Physical vs. Mental Toughness

When most people sign up for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the first time, I am not sure they know what to expect. It does not take long though to realize you are going to need to be or at least develop your physical well-being in order to keep up. Being able to get out there each training session and do numerous rounds of 5, 10, or even 15 or so minutes is not for the faint of heart. It is tough, Bottom line. Being physically fit plays a vital role in the sport, especially if you are looking to succeed. You are going to experience bruises, injuries, and pain. It is expected and it comes with the territory of the sport. It is safe to say though that once you get the feel of BJJ, these minor speed bumps don’t even phase you anymore because you develop a thick skin for them. What people may or may not realize, is that there is another aspect of the sport that plays, in my opinion, an even bigger role.

Mental Toughness.

Mental toughness is defined as a “collection of attributes that allow a person to persevere through difficult circumstances (such as difficult training or difficult competitive situations in games) and emerge without losing confidence.” Being mentally tough will take you as far as you want to go.  I cannot tell you how many times I experienced or have seen others experience, what I like to call The Mental Block. Whether it is in training during rounds or in competition, the body is moving but the mind is not in sync with it. The mind is an amazing and complex piece of work. If you can train your mind the right way, you will be able to overcome any boundaries that you may face. We have all been there as competitors the night before a competition. You start to feel the nerves kicking in; the competition anxiety. It is all formed and generated in the brain. Everyone has their own ways of handling it but depending on how you have trained your mind it can make or break you come show time.

Being mentally tough is no easy task and it takes work and effort. How does one become mentally tough? You have to be willing to make that effort and put in the needed work to develop it. Some individuals it comes naturally, while others it does not.  There is a term used by sports psychologists called “intrinsic motivation.” Individuals who possess this quality are self-motivators. Goals are easily set, and they can push themselves internally rather than needing it to come from others. Not everyone falls under this category and that is okay! Some people need that extra push or motivation to keep them going. If you are not a self-starter there are some easy steps you can take to start your development of being mentally tough:


First, Get rid of any negative connotations that you find yourself using, whether it be in training or life in general. Take “I Can’t” out of your vocabulary and replace it with “I will.” Replace the negative with the positive and you will be surprised at how much more you can accomplish. Next, get rid of self-doubt and replace it with positive affirmations. Whether it is during training or competition use positive visualizations of yourself. Also, realize that the mind controls the body. Next time you are training or doing a work out and you hit that point where all you can think is “I can’t keep going” that is when you NEED to keep going no matter what. At that moment is where you need to train your mind to push your body even through the pain and struggle.  The body is going to do whatever the mind is telling it to.


Look at any of the great BJJ or MMA athletes (or any elite athletes honestly). Look at what they go through in training and in competition. If you haven’t seen the Tammi Musumeci video, go watch it. It is a great example of what I am talking about.  The physical aspect plays a big role, but without the mental aspect, top level athletes would not be able to be as successful as they are. Surround yourself with others that are mentally tough as well. Build each other up so that no matter what you face, whether it is on the mats or off, you’re able to stand tall. Do not give yourself boundaries when your abilities are limitless.

*I highly recommend reading The Mental Edge and Ten Minute Toughness if you want to work on your mental game in regards to BJJ.

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here