Tip #1: Always focus on the very next step of the technique, then build on that. I often see that jiu jitsu athletes get ahead of themselves when training. For example, when someone mounts you, instead of focusing on the fundamentals of blocking the hip, then trapping the leg to gain control slowly to half guard, most people are rushing trying to go from a bottom position to submission, forgetting the fundamental principles in between.
Tip #2: Train with a goal. I always get the most effective training sessions in when I go into a class with a specific goal, such as “guard retention”. When live rolling, whatever my intention was (in this example guard retention) I focus solely on THAT. This will help you improve each area of your game meticulously. I would not recommend “just training”, because you are often the reactive one in the match, not the proactive one; when you are reactive, you are already one step behind.
Tip #3: Prioritize your nutrition. Ya know I had to include nutrition in here because food is fuel. Athletes who don’t prioritize their nutrition are always going to be behind the ball because you simply won’t have the energy and endurance to keep up with the physical and mental demands of the sport. Eat for energy by fueling your body with whole foods from all the food groups: protein, carbs, fat, and vegetables.
Tip #4: Listen to your body. Learning how to communicate with your body and understand its needs is literally the most important thing you can do as an athlete, ESPECIALLY a female athlete. We often force and hustle ourselves into oblivion instead of taking a rest or recovery day, when our body is achy and sore. Honoring your body’s cues will drastically improve your physical and mental game.
Tip #5: Capitalize on your body type. My boyfriend and coach always tells me “a smart (wo) man knows her weaknesses”. The truth is you don’t have to implement every single thing you learn into your game. I recommend cherry picking the techniques that work well for your body type and that also make you feel confident in your game. Take the time to understand both your strengths and weaknesses and then develop your game around that! For example, I do not have long legs; so, there are some techniques that simply don’t work with my body type and instead of trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole, I either modify it to fit my body or I just switch my focus to what DOES work for my body.
Tip #6: Learn how to control your breath. Your breath is a beautiful tool that can either hinder or help your performance. Fast, irregular breathing will activate your fight or flight response system, causing you to think and act out of fear as well as gas out too quickly. Calm, controlled breathing will regulate your nervous system, which allows you to be more mindful, grounded, and in control of your movements. Breathwork is the practice of using your breath to take you out of the chaos of your mind and be more in tune with your body. I recommend doing some form of breathwork daily, because as with any practice, you need to be consistent in order to see lasting results.
The top three things that have completely changed my jiu jitsu game are releasing attachment to the outcome, always being curious, and repetition.
Repetition is the key to mastery. If you are struggling with anything, drill it. That is the only way to develop muscle memory. The techniques I am best at are, by far, the ones that I have drilled over a thousand times. Also, my growth both in training and in competition have astronomically improved when I decided to release my grip on perfectionism and the fear of failure and switched my focus to having fun and being curious. Not only has jiu jitsu become more enjoyable, but I actually move better and think more clearly when I’m out of my head and being present in the moment. This concept took me years to learn, —but it’s something that I would tell every athlete to prioritize over anything else.
Nattie Boss, RDN Nattie is a Sports-focused Registered Dietitian who is the founder of The Performance Blueprint, the only 8-week performance lifestyle online coaching program for female grapplers. She is a brown belt in both judo and jiujitsu and has been an active competitor since she started training in 2010. She also co-owns a jiuijtsu academy in Philadelphia and teaches their group kettlebell classes. When she’s not on the mats or in the gym, she enjoys facilitating breathwork, hosting local dance parties, road tripping across the country, creating content, or playing with her pup.