That’s not hyperbole. Let me explain in the form of story that I shared on private Facebook group, with someone asking about how to improve conditioning.
Conditioning and stamina are inherent in BJJ training. Every time you do drills and sparring, you are getting some conditioning work in.
One thing many people don’t realize though is that you control how effective the training session is.
When I was 16, I joined a wrestling camp under J. Robinson, University of Minnesota coach while they were national champions, called the J. Robinson 28 Day Intensive Training Camp. In high school circles, this camp was a thing of legend. People talked about people quitting in the first day because it was so intense.
For a high school kid, it seems like a big investment (I think it was $1300 back in 1998, which nowadays I realize was super cheap), and I was nervous I wouldn’t be in good enough shape. Long story short, I did well in the camp, and learned how to dig deep and push myself to another level in training.
Much like how sometimes in weight training you will push yourself to muscle failure at times, I pushed myself to the point I was so exhausted I couldn’t speak and barely able to breath. I remember the moment well, because I was awarded the wrestler of the day after a brutal live session and I couldn’t lift my head up because I was struggling to breathe.
But while I noticed I was breaking down barriers in my mind, many others were happy staying safe inside theirs. Some of these kids were soft, and honestly I was surprised to see that they could stick around. The trick was that they figured out how to survive – not thrive. They knew how to work just hard enough to stay in the room. They never got better, faster, or stronger. They were just good enough to be there.
While survival is a noble goal when starting any new venture, if you stay in that mindset, it’s hard to improve. You find out what is comfortable and keeps you afloat and will do that forever. It’s when you hit a plateau.
Thriving means you are going to take chances. Whether that means pushing the pace beyond your normal, doing drills or techniques you are not good at, or just challenging yourself during training to go harder.
So with BJJ training, you have the environment needed to improve conditioning. You just have to use it properly. If you want to work on cardio, then challenge yourself to push the pace harder. For example, I have a pace that I know I can keep in grappling and never get tired. It’s like a car idling. I haven’t competed in years, but I can roll indefinitely at that pace, even with killers.
But, doing so doesn’t make me improve. If I wanted to improve, I would need to pick a harder pace. I will be more effective, but my gas tank is now limited as I’m actually putting my foot on the pedal. The thing is, my idle allows me to do really well against most people because my technical superiority.
So the incentive to push down on the pedal is minimized, especially since getting gassed in BJJ means getting beat. But if you are worried about your ego in training, it will make it harder for you to get on the podium in competition.
We all have differing levels of what “winning” is in training, and what we are comfortable with achieving. My point is to not stay comfortable. With rare exceptions (technique sessions, deload before competition), your BJJ training should always be challenging, because it is when we are challenged we are improved. If you find yourself to just be going with the motions during BJJ training – that means you are comfortable.
When I was training in competition, I would be nervous before every training session, because I knew how hard it would be. Much like I get nervous before this weeks lifts with BJJ AI at peaks because I know how hard I’m going to have to push myself.
If you aren’t at least a little scared of your training, chances are you are too comfortable and need to step it up.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?
Comment with your take on this. And if you like this article, please do me a solid and share it with your friends. Thanks!