BJJ Tips: How do you define success in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?

Our advanced BJJ sessions at the Labs - BJJ always include a huge chunk of sparring / rolling. The objective is not to win every grappling sparring bout at the gym. That would be ridiculous. Not only will you run into several athletes of a similar if not higher level (especially if this is at a big, healthy BJJ academy / gym), but you are constantly swimming against the current of resistance. After an hour and 30 minutes or so, the semi-dead grappler will easily get tapped by a stronger / fresher* / more skilled opponent. So what does that mean in the grand scheme of things? Well, nothing naturally!

That brings us to the question, how do you define success on a BJJ mat?

I have asked this question to a number of athletes** / BJJ enthusiasts and here are a few of their suggestions, please remember that none are more right than the others:
  1. Number of rounds won in a row against equals in skill (irrespective of size, gender…etc.)
  2. Winning is not losing (made famous by Helio Gracie)
  3. Keeping someone stronger at bay
  4. Keeping someone more technical at bay
  5. Positionally dominating someone stronger (with or without a submission)
  6. Positionally dominating someone more technical (with or without a submission)
  7. Doing what you used to do but with less energy expenditure (efficiency)
Add to this specialisations within the Grappling-orientated game (Gi v No gi – v MMA) and the multitude of brackets that the Sport (an activity that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often engaged in competitively) bring to the table (such as age, weight and round durations) and the question becomes very big. Answering these questions is important to outline your progress in the grappling game but more importantly to stay happy and motivated.

It seems to me that the healthiest way to look at this is to keep an open mind and rotate your priorities in line with your progress. Someone just starting may have self-defence and general health at the top of their list but after 6-7 months of rolling, they value the mental challenge that grappling provides. Suddenly, they don't try to muscle out of mount bottom but patiently look for the technical solution. The attractant is different, but the game is the same. Keep your goals fresh and you will be able to enjoy this wonderful game your whole life***.

*Not everyone can / wants to train the full two hours so some people only manage to attend the second hour, which does mean they are much fresher and fuller of energy
**and athletes from other sports
***that's my only goal: to actually continue training BJJ my whole life (or until I no longer want to). Funny thing is, every time I step foot on the mat, I can tick that goal :)


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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Phil said...

Great post Liam. As a mid-life (42) part-time grappler, I am constantly revisiting "success" every time I get beat-up or frustrated after class (which I'm sure all of us have gone through).

For me, it's a few things:

* Defending/surviving against a bigger, stronger, more aggressive or technical partner

* Executing a move or transition that I've been working on or thinking about

* Pushing/challenging lower belts or beginners (in a good way)

Like you said, this is a lifetime commitment. In the big picture, for me BJJ success is about physical/mental fitness, learning, camaraderie, and doing my part to make the academy a great place to be.

Thanks and keep up the great work!

Ruben said...

I think it's important to define it. Whether you define it by tournament wins, the perception of progress against mat mates, or just getting submitted less against people who are a lot better than you, I think it's important.

Liam H Wandi said...

Thanks Phil for reading and for the very kind words. It sounds like you've really got your hands full there!

Liam H Wandi said...

Thanks Ruben for reading and for the comment. I use to run lots of spreadsheet (self confessed geek!) on various goals and what not because it needs to be measured.

Obviously, I've changed my goals but I still find it vital that your own definition of success must be identified.

speak soon