It’s no secret that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is best learned while rolling on the mats. The problem is, sometimes real life gets in the way and we’re forced to take time off from BJJ. Spending time with your family is important, and taking time off when you have an injury is good for recovery. It’s okay to take some time off from your BJJ training every once in a while, but don’t cut off Jiu Jitsu cold turkey.
Whether you’re taking time off for an extended period, or if you would just like to know some things to do in-between mat time here are my tips on how to improve your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at home.
I know this might sound crazy to some of you, but reading a good book can really help develop a better technique and overall train of thought (these are my picks for the best BJJ books). I wouldn’t know what I would do if I never read Jiu-Jitsu University by Saulo Ribeiro. There’s just so much knowledge in that book from someone who has studied BJJ their entire life. Another book I highly recommend is The Black Belt Blueprint by Nicolas Gregoriades.
Sign up for Online Training
Online BJJ training isn’t a substitute for training at an academy, but it is a great way to pick up techniques that your instructor doesn’t specialize in. It’s also a nice way to pass the time if you’re injured or can’t make it into the gym.
Since there isn’t much money in the BJJ tournament circuit, one way top athletes are earning a living is producing instructional content. As a fan of the sport, this is awesome. Almost all of the elite competitors have put together instructional guides, and I did a full breakdown of the best online BJJ training websites.
No, this isn’t a joke. Watching Youtube tutorials on how to improve your bjj isn’t a waste of time at all. There is actually so much free content on Youtube and other parts of the internet that can improve your jiu jitsu game. From specific tutorials on certain moves, to workout guides that will help you in a real life bjj situation, youtube is a great way to improve your bjj at home.
My advice on watching video for jiu jitsu is quite simple, focus on one thing at one time. Keep your mind narrow, focus on one specific move or technique at one time so that you can fully understand it before moving on. Pick a certain position or technique and own it. This can mean researching top competitors and figure out how they execute a certain position, step by step. Of course, it’s always better to practice these techniques in a live situation, however studying your craft off the mats is an important aspect of learning as well.
Our favorite BJJ youtube channels:
Joran Teaches Jiujitsu – amazing production quality, from a high level Canadian black belt (and MMA fighter)
Tyler Spangler – excellent Jiu Jitsu from a black belt with a great sense of humor
B-Team – learn from athletes at the second best gym in Austin, TX
Great Grappling has black belt Jeremy Arel, who puts tons of amazing BJJ content for you to learn from.
BJJLibrary run by the legendary Ribeiro brothers, this channel also features videos by the top guys in the world of BJJ.
Ricardo Cavalcanti BJJ the Carlson Gracie black belt Ricardo Cavalcanti runs this amazing youtube page filled with BJJ.
Stephan Kesting (AKA GrappleArts) Is there ANY other channel on YouTube that puts out as much free and high quality content as GrappleArts?
Keep a Training Journal
This might seem elementary, but some of the top Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners keep a training journal to help them reflect and grow after a training session. A training journal for bjj is very helpful if you struggle with retention. Recall all of your struggles throughout the previous training session, this can be done directly after the session, or after you’ve had time to reflect. Truth is, the active memorization it demands of you is actually more important than whatever ends up on the page. In fact, I can’t make much sense of my old notes, but they still helped me solidify the lessons in my mind at the time.
Taking notes is one of the pillars of accelerated Brazilian Jiu Jitsu growth. The newer the grappler, the more beneficial notes are. When I was a white belt I took notes after almost every single class. These type of notes allowed me to progress through my bjj off the mats. Like I said earlier, you don’t need to take the notes directly after class, go home and relax, allow yourself to have time to reflect.
Truth is, if all you do is attend class consistently you will have an average level of growth. Taking notes gives you the benefit of additional focused Jiu Jitsu time off the mats. In my experience, taking bjj notes is a fast track to improvement. If you are taking private lessons or attending seminars and not keeping notes you are throwing your money away. Please take our advice and pick up a training journal as soon as possible, this will help you improve your Brazilian jiu jitsu at home.
