by Prof. Martin Guggi
If you are training in BJJ you are constantly thinking about your progression. Do I improve? Is my game constantly developing? Is my timing getting more precise? How is my conditioning compared to last month/year? All these questions are great but before I try to answer them I want to think about something more important: What are we training for? Why do I want to improve? What´s my goal?
General it is easy to say that to get better you should train as much as possible. There are so many amazing BJJ athletes out there at the moment. You can see them on Instagram, Facebook or YouTube and they all look very sharp and legit. Their body is ripped and they look like they are training the whole day. I am really impressed by their skill but as deeper as we look into the art of training BJJ we must open our eyes and be honest that some of our idols my not only use the natural way to improve their skills and body. Have you also seen athletes developing a huge amount of muscle mass over a few month? Did you also hear the story of teams training 5 times per day? How far do you want to go to improve? Would you take any supplements or steroids to improve your ability? Would you take pills to recover faster and be able to train more often?
I can only talk about myself. I want to get as technical as possible. I do not care so much about weight training to improve my technique because I think this is where a lot of people start to use one-sided ways to develop their body. I have rolled with some people only caring about how strong they are and if they win against you. I have tapped to people who are strong as hell and you feel like you are fighting against a rock…. They kicked my ass. They crushed me. They smashed me. And yes, I was depressed when I lost but I was not impressed by their performance. I also lost against opponents, faster than me, more technical then me and yes, I was impressed by their performance because they handled me in a technical manner.
I am not saying that strength is bad. Not at all!!! But the question is why is everyone training weightlifting to get better in BJJ?
We have 5 motoric attributes:
- Coordination is the core of all! When we want to improve our technical level we need to get a good coordination first. When we train kids we need to focus on coordination. If kids have it they are going to learn new techniques or other sports much faster.
- Endurance is of course important too. If you cannot control your breath you will not be able to keep concentrated and able to use your technique. The specific coordination is developed when you spar or drill. There you learn how to breath correctly for your sport, time limit or discipline.
- The lower the weight classes the more speed is important. When you are fast you have developed your techniques very much. Speed without technique is worthless. If you do not know where you want to go it does not help you to be faster.
- The most underrated quality is flexibility. But if you have a better rage of movement you are a much more dangerous fighter.
- Everyone wants to get stronger to be better in BJJ. Why do we not train our speed or flexibility but strength? In my eyes the answer is this: If you are stronger you can have bad technique but still be able to win. If you want to compete strength improvement will definitely help your performance. Does it make you a better fighter??? According to the result – yes! Are your more technical? No! You are stronger, but you did not develop your technique to a maximum because strength is the fastest shortcut. Think of a strong person and teach him some basic moves and he will be a dangerous fighter – not very skilled but yes we will have troubles against him. This is also a reason why using steroids is so common now – you get fast results.
Today you can cheat in so many ways – not only to get stronger. You can take stuff to recovery faster, train more often and have so much more energy to train, and I would not even realize that these people are cheating. That’s why before you start thinking about your training regulation, make a list where your personal limits are.
My personal limits:
- I want to get as technical as possible – in a long term: technique conquers all!
- If I have a training partner I will always prefer drilling and rolling over weight training.
- I use drilling as my first way of conditioning my body.
- Weight training for me is a way to improve the stability of my body, to not get injured in sparring or competition but not to get primarily stronger.
- Before competitions I try to implement 2 times per week some weightlifting for 1 month. I focus on my core and grip strength and my main goal is to use the weight training as a way for injury prevention.
- I do not take any supplements to get stronger or recover faster. I try to eat healthy and normal. I do not have any special diet.
- “If you are not running you are not training” is an old saying from one of my coaches. Speed is always trained together when drilling technique but adding short sprints are a great boost for your strength, stamina and endurance on the mat!
- If I have pain somewhere, I take my time to recover. – But if I can somehow train, I train!
There are consequences if you have personal limits. But these limits are to make sure I can train as long as I can without hurting my body or my health. Perhaps I will always be weaker than some of my opponents, but my goal is to impress with my technique and not with my physical developed attributes even if I do not get so many medals then other people.
How often should you train?
From my Professor for University I know that training starts when you train 2 times per day. Everything else is a hobby! That’s why the main question is how often can you train? Most of us are not making a living from martial arts. We have a job, a relationship, a family, friends, other hobbies and we need to find some time to incorporate training in our daily routine.
What should you train?
In BJJ we fight for 10 minutes in the adult black and brown belt division. We start to fight standing. We do not have a lot of breaks in a fight. Normally you are constantly holding, pinning or moving… and we could divide in Gi or NoGi.
Based on my knowledge I would train these different aspects as followed:
- Drilling for technique, timing and precision;
- Drilling and sparring time according to your fight time at the next tournament/event;
- Endurance develops when you spar at your school. This is a specific training for endurance. If you have more time, go running and sprinting.
- Work every day on your mobility. I always stretch or use the foam roller in front of the television. (I never sit on the couch J)
- Weightlifting if I really have extra time. I would work on my weak areas, core and stabilization 2 time per week.
- Also think about your weight! Strength, Speed, Endurance and Flexibility are also not the same in each weight class. Think about your weight and what can really increase your performance. And your fist answer should always be TECHNIQUE!
Do I get better if I do more weightlifting? Of course. You will improve much faster than other people if you get stronger than they are. You will also win more tournaments – but are you more technical than they are? You probably do not care if you are more technical than they are but let Marcelo Garcia speak for us:
These are only a general – based on personal experience – guidelines. They vary from person to person. But in general I would suggest my students to concentrate on this. Concentrate on improving your movements more than your physical appearance.
Regulation of your training
- Train with a partner or go to class as often as possible. 3-5 times per week!
- Do not train if you are really injured. If your muscles are sore or you are only tired – go train!
- If you are sick, or have signs of overtraining – relax, sleep well and do something else. If you still want to train watch a BJJ DVD or some fights.
- Try to find time to be active 2 times per day. If you cannot be on the mat two times per day find short breaks during your day to work on some weaknesses:
- Do you stretch after getting up in the morning?
- Do you do bodyweight exercise when you have time for 15min?
- Do you stretch when you watch TV or read a book?
- Do you stop using your car and start walking, running or biking more?
- Do you always take the elevator or do you use the steps?
- Rest your body at least one full day per week – your brain can train much more – watch DVDs….
- Learn to read your body signs. Your body always tells you if you need to rest or if you still can go. Do not make yourself sick by training too much. You are not getting a world champion because of one more training! If you train too much or you are injured you have to rest for a much longer time then skipping one training to recover.
- Train to reach your personal maximum potential, not to beat specific opponents. Beat yourself every day.
- Rafael Mendes: “There is no secret to win tournaments? The most important think is stick to a strict schedule”!
- Your attitude is everything!!!!
In the end you want to be as techniqual as possible. Have an unbeatable endurance. Be flexible as a spider. Be solid as a rock and stable as a table. All this attributes have to have a balance between each other and weightlifting is only one part of this chain! Being strong is an advantage! But do not start to get stronger without focusing on the other aspects too.
Always remember that each decision you make are going to have consequences. How to you want people to talk about your skills? What do you want to pass to your students? Is your only goal to win as much tournaments as possible now or do you have a long term goal? Medals will be forgotten one day but your body you will have as long as you live…..