Whether you’ve been training for a while or just starting out, Jiu-Jitsu is a complex game to play. It can be frustrating, especially when you’re feeling like you’re not progressing as fast as you’d like. Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Everyone struggles with this at some point.
When I felt I was going nowhere, I always wanted to ask as many black belts as possible how to improve my game. And guess what? I did, and they were so kind that without knowing me, they replied.
In this article, you’ll find 22 BJJ experts who shared their wisdom on how to get better at Jiu-Jitsu.
Whether you’re a beginner getting stuck in an uncomfortable spot all the time or a veteran trying to break through a plateau, this article is packed with practical tips.
So get ready to learn from some of the best in the Jiu-Jitsu world.
Table of Contents
If you feel stuck in your BJJ progress, one actionable piece of advice is to focus on refining your fundamentals. This may seem counterintuitive, especially if you have been practicing for a while and feel that you should be progressing to more advanced techniques. However, mastering the fundamentals is essential to improving your overall game.
To break through a plateau, consider the following:
- Go back to basics: Refine the fundamentals of the positions, techniques, and movements that you use in your game. Focus on perfecting your form, your timing, and your understanding of the techniques.
- Drill and repetition: Drill your techniques repeatedly to the point where they become second nature. Focus on perfecting the details, and aim to perform the technique with precision and efficiency.
- Analyze your game: Watch videos of your training sessions or matches to identify areas of weakness and areas where you can improve. Focus on specific techniques or positions that you struggle with and work to improve them.
- Seek out guidance: Consult with your coach, training partners, or more experienced practitioners for guidance and feedback. Ask for advice on improving your techniques and for tips on how to overcome your weaknesses.
- Invest in yourself: privates, online courses, and training will help you to develop new skills and knowledge faster.
- Remember, BJJ is a journey that requires patience, perseverance, and dedication. By focusing on refining your fundamentals, you can break through your plateau and continue to progress in your practice.
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One actionable thing you can do to improve your BJJ is to take 5-10 minutes after class to close your eyes and get mental reps in on the technique covered in class.
Talk your way through it in your head with your eyes closed as though you were teaching the technique to someone else. IE “Your right-hand controls the left hip with your elbow inside the knee. Your left-hand pins the opponent’s right knee to the mat.” Etc etc.
You can add efficacy by then writing the instructions in a notebook to review later. These extra 5-10 minutes will add tremendous value for technical retention.
2nd degree black belt & Owner 10thplanetdenver
If I had to give just one actionable tip, it would be to film your training sessions and review them later that day.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you’re taking advantage of more opportunities than you are. Still, often times when you go back and review footage of yourself sparring, you’ll see the mistakes and missed opportunities (in addition to the things you’re doing well!) more clearly from a more objective perspective.
3° BJJ Black Belt & Owner of Framework BJJ
Eduan Van Graan
I would say to increase your performance in Jiu-Jitsu and level up faster, it is crucial to constantly evaluate your abilities, master the basics, strengthen your weaknesses, and keep track of your overall improvement.
You need to train on a regular schedule of 3 to 4 days per week to harness and develop your Jiu-Jitsu abilities. Embrace your failures and don’t compare yourself to other athletes.
Black Belt Eduan Van Graan
Bothers in Grappling, Cape Town
Discover the structure that works for you and organize accordingly. What I often recommend to people early on (and not so early on) is once you have drilled a move to a level of competency, if not proficiency, find its complementary moves.
A good example is the hip bump sweep. If it falls short, kimura; however, if it gets stuffed, often, the guillotine is available. Realizing that there is one best option all the time is helpful, but also realizing that combining your techniques in an effective way is more powerful than being good at just singular movements.
The essence of Jiu-Jitsu is recognizing the energy of an opponent’s movements and responding accordingly. There are only three possible energetic reactions: push, pull, and stagnate. Knowing that is the first step in prioritizing the techniques you have in your arsenal in a given position or situation. The rest is just details of the techniques.
Eli Knight, Coach at @fittofightrepublic
Owner of Knight Jiu-Jitsu on YouTube
One piece of advice that is useful for everyone from day-one beginners to world champions is to work for structure and consistency. Think about when you can reasonably train, make a schedule, and stick to it.
