Tag Archives: conditioning

Best BJJ Competition Regimen: Strength, Conditioning, Technique, Rolling, Rest

rocky-in-russia-in-the-snowPeople learn, live, train differently. I’m not going to judge, but for me, the best regimen is just drilling and rolling, approximately twice as much drilling as rolling.

What do I do for strength and conditioning? It’s simple. Here’s my complete training regimen:

  • For technique learning: Drill slowly.
  • For “rest” days: Drill at a medium pace.
  • For conditioning: Drill quickly.
  • For strength: Drill moves that require lots of legs, hips, shoulders, core, back.
  • For rolling: Drill against an opponent who’s resisting at 100%.

When I say “drill”, I mean very specifically designed drills to improve aspects of my game that I’m working on for periods of several months. I don’t randomly switch drills around. I keep doing the same drills for months a time. I do drills with a partner, solo, and on a dummy. The latter two are extremely important because those can be done no matter where you are or what’s going on in your life. Meaning: there’s no excuse not to do it.

Again, when I say “drill”, I mean doing the same move thousands of times for years. My personality is much like that of the the chef in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi in that I enjoy exploring the tiniest details that make the same old simple thing work better. Work at it every day, over and over and over. And that kind of exploration can and should take a lifetime.

Marcelo Garcia on Training for Competition

Marcelo Garcia put up a training discussion video on his site a few months ago, and I just came across it again on YouTube. He highlights the difference between going hard and going REALLY hard to the point where it essentially becomes a conditioning session:

I think that we (me and people I talk to or train with) often confuse the concept of “going 100%”. What does that really mean? You might think it means going as hard as you would in competition. But what does THAT mean? Do you really go all-out in competition, never resting, never pausing? In competition, you want to attack aggressively but you also want to not waste any energy and find safe spots to rest up for another burst of aggression. The ultimate goal in competition is to get a submission and score a bunch of points along the way. No part of that requires you in every case to push the pace to where your heart rate is at a constant 200 bpm.

But in training for competition… it may be beneficial to push the pace beyond what you would do in a tournament, to go to exhaustion in the first 2 minutes, hit the wall, and keep going. The things you’re working on are:

  1. Improve your mental ability to ignore the panic that comes with shortness of breath.
  2. Improve your ability to attack with good technique while exhausted.
  3. Ensure that your basics (e.g. elbow discipline, good base, good posture, grips) don’t break down when you’re exhausted.

110-percentThe intensity Marcelo goes at in the above video I’ve never seen him do in competition. It would be reckless and risky if he did. But in training it would help improve his conditioning. For many of us who don’t do 3-4 separate conditioning sessions a week, we have to incorporate the conditioning as part of the jiu jitsu training.

So, let’s call competition intensity as “going 100%”, and the type of non-stop intensity Marcelo shows as “going 110%”.

So how and when to train 110%…?

I think that depends on your personality, your gym, and your training partners. In the end it’s always up to you. Even if you do a “competition team training” session, there’s no one who will know that you weren’t going 110%. It’s up to you to make yourself hit the cardio “wall” and push beyond it.

Honestly, sometimes all it takes is one roll for me to hit the wall the first time. For example, I often roll with a blue belt, let’s call him Genghis Khan. He is very technical and can be very aggressive, especially when his guard is being passed. He is willing to take himself to his cardio limit and in so doing forces me to do the same.

It takes a lot of mental energy to “go 110%”. No coach can force you to take it to the limit (queue the music). When you come up against that feeling that you have to slow down, that’s when it’s up to you to not slow down. Forget the fact that there is still 40 minutes of training left. Forget the fact that not slowing down means you might get swept, passed, submitted. I try to think of it as a conditioning session and a mental training session, not a jiu jitsu match.

I personally prefer to throw in such training sessions whenever I’m mentally up for it. I find that if I had to stay up real late for work and so didn’t get much sleep that I can’t quite push myself in the right way while still staying positive and focused. If jiu jitsu is your life, then a better idea would be to organize regular 110% training sessions with higher ranks.  But again, no matter how many hard training sessions you organize, it’s always up to you to push yourself to the limit. The only person who’ll know that you coasted is you.

For me, the battle is first and foremost with my own weak-ass mind. Almost like a muscle, it requires training, and grows weaker if neglected.

Facing Muhammad Ali

I watched a new documentary Facing Ali told from the perspective of 10 champions or top contenders that fought him. I recommend it highly, mostly because Ali, the man, is incredible and awe-inspiring, so any way you try to tell a story about him, it will be damn interesting, especially if you’re into combat sports yourself.

The man is a hero and a rare kind of athlete that transcends the sport. However, there was something about this movie that really made me think. One little fact about boxing is obvious but I kind of forgot it given my relatively recent fascination with all things MMA and grappling. The fact is that championships bouts used to be 15 rounds. That’s 45 minutes. And anywhere from 500 to 1000 punches thrown in a fight (depending on the weight class and style). That’s compared to 5 round, 25 minute championship fights in the UFC. Given those stats, I began to appreciate even more the discussion they had in this film about the mental part of the game, the will to survive, to come back, and to overcome incredible amounts of punishment.

It seems that the only thing better than Ali’s hand speed was his chin and his heart.

Here’s a trailer:

Self Knowledge

“The fighter’s self-knowledge must turn the battle into something pleasant. The Jiu-Jitsu practitioner must have fun in the championships. That way, it all becomes easy.” – Fabio Gurgel

I got the above quote from a remarkably good list of 20 ways to improve your grappling. It presents suggestions from some of the most respected competitors and teachers in jiu jitsu.

I’d like to focus on this quote, or rather what I take from it. My ultimate goal is for there to be no place that a match can go where I don’t feel comfortable and happy to be there.

I think this requires honest self-analysis, finding the weaknesses, and attacking them. Technique wise, my currently least favorite position is on bottom in side control. Today a very good player (significantly lighter than me) held me there for maybe 3-4 minutes. Since he was smaller he couldn’t just lock down and hold, he moved with me constantly threatening mount and submissions.

Public Transit in Siberia

Some training sessions push you to the edge of your conditioning and beyond. And I love those, and am always deeply greatful for the excellent jiu jitsu players and judoka that make those happen through their hard work and determined spirit.

But there is one thing that is harder than the hardest training sessions, and that’s waiting for the god damn trolley in freezing windy weather. Twice already I’ve been broken by a 30 minute “waiting session”. I’m mostly joking, of course, but I have on two occasions had to miss a training session because the trolley never came.

Public transit in general is a great way to get to training. I don’t have to worry about parking, driving in traffic, etc. I can just relax with a book, eat an apple, or let my mind focus on the training ahead or behind me. But in winter, it can get a little rough when I rely on buses or trolleys, because they often do not at all follow their schedule (unlike subway trains).

In a weird way, not letting the cold discourage me has become part of the training process. It’s just another moment when my mind says “why the hell are you doing this?” and it’s my job to respond “because i love it”.

Oh, and the above-pictured naked dude in ice cold water with an axe is my hero.