Analyze your Strengths and Weaknesses
While you still have that journal open, take a look and analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is so important. The truth is, admitting your weaknesses is the first step on the road to improvement.
Rate yourself 1-10 in these categories (1 = needs tons of improvement, 10 = you’re a master)
- Takedowns – How comfortable are you with takedowns?
- Takedown Defense – Can you easily stuff your opponents takedowns?
- Guard (Closed, Half, Open) – This is standard, where are you comfortable?
- Sweeps – Are you able to sweep your opponent?
- Passing Guard (Opening the guard up, Passing specific guards)
- Top Game – Are you comfortable submitting your opponent?
- Side Control Game
- Back Game – Can you submit your opponent after taking their back?
- Various Submissions (Kimura, Triangle Choke, etc)
- Strength – Do you have your way with opponents?
- Endurance – Basically how long can you go at 100%?
- Flexibility – Is it difficult to get in certain positions)
- Durability – Do you get hurt often?
- Focus – Are you easily distracted?
- Self Discipline – Do you consistently go to class?
- Learning Speed – How fast do you learn?
- Knowledge Retention – Do you retain all of the information learned?
- Determination – How determined are you with your bjj lifestyle?
- Confidence – How confident are you while rolling with an opponent?
- Composure – Do you let the emotions get the best of you while training/rolling?
You might become disappointed after looking at your final score, but try not to be too discouraged. This is a great opportunity to grow, learning from your weaknesses is the secret recipe in success.
Write Down your BJJ Goals
It doesn’t matter if this is short term or long term. In fact, it’s beneficial to set up both short and long term bjj goals. Writing down your goals in your training journal will be very beneficial for you in the long run. It will also allow you to look back on your previous goals and see if you met them in the time you wanted. This can even include non-bjj goals, it’s always best to write down your future goals so that they are now known.
I want to accomplish _________ in _____.
Write down the goals you want to accomplish and in the certain amount of time you give yourself to accomplish these goals.
This could mean 3 months, a year, 5 years, it doesn’t matter. Just make sure to be clear with your goal and keep that in mind anytime you want to skip a class.
Once you have your big picture goals, work backwards to the medium level goals that will help you get there. Eventually write down your short term goals. Now ask yourself, do they all support each other?
The main idea is to have long term goals that you feel very passionate about, those long term goals should align to your lower level goals so that they all point you in that one direction. Achieving your lifetime goals will be the result of you reaching smaller benchmarks again and again. Those days will quickly add up to months, and then eventually years.
BJJ Drills you can do at Home
Of course we’re going to include actually drills you can do at home! There are actually many drills that you can do at home to improve your bjj off the mats. It’s always best to do these once or twice a day if you have time, these techniques will improve your bjj overtime. These are great techniques for improving your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at home. If you would like to get a good home workout visit our guide here. All examples below are performed by Roberto Atalla.
Ahh, the famous “shrimp” technique, this one never gets old. Want to make your hip escape more technical? Do them in reverse.
A perfect example of the hip switch above, this is a great technique to try at home.
Although this may sound silly, rolls are great to practice at home because you’ll be more fluid on the mats.
Side rolls are just as important because they develop muscle memory and flexibility.
Work on your Flexibility
Flexibility is crucial in all martial arts. I wrote an entire article on how to improve your flexibility for BJJ. Hands down, the best resource to help you become more flexible for Jiu Jitsu is Yoga for BJJ.
The Final Say
Training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a real gym is always a blessing that you should never take for granted. If this was 20 years ago it would be difficult to find a gym within a short drive unless you lived in a big city. Be grateful of the fact that so many people love Jiu Jitsu that they’re willing to pass down it’s art form. Always try to remain happy and healthy, you need to find a balance. If you start feeling like class is taking a toll on your body, take some time off.
Hopefully these tips helped, and you feel confident about improving your BJJ game off the mat!