Doing 18 straight months of two training sessions per week is going to serve you better in the long run than going 7 days a week and flaming out in six months. Another important thing to realize is that training is more than the fun stuff. Rolling is fun, but it’s just one piece of training. And it’s the piece that usually gets cut when we’re hurt. If you train, you will get hurt.
If you define training solely by rolling, you will have big gaps in your training, have your progress stalled whenever you’re sick or twist an ankle, and might quit. If, however, you realize that eating well, drinking water, sleeping, watching fight film, doing strength and conditioning exercises, doing slow technique, and drilling are all also training, you’ll likely never be too injured or sick to go without any training for very long.
All the best,
Head Coach at Foundation Chicago
Don’t be in a hurry to dominate and make everybody tap. Jiu-Jitsu is a process like growing up. You try too fast, and you can quickly get in over your head.
Tapping is part of the process of learning what works and doesn’t. Be humble and patient. All roads to growth and improvement take time. Enjoy it.
4th-degree black belt under Rickson Gracie and owner of Zanshin Dojo Nashville
Get out of your own way. Knowing a technique, in theory, is much different than knowing its application in practice which is much different than understanding how to teach the technique.
When learning a new technique, it’s your job to understand how and why you will implement it. That’s it. Don’t worry about going full speed on the 3rd rep or troubleshooting scenarios that your professor hasn’t brought up yet. Without a solid grasp on the nuts & bolts of the technique being taught, all the nuances that come before and after will be less meaningful.
Trust the process, take your time, and focus on being as technical as possible when you spar; it will pay off in the long run.
Professor Erik Cruz
10th Planet Pasadena
Whenever you decide to train in Jiu-Jitsu, you want to improve quickly. However, the reality is that it takes years of training to survive with higher belts. You can still hack the system and make the journey easier for you. I will give you five tips to improve your game and keep you on the mats as long as possible.
- Work on your Flexibility. This is one of the most important things you should work on when you are a beginner. You will occasionally find yourself in awkward and painful positions during training. In physiological terms, flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint or a group of joints and muscles to move through a free and pain-free range of motion effectively. That’s why you should adapt your body to be in these positions without pain. I advise you to take at least 5 minutes after training to work on your flexibility at least twice a week for 30-to-45 minutes and try not to skip any joint or muscle. There are hundreds of videos about BJJ stretches. Find one that you feel comfortable with and try to follow it; these will keep you on the mats and possibly without any significant injuries.
- Work on your mobility. Now that you are working on your flexibility is time to start working on your mobility; you can’t work in your mobility without flexibility. In a nutshell, mobility is the range of motion in a joint. Mobility allows you to perform techniques at their total capacity without pain or discomfort. These movements are the basics to take your Jiu-Jitsu to a whole new level. In the same way, try to work on your mobility at least twice a week.
- Strength and Cardio workout. These two things only can skyrocket your performance in Jiu-Jitsu. The strength will allow you to defend against submission attempts and finish your attacks. If your muscles are strong enough will also help you to prevent injuries that might take out from the mats. On the other hand, a proper cardio workout will help you to recover faster between matches and will help you to keep your breath. Also, superior cardio will allow you to wear down your opponent during a match in combination with your strength. Something to keep in mind is that you need to pace yourself when you try to improve. If one day you’re training strength, cardio, mobility, and maybe rolling, the next day, work on flexibility, drill more, and work on techniques. Simply put, one day of hard training and should be followed by a low-intensity or resting day. Your body will be grateful. Always consult your coach or certified trainer to help you with your training program.
- Eat well, and sleep well. This is pretty straightforward; there is no point in following all my previous suggestions and fueling your body with junk food or sleeping 3-4 hours a day. Everything you put in your body will have consequences on the mats, either good or bad. Try your best to eat a balanced diet. Avoid heavily processed foods, drink as much water as possible, and sleep at least 8 hours daily.
- Work in the basics and drill as much as possible. The basic techniques are the most common and the ones you will always be doing or defending. Therefore, try to review them as much as you can, and step by step, try to add a variation, a counter, and an escape. Furthermore, drill them as much as possible; Jiu-Jitsu has no magic tricks. Practice makes the master; try to make a drill out of whatever position you work on.
