There have been dozens, maybe hundreds of these lists made. Some are short and concise (the top 5 things you need to know…) and some are longer, attempting to encompass more of the jiu jitsu journey. This is one of the latter. I have compiled this list based on my own experiences and feedback from my friends and training partners. When contemplating how long to make this list I settled on 22 in a nod to Mission 22 which is an organization that works to raise awareness concerning U.S. Military Veteran suicides. On average 22 veterans take their own lives every day. For more information about Mission 22 check them out here: Mission 22
1) Track your class attendance. There’s a particular number of classes per week that’s ideal for each student. Tracking your attendance will help you find this number and be consistent in hitting it.
2) Journal your class performance. This can be a simple as a note pad app on your phone where you just jot a line or two about the highlights or a more complex approach like using an Evernote template commenting on every technique, drill, and roll.
3) Create a word document that you review periodically. Some things that could be included in this document: Three “go to” moves/techniques from every position. In order, your three best positions to work from. A week area or two you’re working on.
4) Hydrate. All your bodies functions and processes are more efficient when you are properly hydrated. You will process nutrients more efficiently, clear toxins more efficiently, dissipate heat more efficiently, etc. etc. all these things will improve your performance on the mats. Proper hydration will also aid with appetite control.
5) Sleep. Most adults can function at a high level on 6-7 hours of sleep a day. For an athlete that should be considered the bare minimum. During periods of high intensity training 8 hours or more a day may be required. Most people not getting enough sleep only have themselves to blame….you do not need to watch one more episode of the Walking Dead. Turn off the TV and go to bed.
6) Cook your own meals. Cooking your own meals at home is a great way to make sure you’re eating the right portions, eating the right things, consuming the right amount of calories, etc. It will also save you money…..that you can then spend on more jiu jitsu.
7) Eat clean. No big secret here. Foods that are over cooked, highly processed, loaded with preservatives, or containing a long list of ingredients you can’t pronounce are not the ideal base for a healthy diet.
8) Eat the right foods at the right time. What you eat before training, after training, on your days off, etc. matters. Do some research and come up with a plan that fits your training schedule.
9) Supplement. As this is a very personal choice I won’t elaborate much except to say I’ve benefited from smart supplementation as have many of my training partners. If you chose to supplement: do smart research and don’t pay for hype.
10) Yoga. When polling my friends about off the mat activities they do that they feel improve their jiu jitsu performance, yoga was the number one option. Several of my friends advocated for “hot” yoga and some follow a more traditional yoga routine.
11) Stretching. If yoga is not your thing try a 10-minute dynamic stretching routine a few days a week
12) Lift weights. After yoga, this was the number 2 response I got from my friends. Most people I know chose a simple routine based on the fundamental lifts i.e. bench press, dead lift, squats, military press, pull ups, etc. These are compound movements that will build muscle mass and improve core strength.
13) Sprint/HIT training. Short bursts of intense/explosive movements are an excellent way to condition your body for the rigors of high intensity grappling. Most people I know who compete incorporate at least some HIT training in their routines.
14) Distance running. This seems to be the least popular option for off the mat physical activity. There are however some benefits worth considering. If you’re one of the many people who have never run more than a mile or two. Working your way up to a longer distance, maybe 5 miles, will burn fat and improve your cardio conditioning. More importantly it will test your will and prove to yourself that you can do more than you thought you could. It can also help with developing an overall healthy lifestyle.
15) Listen to a podcast. There are literally dozens of podcasts on jiu jitsu or more generally health and fitness. While this may be an off the mat habit that has minimal returns…. It also takes almost no effort. Find a few podcasts you like, subscribe, listen on your way to and from work
16) Watch tutorials/instructional DVD’s. While DVD sets can be quite expensive I know people, who have bought sets and have had their game transformed in as little as 2-3 weeks. If you don’t have the money or time to invest in purchasing and watching full length DVD sets there are many high quality 5-10 minute tutorials on youtube.
17) Watch competition footage. There’s nothing like watching the top athletes at your age/belt level in live action. In this day and age, it is as easy as going to youtube and searching “BJJ blue belt masters” or whatever age/belt/weight you are at.
18) Watch footage of your own training. My wife helps me with this, but if that doesn’t work for you there is almost always someone available that you could hand your phone to and say “can you film my next couple of rolls?”. This is most helpful if you save and date the video files for later review. If you review footage of yourself rolling in Jan, May, and Oct of the same year you should be able to identify some mistakes you’re continuing to make that need to be addressed as well as some areas of improvement.
19) Read something. Reading a little bit everyday will improve the quality of your life no matter what you read. I would suggest biographies of people who have accomplished great things, books on excellence, and motivation.
20) Create a morning routine. Studying the habits of highly successful high functioning individuals I’ve come to find that most of them get up early and follow a routine to get their day started. Here’s what has been working for me: Get my body moving, read something, and clean something. Time depending, I dedicate 15-45 minutes to this. Right after getting out of bed I do some stretches, yoga poses, and maybe some jiu jitsu movements. Next I read a chapter of a book. Then I do 5-10 minutes of house work. That last one really makes the wife happy. It’s amazing how much more productive the rest of my day is when I start with this routine.
21) Have another hobby …. surfing, hackie sack, parkour, etc. Having healthy hobbies is a part of living an overall healthy lifestyle. It will also give you something to do to stay in shape when you are injured or otherwise cannot do jiu jitsu.
22) Mentor another student. It’s common for students who have been doing jiu jitsu for a while to take someone under their wing in the gym—take the next step and take it out of the gym. Get their phone number and/or hook up with them on social media. Text them or message them when you see they’re making progress in the gym and hitting jiu jitsu milestones. Text them or call them if you haven’t seen them in the gym for a few days. Offer them some encouragement now and then and hold them accountable when needed. I saved this for last because not only can it help your jiu jitsu and the jiu jitsu of the student you are mentoring….it could possibly have a much larger impact on the life of the student you are mentoring. You never know when someone may be desperate for a friend or for someone to take a personal interest in their life.
No one is going to take a list like this and incorporate every suggestion into their daily lives. Many people reading this will, in fact already be doing some of these. I’m confident though, especially if you’re new to jiu jitsu, that you can find something on this list that if added to your daily routine will help to improve your jiu jitsu. Good luck and keep on rolling.
By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here