How To Keep Improving Your BJJ

I have noticed over several years of teaching that some students progress faster than others.  This can be a blessing or a curse… some of the students that progress very fast get used to the exhilaration of learning fast and inevitable, the learning curve slows down.  When this happens, they often lose interest and stop training.

What is it that makes one student improve faster than another?  There are a lot of factors, but I will focus on only one for this post.


Kaizen is a Japanese word that means constant improvement (it’s also the name of my BJJ & Martial Arts school).  It is a habit practiced by all successful people.  How do you do this in Jiu-Jitsu?

I have been told by several people that you can’t improve unless you are rolling with people that are better than you.  I have found that this is not true!  If you can find your biggest weakness, and make that one of  your strengths, and you keep repeating this process, your game will become very good.

I heard that Rickson Gracie used to find the weakest part of his game and then ask his brothers and uncles what they recommend to do from that position.  He would work that area so much that after a while, it would be the strongest part of his game!

You can do this for specific positions, like quarter position bottom, but you can also do this for other parts of your practice.  Many people need to learn to relax more.  When I was a purple belt I found that my game was too relaxed, and I needed more intensity!

In this way the art can be your teacher.  Rolling is like a mirror that will reflect your strengths and weaknesses.  If you’re not sure where you are weak, think about what positions and situations make you the most uncomfortable.  If you get nervous when you use the open guard, that will be a good focus area for the next few months.  If you can find a way to measure your progress, that will be helpful.  For example, it may take one of your training partners around 30 seconds to pass your open guard.  Make it your goal to increase that time to a minute, then 3 minutes, then 5.  Aim for them to not be able to pass your open guard.

After that, make it your goal that higher ranks cannot pass your guard.

As far as how to lengthen the amount of time before your open guard gets passed, review all of the techniques and principles you know for preventing your open guard from being passed.  Ask some higher ranks what they do.  And observe how they prevent their open guard from being passed.  Do a private with your instructor to only focus on this area.  Sometimes it is not more techniques that you need, it may be that you are not applying one principle or technique, and your instructor may be able to point this out.

Getting good takes discipline, and our consumer culture does not encourage discipline.  We are always being sold convenience and comfort.  Working hard, consistently, is neither convenient or comfortable.

Kancho Joko Ninomiya, winner of the 1978 All Japan Karate Championship and the founder of Enshin Karate, says that a little suffering is good.  We cater to our physical, mental, and emotional comfort most of the time, which creates slavery to the body and moods.  When we deny ourselves immediate gratification for a greater long term goal, we are moving toward mastery of an art and of ourselves.

4 Responses to “How To Keep Improving Your BJJ”

  1. Eric says:

    Great post as always. Hearing stories about the legends of martial arts and how they went through the same difficulties as we do is great.

  2. Roberto Marrero says:

    Well said.

  3. […] are some tips we’ve gathered with the help of East West Martial Arts to help you so that you can constantly improve your BJJ […]

  4. Bonnie L says:

    Just curious if you’re aware this content has been reposted at ? If not then, well…

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