Follow these simple guidelines, and you will significantly increase your chances of succeeding in BJJ and your personal life.
Jaime Aristizábal, Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt
Jiu-Jitsu Medellín, Gracie Colombia
Before you make goals to become a champion, make sure you set goals in between to do checkups on your progress. Smaller achievable goals give you positive feedback and help maintain the discipline to your final goal of being a champion or black belt etc.
Jamie Riedinger, Infiniti Jiu-Jitsu Spokane
My advice train. Shut up and train. There’s no way to do it faster unless you put more time into it. It’s unrealistic to think that you are going to get better if you don’t put the work into it.
Jason Cárdenas, Mat Life Training Center
Founder and Head Coach
For people completely new to Jiu-Jitsu and grappling, I would suggest that they focus on consistency over volume. Set the small and achievable goal of going to class and training 2x per week for 3 months. During that period if you feel up to training 3-6x per week, that’s fine too, but I’ve seen a lot of beginners become overzealous and burn themselves out and/or get injured and never return to the mats.
If you increase the volume of your training beyond 2x per week and start to feel burned out or demotivated, listen to your body and mind and reduce your training back to 2x per week. After 3 months you will have seen a lot of improvement and you will feel good about having reached your goal. You can then steadily increase the volume of your training, but consistency is still key! This low-volume and steady consistency will keep your body and mind fresh and ensure that you are actually enjoying your training and having fun. This will motivate you to train more, and the more you train consistently the better you will get at Jiu-Jitsu.
For more experienced Jiu-Jitsu practitioners, I would recommend making sure that you aren’t just coming to class, going through the motions, and just “training to win.” Make sure that you have actual goals in terms of positions/techniques that you’re working on implementing and improving. If you don’t know what you should be working on: ask your coach! This will make training more enjoyable, will increase your knowledge and skill, and will reduce the likelihood of suffering the extreme ups-and-downs of ego inflation/injury.
Instead of focusing on “winning the practice,” focus on actually practicing your skills. That way, when you fail you will interpret that failure as a small obstacle on your path to success instead of a value judgement upon your Jiu-Jitsu as a whole. “I suck at Jiu-Jitsu” becomes “I allowed my partner to establish their grips, which enabled them to pass my guard. Next time I need to be more aggressive in denying grips and establishing my own guard.”
The former is called a fixed mindset, and the latter a growth mindset. Setting small goals and working towards them in a problem-solving trial-and-error process cultivates a growth mindset, and a growth mindset is key to success.
My name is Jordan Wilson and I am a Black Belt under Professor Caio Terra. I am an owner and the head instructor at Sanctuary Jiu-Jitsu Academy in Madison, Wisconsin. You can find us at www.bjjmadison.com or on Instagram/Facebook @sanctuaryjiujitsu.
Julio “Foca” Fernandez
- Stay humble about your progress
- Respect your instructors and training partners
- Be Loyal to your school and your team
- Relax; train slowly and under control at all times
- Consistency brings results
- Find a good mentor
- Don’t be stupid; stay focused
All the best,
Julio Cesar “Foca” Fernandez Nunes, Vermont BJJ
Carlson Gracie Sr. 7th Degree Coral Belt Jiu-Jitsu & Self-Defense Instructor (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) IBJJF International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation Certified Instructor
CBJJP Confederacao Brasileira de Jiu-Jitsu Profissional – Instrutor Certificado (Brasil)
5-Times Brazilian National Champion (Brasil) / 5x Campeao Brasileiro
3-Times Rio de Janeiro State Champion (RJ, Brasil) / 3x Campeao Carioca
2-Times World Masters Champion / 2x Campeao Mundial
Minas Gerais vs. Rio de Janeiro “Gracie Challenge” Champion
USA Boxing Certified Training Coach
My only input after 12 years on the mats and 3 years away… Stop trying to get better at BJJ faster. Train in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable.
