As a trainer and mental coach for business leaders and athletes around the world, one skill I’ve developed has helped me excel more than any other:
The ability to deliver helpful and correct advice for my clients, but also to rise above. Rise above the skill I am teaching, and realize which lessons from other disciplines need to be introduced into the session for this particular client right now to succeed.
For example, I’ve noticed something that helps my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) clients. Having competed as a wrestler on the world stage and having coached clients in many disciplines for over 15 years, I have realized that most BJJ athletes can improve, by doing one simple thing:
Practice judo and wrestling takedowns.
Allow me to explain. BJJ matches are at least 6 minutes long, or more. So the athletes have time. As a result, many wait for their opponent to act, so they can react. I see these waiting athletes as “stuck in their heads”, contemplating their next move. Instead, they should be in their bodies, where all their instincts live, and their resources are stored.
In BJJ training and in competition, bringing in a proactive “attack” attitude from judo and wrestling can make a world of difference. In these arts, taking the opponent down to the mat is one of the most sought-after moves. A takedown not only scores points, it also packs a psychological punch, resulting in spectacular moments for the audience, and some level of demoralization for the athlete who was taken down.
These takedowns are also known as “throws” in the combat sport community, and can be the cause of many injuries, so incorporating them in training must be done with the utmost of great care.
Throws require explosive energy, and they increase the intensity and urgency of a match. Critically, a throw can occur right at the start of a wrestling or judo match, forcing both athletes to be on “high alert” as soon as they step on the mat. As a result, these athletes train to rely on their instincts, and compete with extreme alertness and urgency.
However, BJJ athletes don’t focus as much on throws.
In training, most BJJ athletes prefer to start their matches from the “guard,” a position on the mat. This greatly reduces the opportunity to practice throws, since no one can throw you if you are already on the ground. It also reduces that “high alert” feeling, and therefore can reduce the athletes’ sense of urgency.
Surprisingly, starting from the guard is also the opposite of what these athletes will encounter in competition. That’s because BJJ matches begin from a standing position.
This is like a 50M freestyle swimmer who never practices his dive. Of course, diving well from the starting block can greatly improve a swimmer’s take-off and optimize competitive performance, just as a strong start from the standing position helps any BJJ athlete in competition.
To recap for everyone: BJJ athletes who start on the mat when they train will inherently focus less on mastering throws. That means they will be less likely to execute effective throws in competition.
And in my view, the reduced focus on throws is what makes Brazilian Jiu Jitsu athletes think too much. As a result, as I mentioned before, they end up stuck in their heads, and sometimes are prone to “hold back” in competition.
Why do high profile BJJ athletes like Romulo Barral and Edwin Najmi perform so well? It’s because they understand this concept. They have excellent perspective, and as a result they incorporate wrestling drills, complete with mastery of throws, into their BJJ training regimen.
These guys are not afraid to get thrown around.
They are brave enough to lock horns with the wrestlers. And this applies to you. By learning and practicing wrestling takedowns, you can increase your chances of winning your BJJ matches by creating that sense of urgency, and being the first one to put some points on the scoring board.
If you are a BJJ practitioner and want to perform better in competition, put the Gi away and put your wrestling shoes on. Start getting comfortable with the idea of being thrown to the ground. And doing the same to your opponent.
Learn to fight for what you want, right from the start, and put a stop to the waiting game. By doing so, I guarantee you will become more alert, gain more intensity, score faster, feel more accomplished, and walk away from more matches with your arm raised high. And you’ll find that you have a new perspective on your art. Which is never a bad thing.
Leo Frincu is a world wrestling champion, author, speaker and performance coach for business leaders and athletes worldwide. To learn more about his training philosophy, check out his latest book, “WELCOME HOME, 3 Simple Steps On How To Reach Your Highest Potential,” available on Amazon and iBooks.