BJJ tip #1

Train Often


This seems rather simple But it’s probably the most important aspect for improving your technique. You can’t expect to get better at anything without practice. Progression in your skills will be the result of hard work on mat. Mat time is the key. But your mat time needs to be QUALITY time well spent. More on that later.

BJJ Tip #2

Drilling and sparring


Part of quality training is proper drilling. Techniques must be drilled over and over until they become natural and fluid. Then drill them more… and more…..and more.  Eventually they’ll become second nature. The next step is developing a “feel and recognition” for the opportunity to use the technique in a sparring situation. Sparring in class should always be at a controlled level. You and your training partner should move at a realistic pace but not so hard that development of techniques takes a back seat. This takes time but as you continue to train your sensitivity and recognition will increase along with timing and precision.

BJJ Tip #3

Be Technically Minded


This concept is harder for some to learn then others and is very important during drilling and sparring. Pay close attention to the details of techniques being demonstrated in class. Replicate details while drilling with your partner. As stated in the last tip, drilling must be done over and over again but not in a sloppy manner.

While growing up as a kid my parents would often tell me “think before you act.”  When I didn’t apply this as a child I usually got myself into trouble. This comes in to play with BJJ as well. While sparring I always tell my students to “think before you act.”  Think about what you’ve been taught from the position your in and apply it. This is especially important for beginner’s. Beginners tend to act first and think later only to end up using all their strength and power, gasing out, getting tapped and being frustrated for months or years because their not improving.

The good news is everyone has the ability to be technically minded.  You don’t need brute strength, superior athleticism or the physical stamina of a triathlete. Just start with a willingness to learn, a good attitude and a desire for solid skills and application.

BJJ Tip #4

Respect Your Training Partners


Spend equal time drilling techniques. Don’t take all the time trying to perfect your techniques and forgetting about your partner and their progress.

Respect size differences and skill levels. We typically have a very diverse class with different body types, strengths and skill levels. I always attempt to pair similar size and skill levels together but sometimes this is not possible. So if you’re the stronger, larger, more skilled practitioner, be technical, more than usual, with the weaker partner when sparring. Give them an opportunity to be the aggressor, practice new techniques or escapes.

Encourage each other. This can be difficult, especially in a martial art where you spar with your training partners on a regular basis. Lets face it, we’re not just going through forms or kata and punching and kicking the air. BJJ requires you to train hard against your fellow practitioner, which can cause your position towards each other to become more adversarial than an advocate. We are all individuals with a goal of improving our skills. But we are also a team. So train hard, train safe, train smart.

BJJ Tip #5

Private Lessons


I get asked often, “what can I do to get better at BJJ” ? In other articles I’ve written I detailed the importance of training often, your mind set and quality time spent in class. These definitely are keys to becoming a good BJJ practitioner. But another very important tool is the private lesson.

Private lessons  give you one on one time with your instructor. Your instructor is focused on YOU and not the entire class. He can hone in on specifics related to techniques already in your arsenal. Is your positioning correct? Is your movement correct? Angles? Pressure? Grips?

Your instructor already knows you, your game and skill level. This is a great advantage. A specific plan can be developed according to your abilities and skills.

This is also a great time to learn NEW techniques. Ironing out issues and mistakes while increasing knowledge and developing the techniques to fit your strengths, body type and abilities.
I personally have taken approximately 20 private lessons over the years with my instructor. I can honestly say that private lessons have greatly improved my game. Nothing else has helped in such a drastic way as private lessons have.

BJJ Tip #6

Pursue Excellence

As a current  BJJ instructor who started training in 1995, I remember my early experiences training and sparring with students with rank. I remember the effortless movements and techniques they would use on me.  This experience was even greater when rolling with upper rank belts. The difference being they would use less effort, dominate and submit you more often.  No matter how HARD you tried your resistance only caused you to fall further and further into their trap.

This is true “excellence”. Excellence and mastery in action.

At what price did this excellence cost?

How is excellence attained?

Let’s look at musicians as a comparison. How does a musician become a master of his instrument? Does he punch a time card and after so many hours suddenly receive the accolades he’s due? Does he receive a certificate after said hours, stating he’s now a “master”? Maybe not hours? How about classes taken? After 50, 100 or 200 lessons from his instructor is he now a master or a true professor and teacher of his art?

Of course he has to dedicate long hours and years of his life in order to just become “good” with his instrument. Let alone be able to teach skills to another.

I’m not describing a Beethoven, Eddie VanHalen, Rickson Gracie or Marcelo Garcia here. Just someone you see or hear and you realize WOW this guy is really good. Truly worthy of being called an expert or master.

What about professional sports. What makes them experts or masters in their profession?

Same can be asked regarding: teachers, carpenters, electricians, etc. They can have a degree or certificate but “mastery” takes time, hard work and experience.

When I talk to students from other schools and hear them get excited about the fact that they can just put there required hours or classes in and advance in rank it disgusts me. Our society wants immediate gratification or they get disinterested.

Don’t get frustrated. Focus on small goals. Mastery takes time.




Bryan Barrick

BJJ Black Belt