This article was written by 3rd-degree Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Nicolas Gregoriades.
Following this program closely will massively improve your competitive jiu jitsu One of my instructors, the legendary Roger Gracie once said to me: “You can have anything you want, as long as you're prepared to pay the price.” You can radically improve your jiu jitsu in a short space of time if you are willing to pay the price. In the case of this intensive training program, the price will be your time and energy. The rate at which you improve is dependent on many variables, and this program focuses on two specifically:
- The frequency of your training and
- The quality of your training
It is designed around the following four themes:
- Honest Assessment
Because jiu-jitsu is, by its very nature, infinite, the amount of technical knowledge required can quite overwhelming. There is a tendency for students of the art to spend most of their time just rolling. This is not a negative thing, but it’s more effective when it’s interspersed with periods in which the training focus is highly specific, such as this training program.
It’s quite difficult for a beginner to internalise one move, let alone 2 or even three in succession. But it’s far more effective to train your techniques in this way because it’s exponentially more difficult for somebody to defend or counter combos than moves done on their own. I’m at the point in my training where I’m not even expecting my first move in any scenario to work. I’m mainly using it to elicit a specific reaction from my opponent which sets him up for the second (and sometimes third or fourth) move in my sequence. I’m not saying that the first move won’t work and that you should neglect training it, but hoping you’ll understand that it should be followed up with something. The most intelligent way to use combinations is to look at the most commonly encountered reactions/counters to techniques and tailor your second movement/attack as a response to it. For example, I know that the most common reaction to an attempted knee-bar is for my opponent to cross his ankles, which sets him up perfectly for a toe-hold, so it makes sense to drill those two attacks together.
“I fear not the man who has practised a thousand kicks, I fear the man who has practised one kick a thousand times.” - Bruce Lee Researchers estimate that the number of times a movement needs to be performed before it becomes a reflex is between 500 and 5000. How many jiu-jitsu techniques or movements can you honestly claim to have performed that many times? The core of this training program is repetition. If you cannot commit to this aspect of it, the rest is a complete waste of time. It requires a lot of patience and discipline to perform movements over and over, but after a while, it becomes almost meditative. And the feeling you will experience when your body does a movement reflexively for the first time is enormously satisfying.
As human beings, we naturally gravitate towards things we are good at and avoid things we are poor at. I’m asking you to override this inclination and move towards your weak areas instead of away from them. This will require an honest assessment of your game. You could ask your instructor or training partners for their opinion on what you need to work on, but at the end of the day, YOU know what you need to be doing to improve. A question I often ask my students is “If you were fighting a clone of yourself, what would your strategy be? What part of his game would you be concerned about? Which part would be of no threat to you?” This, along with sparring, is the quickest way to reveal your weaknesses and the holes in your game. For example, I know my half-guard attacks on the bottom are weak, and so training them offers large scope for improvement.
What You Will need:
Regular Training Partner(s) Ideally, this will be somebody who will commit to the program with you. - Training Journal For marking off each training session and recording the number of times you have drilled your moves. This is important because writing it down flicks a psychological switch that makes you more accountable and motivated. - Four sets of 2-3 Technique Combinations Note: This program assumes that you are not carrying any serious injuries and are otherwise healthy and in shape. It also assumes that you have enough time and energy to devote - if you have a full-time job I would suggest timing this program to coincide with some time off, otherwise, it may prove too taxing. I would also recommend taking a break from all supplemental training (weights, cardio etc.) during this program.
The program consists of four micro-cycles, each 7 days long. (6 ‘on’ days plus one ‘off’ day), combining to form one macrocycle. Each ‘on’ day will follow the same pattern: 3 Sessions per Day:
Drilling - 45 mins During this session you are going to take your chosen combinations and practice the hell out of them. Do your combination 5 times, and then allow your partner to do it 5 times. Keep repeating this until the end of the training session. Try not to stop and discuss the movement or branch off into other techniques - focus on your set of repetitions. Keep doing this for the full 45 minutes with no break.
Specific Sparring - 30-60 mins Ideally, this session requires a different training partner, one who is not aware of which techniques you have been practising. If a regular sparring partner is not available, using the sparring segment of your academy’s evening class is adequate. The purpose of this session is to use what you practised in session 1 against a resisting opponent. Your objective during this sparring session is to start from the position that the specific techniques you are training are used from. So if you’ve chosen the arm-bar triangle choke attack combination from guard, then you would obviously start in the closed guard position. Simply ask your opponent before the start of the match “Would you mind if we started from x position?”. 99 times out of 100 they will be accommodating. In the unlikely event that they are not, you will have to do your best to get to that position on your own. Maintain discipline and keep attempting the specified techniques for the entire session - avoid the temptation of falling back on your favorite moves and positions.
Visualization - 20 minutes I’ve spoken about visualization extensively in the past. In my opinion, it’s one of the most valuable tools a grappler can make use of. Studies have shown that performing movements in your mind is almost as effective as performing them physically. Your central nervous system cannot distinguish between the two. You are going to use nightly visualisation sessions to help cement what you have learned during the day. The best time to do this will be just before you go to bed. Make sure you do it sitting up or else you may fall asleep as you’ll probably be tired from the day’s training. You will use these 20-minute sessions to sit in a quiet place with your eyes closed and do the following: 1. Review the evening's specific sparring session. Go through what happened in your mind. This is especially important on the first day of each microcycle because you can make adjustments to your drilling for the remainder of the week. 2. Mentally rehearse each movement from the morning session several times. This will accelerate your retention of the techniques. If this proves impossible for you (i.e. your mind wanders constantly) I would suggest taking up meditation to gain control over your mind. Each ‘off’ day involves no jiu-jitsu whatsoever. Try to take your mind off the sport completely. Some light active rest activities are recommended but not necessary.
A sample macrocycle would look like this: Week 1 - Triangle Choke combined with Counter to Triangle Smash Pass (from spider guard) Week 2 - Uchi-Mata to Ankle Pick Combination (from standing) Week 3 - Classic Lapel Choke combined with Ezekiel Choke (from back mount) Week 4 - Standing Guard Break combined with Back Step Pass (from inside guard) This training program is in extreme in some respects, and it’s definitely not easy, but if you have the self-discipline to undertake and complete it, it will do amazing things for your jiu-jitsu.