.

The water you squeeze out during a cut is stored primarily in muscle tissue.

Having more body fat does not mean you can cut more weight, as the body fat is basically ‘dead weight’ going into the cut and you can’t do much about it.

Muscular, lean athletes can safely cut more weight on a pound-for-pound basis.

It is not possible to lose pounds of fat in the week leading to the event

A pound of fat stores roughly 3,500 calories. You would have to completely skip eating for days on end to lose fat at that rate, which has many other negative consequences.

Depending on how much weight you need to cut, you may get away with just the sauna sweating or just manipulating nutrition. The more weight you need to cut, the more methods you will need to employ.

Cutting Weight For BJJ: The Bottom Line

Cutting weight is here to stay in combat sports. Although cutting weight is often the source of controversy, it is possible to safely cut large amounts of weight fairly quickly through dietary manipulation and increased sweat production.

At the higher levels of BJJ, cutting weight is a must if you are trying to have every edge possible against the competition.

Nevertheless, cutting weight should be carefully planned and is only worth doing in certain circumstances.

If you are new to competing or on the fence about cutting weight, consider skipping the process until you have more experience under your belt – there is a good chance a person in the division below you will blow your entire bracket out of the water anyways.

On a final note, if the thought of cutting weight stresses you out to no end – skip it.

BJJ is supposed to be fun after all!

It’s no secret that training BJJ is a difficult task. 

Few who start BJJ will reach their first belt rank, and even fewer make it to black belt.

But what is it about BJJ that makes it so hard?

In this article, we break down the top 5 reasons BJJ is so hard.

If you train BJJ, you can relate.

If you do not currently train, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect on the arduous journey towards BJJ mastery.

Aerobically Challenging

BJJ Is Exhausting Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is at its core an aerobically challenging activity.

During live rolling, hard drilling, and certainly during competition, you will be exerting large amounts of energy as you attempt your moves against a resisting opponent – or at least at a very high pace during drilling.

This cardiovascular exertion in BJJ is as challenging as any other intense aerobic exercise.

You will feel the burn in your forearms from hand fighting, gasping for breath after battling for position, and the deep fatigue and exhaustion after the finish bell rings and you lie on the floor mentally preparing for the next round.

Although this level of exertion is beneficial for aerobic health and mental toughness, there is no denying that the aerobic requirement for live BJJ training is a difficult aspect of participating in the gentle art.

Physically Painful From Impacts and Pressure

Jiu Jitsu Pain Aerobic exercise aside, Jiu Jitsu is physically painful from an impact and injury standpoint.

Full contact grappling causes many impacts on the floor from different areas of your body, such as knees and elbows.

These impacts add up over time, resulting in bruising, mat burn, and sometimes swelling and bursitis.

Additionally, the pressure your opponent places on you during rolling results in similar bruising and poses a risk for torso injuries from compression, such as when you are under a knee on belly or mounted by your gym’s heavyweights.

During high paced rolling, your partner will often try to control you at the head and neck. This can add strain and other injuries to that area.

If you look at the course of a grappler’s training journey, you can expect at least one injury to the lower extremities, upper extremities, and neck by the time they reach advanced rank. 

These injuries range from mild to severe depending on the circumstances and may be acute traumatic injuries or longer-term overuse injuries.

You can mitigate the injury risk to some extent by focusing on technical rolls and choosing safe training partners.

Nevertheless, there is still only so much you can do to avoid being injured by the inevitable impact in BJJ.

Finally, the random and chaotic nature of live grappling results in unpredictable injuries such as a fingers in the eye or other accidents.

This risk is inherent to the nature of contact grappling.

Of course, the submissions themselves in BJJ can be devastating when fully executed, so be sure to tap early and tap often to dodge the worst potential injuries.

Complexity in the art

Even a cursory understanding of BJJ reveals the depth of the overall art. 

You can be a master in certain sequences while having only a basic understanding of other battles – for example, being a great guard passer but having less leg lock knowledge. 

BJJ is an ever-evolving art, and as such, few players can claim complete mastery for any length of time.

At some point in your Jiu Jitsu journey, it will dawn on you that it’s virtually impossible to have complete knowledge of the art.

While this excites and intrigues some individuals, it requires a mindset shift for 99 percent of BJJ players who must decide to continue training BJJ even though complete mastery of BJJ is not in the cards for them.