Justin Eyre, Grapple Ninja
In tribute to Professor Syl Moroney (who was posthumously promoted to Coral Belt on June 06, 2022), I will share one of his previous Instagram motivational posts and provide some additional context: “The most advanced thing you can do are the basics, consistently.”
My business partner and I have been privileged to receive theoretical and skills-based instruction from active and former members of special mission units in Canada (e.g., JTF2) and the United States (e.g., Navy SEALS). While the units may have differed in terms of their respective operational mandates, a common theme was abundantly clear: high-level operators have a remarkable ability to perform “the basics” with razor-sharp precision under any amount of stress.
When it comes to Jiu-Jitsu, an athlete’s ability to endure tough situations in practice and in competition will be directly attributed to the athlete’s ability to execute fundamentals. Proficiency with “the basics” will enable an athlete to maintain composure while addressing a dilemma (e.g., defending against a submission attempt or scrambling for points in the dying seconds of a match).
It is also a tangible sign of one’s progression in the art. It is not uncommon for a black belt to be described as an athlete that has mastered the basics.
Matthew Rocca, Stoney Creek BJJ
Jiu-Jitsu is limitless by design. A common folly is pursuing techniques before principles. An enthusiastic white belt may be tempted to pursue fun and flashy inverted techniques….while having a very weak base and being easy to sweep. By focusing on Base, Posture, and Structure, one will build the proper body alignment to perform JiuJitsu in the most optimal state. Techniques physically fail because these principles are not observed.
For more on principle or conceptual Jiu-Jitsu, see the works of Ryan Hall and Rob Biernacki online.
In Nashville, Tennessee, visit Software Jiu-Jitsu to learn more about conceptual, principles-based Jiu-Jitsu.
Professor Michael Kelso
Be consistent with your training. Form a routine and stick with it. Don’t waste your time, your teammates, or your instructors’ time by showing up once in a while and not having a clue about what’s been going on in the class.
I’m sure everyone can agree consistency is needed to progress in Jiu-Jitsu. Still, the frustrating part to me is that the inconsistent ones are actually not just holding themselves back, but they bring the team down with them because they are inexperienced training partners.
Ramsey Green, 1st-Degree Blackbelt
Always Forward Jiu-Jitsu (Ares BJJ)
One key to accelerating your development is learning how to use your other limbs, instead of just your arms, to block and control. This is a classic separator between blue belts, who generally use their hands to pin, and purple belts, who have their feet and legs do more of that work.
Eventually, you’ll use your elbows, knees, head and hips to do what your arms once did. It makes you far more efficient in your game.
Roy Dean, 4th degree black belt
There are many layers to get better faster at Jiu-Jitsu. But 3 actionable ways for anyone at any level are:
- Consistency; (No way around this to master any craft)
- Quality; (Make sure you are practicing with quality instruction, training partners and environment)
- Enjoy the process; (It’s easy to get obsessed with results and forget to enjoy the simplest thing in life, the process!)
Hope this helps the post and someone looking to improve their Jiu-Jitsu!
Victor Oliveira Co-Founder and Head of Operations
Alliance BJJ SF Bay
Utilize at least part of your open mat time drilling the next move or sequence you want to perfect adding resistance as you go instead of just rolling the whole time.
Vince Guy, 3rd Degree Black Belt
Combat Fitness MMA
Consistency is the key to success! Do you want to improve your Jiu-Jitsu fast? Train at least 5x a week, do strength and conditioning training, eat well, invest in studying Jiu-Jitsu (drills, DVDs, privates, ask questions to your professor) compete 1x a month to test yourself! Show up and do the work! Hard and smart work! Do not complain! Make it constant! Jiu-Jitsu is a long journey!
ALLIANCE JIU JITSU | SAN DIEGO
This article is a goldmine of BJJ wisdom. If you got some value from what these experts had to say to help us stop sucking at BJJ, share this with all your training partners, put it on Twitter, and send it to your academy’s group chat. Let’s spread the love and get better at BJJ together.
Also, don’t forget to add your training tips to get better in the comments.
Finally, I have a little bonus for you if you have made it this far. Professor Roy Dean has a video where six black belts teach some of their favorite techniques and secrets. It’s the perfect complement to this article, so check it out when you have time.
Until next time.