For those who want to excel at the gentle art, it can be intriguing to think of what activities may be helpful to do outside of the gym. Thinking this way is one of the first steps to becoming a strong BJJ player and investing in the below activities is guaranteed to increase your performance on the mats…
Drill at Home
On days that you can’t attend a class, or even when you have spare time throughout the day, you can drill at home. For this activity, you should invest in some mats to protect your body. Drilling can be done either solo with a partner. Some examples of solo drills include; hip escapes, sprawls, sit-outs, technical stand-ups, bridging, forward rolls, backward rolls, and Granby (side) rolls. As for partner drills, you can pretty much do any of the drills that you would do in the gym. Just make sure you and your partner feel comfortable with the techniques involved before practicing them at home.
If you are in jiujitsu for the long haul, you need to commit to stretching! Not only will stretching increase your technical performance, it will also help your muscles heal and therefore, speed up recovery for your next training session. Stretching sessions can be as long as an hour or as little as 10 minutes a day before bed. As long as you are doing some kind of stretching, you will feel the benefits on the mats.
Strength & Conditioning
Any kind of strength and conditioning exercises that you do at home, will be beneficial for your jiujitsu game. The most basic strength exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups will simply increase your strength over time and help you to complete sequences more effectively during training. There are also more specific exercises that you can do to target acute muscles such as the neck, ankles and wrists. Grip strength training is also beneficial and can be done in many different ways.
Reflect on Your Performance
Mental strategy is one of the components that makes jiujitsu unique in comparison to other martial arts. There are so many different ways a match can go, depending on your strategy, your opponent’s strategy and more. While you are in a physical match during class, it can be hard to think about why you get caught in certain situations, or what you could improve on. This is why, with time off the mats, it is important to sit down and reflect on your performance. Simply dedicate some time after each training session to sit down and reflect. This can be done in many forms; written notes, mind maps, or visualisation – the main thing is to do what works for you.
Focus on what worked, and what didn’t. For any issues you had, you may already know how to resolve them, and this reflection can be a good reminder for your next session. However, if you are unsure of how to resolve an issue you are facing, it can be helpful to note it down and ask your coaches the next time you are at the gym. Sometimes, issues you are facing may also be common amongst your fellow jiujitsu members, and therefore, this feedback may be a great way for your coaches to know which techniques to focus on in upcoming classes.
We all know the pain and discomfort that comes with being trapped in side-control, mount, and other dominant positions. When you are at the bottom of these positions, there is usually quite a lot of pressure being placed on your chest and abdomen. The good news is that along with practicing jiujitsu, there are exercises you can do outside the gym to strengthen your chest area and your capacity to breathe under pressure.
Breathing exercises have a profound impact on breathing capacity and strength of the lungs. Rickson Gracie is famous for his outstanding breathing exercises, demonstrated in the documentary ‘Choke’. This breathing exercise in particular, if learned and practiced over time will surely improve your breathing capacity and ability to handle pressure. However, keep in mind that practicing any breathing exercises is better than none at all, so find a breathing exercise that works well for you and practice it regularly.