This mentally and psychologically difficult aspect of BJJ is another element that makes training BJJ, especially long term, exceptionally difficult.

Time Commitment

BJJ Time Commitment While mastery may be a fleeting goal, improvement in BJJ is possible for almost everyone.

The thing is, getting better at BJJ takes a lot of time.

A minimum of three days per week of training is a good baseline for most people to see steady improvement. In general, the more you are able to train, the better you will get in a given timeframe.

However, the time commitment goes beyond the typical 90 minute BJJ class.

You must consider getting prepared, driving to the gym, coming home and showering, re-grouping, and probably slamming  a late dinner before bed.

While an evening training class may only last 1-2 hours, you must consider that your entire evening will revolve around going to the gym and returning from the gym on the nights that you go to class.

The immense commitment required for real long-term improvement becomes much more apparent the older you get and more life responsibilities you have.

For many people, carving out that time on most weeks of every year for the next 15-20 years is just not worth getting better at grappling.

The time requirement is a big reason why BJJ is so hard. However, if you can find the time to train, you will improve.

Testing You Ego in BJJ

Jiu Jitsu Ego The final and perhaps most cliché difficult aspect of BJJ is the constant testing of your ego.

From day one you get smashed by people a fraction of your size – a humbling experience for anyone.

However, the real ego test begins a few years in – perhaps high blue to purple belt level.

This is when you are good enough to easily beat newer or lower ranked grapplers.

You are also now good enough to know exactly how bad you are.

Here is the thing…

Most advanced jiu-jitsu only ‘works’ against someone who knows enough BJJ to have real threatening attacks and proper defense.

The ‘counter-to-the-counter-to-the-counter’ only happens in BJJ when your opponent actually knows the first counter.

As you reach the intermediate and advanced ranks, you will see that the moves you’ve honed so well, perhaps even used in competition, still do not work against more advanced or elite students.

As a white belt, your passing and subs probably don’t work most of the time – so it’s not a shock when you can’t pass a brown belt’s guard.

After all, you can’t pass a blue belt’s guard, so why would you be able to pass a brown belt’s guard?

But what happens when you slice through the blue belt’s guard like butter, yet get swept and submitted when attempting the same pass on a brown or black belt.

That is the next level of ego testing.

At this point, you’ve put in years of mat time and are still getting submitted by people.

It’s easy to write off losses as a beginner…

But as you get better, the ego testing gets more severe, not less.

BJJ is hard because regardless of your current level, your ego will be tested, and you must learn to let go of attachments to winning and being better and simply embrace the art for what it is.

BJJ: Not For The Faint Of Heart

Regardless of your athletic gifts and propensity to learn, training BJJ is very hard.

Ultimately, there are no real shortcuts or ways to avoid this discomfort and challenge.

In fact, the difficult nature of BJJ is the very thing that makes training this art so rewarding.

So do not look for shortcuts, embrace the suck, and go hit those mats!

An aggressive top game based on passing and submissions is a nightmare for many opponents.

In Justin Rader’s “Passing Formula”, you will learn a series of passing sequences that flow directly into powerful control and effective, high-percentage top submissions.

Let’s break down four sequences you can use in either gi or nogi Jiu Jitsu that all flow off of the Bullfighter or ‘torreando’ pass. Depending on your opponent’s reaction, you will likely have one of the four options available to continue your attack sequence to the submission.

Let’s dive in!

Bullfight Pass to D’arce Choke

The Bullfight pass to D’arce choke becomes available when your opponent responds to the Bullfight pass by turning over back into you such as during an attempt to wrestling for a single leg.

To perform the Bullfight pass to D’arce choke:

  1. Begin in a standing passing position with your opponent on their back playing open guard.
  2. Cup your opponent’s shins just below the knee with your same-side hands.
  3. Push your opponent’s knees towards their chest to trigger their counter reaction of pushing back at you.
  4. As your opponent pushes back, re-direct their legs and throw them to your right side.
  5. Step out to the side with your left leg.
  6. In this instance, your opponent reacts by turning back into you possible attempting to come up on a single leg takedown.
  7. Sprawl back to prevent your opponent from wrestling up to you.
  8. Drop your right arm in front of your opponent’s hip to prevent them scrambling into you.
  9. Frame your left arm on your opponent’s face, keeping pressure to prevent a scramble.
  10. Shoot your right arm beneath your opponent’s left arm to begin setting up the D’arce.
  11. Reach over your opponent’s head with your left arm and grab your left bicep with your right hand.
  12. Begin compressing your D’arce to get the submission, drop more weight towards your opponent’s head to increase the choking pressure.

