I love to attend seminars with high level BJJ practitioners, those top-of-the-food-chain guys who you see featured in articles on the Jiu-jitsu Times. To be exposed to fighters that have achieved such a high level in the art is valuable beyond learning whatever techniques may have been shown at the seminar.
We get a sense of what goes into attaining a really high level of jiu-jitsu. We all want to know what we can learn from a World Champion so we can apply it to our own quest to get as good as we possibly can.
It is really tempting to look for a single secret that will take our jiu-jitsu to the next level, but the truth is that it is a combination of several factors. Here are the three most significant things that I’ve learned from being exposed to high level BJJ fighters.
1) Technical Knowledge
I am aware that there is a stereotype of the high level competitor who has a wall full of medals but is very weak at teaching others. But I haven’t met any of those guys.
When I’ve gone to BJJ seminars with the likes of Romulo Barrel, Andre Galvao, and Xande Ribeiro, I’ve come away astounded with their level of detail in the techniques they taught.
It would be easy to dismiss a high level fighter as being a physical savant who is successful because of natural athletic ability (which they are!), but without exception these athletes had a deep, specialized knowledge of jiu-jitsu. They train in gyms with the very best coaches and also share technical knowledge with their high level training partners.
2) Muscle Memory And Movement
You may possess a vast knowledge of techniques, but if you have not put in the mat time to burn the moves into your muscle memory, you won’t be able to apply them in live rolling.
I was watching an instructional DVD on the D’arce choke by Jeff Glover. I marveled at how many variations he knew as well as how to apply them in rolling situations. I wondered how many hours he had put in on the mat to get smooth and precise to move like that? Each transition: smooth, efficient, and fast.
These top guys are immersing themselves in jiu-jitsu. How many hours are they spending per week drilling, positional sparring, and rolling?
If you have ever returned to rolling after an extended time off due to injury, you will discover to your dismay that your timing, fluidity, and precision have depressingly disappeared. Your brain still remembers the positions, but your body is a step behind.
Prodigious amounts of mat time is another factor.
3) Physical Conditioning
“Strength doesn’t matter in jiu-jitsu!”
Have you ever met Rodolfo Viera or Andre Galvao? They are physical specimens on par with any professional athlete.
A common thread with the best guys that I’ve been on the mat within the various academies that I’ve called home is that they were also fanatical about their fitness.
We’ve seen highly technical fighters seemingly lose all their technique when they are exhausted. Can you remember watching MMA fights where very talented fighters seemed paralyzed on the ground once they gassed out?
Reality is when you are extremely fatigued, and you cannot execute your techniques.
You need a gas tank to be able to fully apply factors #1 and #2.
What do you feel are the most important elements in getting really good?