Bullfight to Short Arm D’arce

Sometimes, you cannot get the full depth D’arce. In this case, the short arm D’ace is a viable option.

To perform a short-arm D’arce choke:

  1. Perform the same Bullfight pass with the hands-on-shins and pushing your opponent’s knees to their chest.
  2. As your opponent turns into you, drop your right hand to block the hip and left arm to your opponent’s head.
  3. In this case, your opponent senses the D’arce coming and you are unable to shoot your arm as deep – you are only able to shoot your D’arce wrist deep.
  4. Instead of grabbing your left bicep with the right hand, use your left triceps to push on the back of your opponent’s head and grab your forearm with your fingers.
  5. Compress by bringing your elbows towards your chest to finish the choke. It may take longer than the standard D’arce to get the tap.

Bullfight to Back Take and Rear Naked Choke

If your opponent turns away instead of attempting to wrestle up, they expose themselves to the back take.

To perform the Bullfight to back take to RNC:

  1. Perform the Bullfight pass using hands-on-shins.
  2. As you re-direct your opponent’s reaction, your opponent turns away and attempts to scramble out without turning back in – in this instance, there is more space after your throw their legs to the side.
  3. Chase your opponent and follow until you can establish the seatbelt control.
  4. Use the gap under your opponent’s hip to stick your bottom hook in. Place your top foot on your opponent’s top thigh.
  5. With your top hand, grab your opponent’s same side forearm to start fighting for hand control.
  6. With your bottom hand, begin shooting your forearm under your opponent’s chin to set up the rear naked choke.
  7. At this point, place your top hook in your opponent’s hip to get your second hook. Your opponent now must address the choke and the hook.
  8. If your opponent focuses on defending the hook entry, then attack the choke. 
  9. If your opponent focuses on defending the choke, get your top hook in to secure the full back take.
  10. Depending on the hand fighting dynamic, you may be able to trap your opponent’s top hand with your top leg.
  11. Slide one hand over the other as you lock up the rear naked choke. Avoid straightening out your top arm to prevent your opponent from gripping that arm to defend the choke.

Bullfight to Stack Pass to Rear Naked Choke

Jiu Jitsu Guard Pass to Submission

When your opponent Granby rolls back into you to recover guard, your best bet is to fall into a double-under pass and progress from there.

To perform a Bullfight to stack pass to rear naked choke:

  1. Perform the Bullfight pass with double shin cups.
  2. To defend, your opponent raises their hips and goes up on their shoulder to roll back towards you.
  3. Follow your opponent’s hips to catch a double-underhook stack on your opponent’s hips as they whip their leg back around to recover after your initial Bullfight pass attempt.
  4. Secure a double underhook position by dropping your chest below their hip.
  5. Clasp your hands together and drive your opponent all the way over until you flip them to their knees.
  6. Immediately shoot your right knee into their right hip pocket to begin the back take.
  7. Unlock your hands and re-grip with a crotch lift grip.
  8. Place your left foot between your opponent’s legs behind their hips and torque their right leg outward to break down their base.
  9. Pull your opponent back with your crotch lift grip.
  10. As you roll back keep your opponent’s hips on your torso.
  11. Stick your right leg all the way through your opponent’s legs and figure-4 your right ankle with your left leg.
  12. Extend your figure-4 to expose your opponent’s back.
  13. Get a two-on-one grip on your opponent’s left arm.
  14. Stomp your feet together and extend your opponent’s leg again.
  15. Using your two-on-one control, trap your opponent’s left arm with your left leg as you complete the back take.
  16. Slide your bottom arm under your opponent’s chin to complete the choke.

Guard Passing to Submissions is The Ultimate Goal

Regardless of your preference for playing guard or passing, a strong top game is key for success in grappling exchanges. 

An opponent who fears your passing and top submissions will be at an automatic disadvantage. 

With Justin Rader’s Passing Formula, you’ll be shutting down guard players and racking up submissions in no time.

It’s no secret that leg locks are now ‘in’ across the BJJ world.

Once despised as cheap, almost dirty techniques used by those without BJJ technical proficiency, leg locks of all varieties are now a staple in BJJ starting as early as blue belt or even white belt.

Kneebars are an exceptionally powerful leg attack and are allowed in both Gi and No Gi, depending on your level.

Most kneebar finishes look similar. However, the true leg lock mastery comes from being able to enter the kneebar entanglement from a variety of positions.

Leglock techniques depend first and foremost on getting to the proper position. As such, if you are serious about finishing kneebars, you need to study the entries.

In James Puopolo’s High Percentage Kneebar Course, Rafael Lovato Jr. Black Belt James Puopolo shows off his highest percentage kneebar entries and the most effective methods to finish these attacks.

We’ve broken down the three of his top kneebar entries to give you a sneak peek into this amazing course.

Now let’s dive in!

Back step to knee bar finish

The first lesson is the backstep to knee bar. This series begins with you standing up and preparing to pass your opponent’s open guard.

To perform the back step to knee bar finish:

  1. Begin passing your opponent’s open guard from standing
  2. Step your right foot inside your opponent’s leg and position your shin behind their left hamstring. Keep a strong knee angle to avoid your opponent getting De La Riva guard.
  3. Block your opponent’s left hip with your right hand.
  4. Cross your right knee over your opponent’s right thigh to enter the knee slice position.
  5. Your opponent pummels in a left underhook and comes to their right hip for a strong half guard position.
  6. Lean forward and post your hands on the mat. Immediately backstep your left leg all the way to the left side of your opponent. You are now facing their legs with their left leg between your legs.
  7. As you fall back, underhook the opponent’s left leg with your left arm and hug your own thigh to secure the position.
  8. Your opponent crosses their feet to defend the knee bar.
  9. Figure 4 your own legs with your left leg over your right shin.
  10. Post your right hand and adjust your hips so you are upright as opposed to being slightly on the right hip.
  11. Cup your opponent’s right foot with your right hand and pull it towards you to break the integrity of the lock.
  12. Fall to your left side and extend your legs to form an ‘X’ that pinches the opponent’s leg between your legs.
  13. Begin sliding your leg arm up towards the opponent’s left heel.
  14. As you slide your left arm up, weave your right arm over your left arm and cup your opponent’s heel, then establish a rear naked choke grip by cupping your right bicep with your left hand. Keep your head on the bottom side of your opponent’s left foot.
  15. Arch your back and extend your hips to finish the submission.

Slide Over Setup

Let’s say that instead of turning into you with a left underhook and trying to wrestle, the opponent enters deep half guard.

This technique begins in your opponent’s half guard.

  1. Begin in your opponent’s half guard with them having a knee shield.
  2. Your opponent bails on the knee shield to shoot a left underhook before rolling backwards to enter the deep half guard position.
  3. Keep your right leg high as you slide your left leg up to your opponent’s left leg.
  4. Underhook their left leg and pull it to your chest.
  5. The opponent locks their legs with a figure 4.
  6. At this point, complete the submission the same way as the first technique flow.

Double leg sit to butterfly to kneebar

This technique comes off the double leg takedown shot.

You are anticipating the opponent’s sprawl. This technique works off the sprawl, and you can strategically decide whether to enter the butterfly guard or attempt to finish the takedown.

For the purposes of this series, you will enter butterfly guard to target the kneebar finish.

  1. Begin in a wrestling stance and match your opponent’s position to set up your double leg shot.
  2. Take a penetration step and change levels to shoot.
  3. As your drive into your opponent, they sprawl.
  4. Sit into a butterfly guard under your opponent’s sprawl.
  5. Grab you opponent’s Gi pants at the right thigh
  6. Make a reverse X with your legs and lift your opponent up until they base out with their hands.
  7. Keep your opponent’s hips pushed up and slide your left leg all the way under your opponent. This puts your legs in the proper position to attack your opponent’s left leg.
  8. As your opponent falls back, quickly underhook their left leg with your left arm and finish the submission as you did in the previous techniques.

The Perfect Leglock To Start Experimenting With

Whether you want an ADCC championship belt or just want a BJJ game that isn’t stuck in the 80’s, you need to learn your leglock game.

Kneebars are an excellent leglock because they are legal in most competition formats, relatively safe, and also transition well into other leg attack positions such as honey-hole and submissions like the feared inside heel hook.

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