10 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu 

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that has become increasingly popular in recent years. It is a grappling-based discipline that focuses on taking an opponent to the ground, controlling them, and submitting them through various techniques.

    BJJ practitioner, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean, with a stop sign

    Like any martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires discipline, dedication, and hard work to master. However, there are certain common mistakes that practitioners can make that can hinder their progress. This article will outline the most common mistakes that practitioners should avoid when practicing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

    Poor Posture

    Maintaining good posture is a critical aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, particularly when in the top guard position. One common mistake that many beginners make is failing to keep proper posture, which leaves them vulnerable to submissions and sweeps.

    To maintain good posture, it's important to keep your back straight and not allow your opponent to hunch you over. This means keeping your head up and your shoulders back.

    BJJ practitioner, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean, with a stop sign 2

    If your opponent is attempting to pull you forward, resist the urge to lean into them, as this will only make it easier for them to take advantage of your posture. Instead, use your hips and core to maintain a solid base and resist their efforts to break your posture.

    For example: If you are on your opponent's guard and they are attempting a triangle choke, maintaining good posture is crucial. If you allow your posture to break and hunch forward, your opponent will have an easier time locking in the choke and finishing the submission.

    By keeping your back straight and your head up, you can create the space needed to defend against the submission and potentially escape the position.

    Neglecting Fundamentals

    Neglecting the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a common mistake that many practitioners make, particularly as they advance to higher levels of training. The fundamentals are the building blocks of the art, and without a strong foundation in these basic techniques, it's difficult to progress to more advanced techniques and strategies.

    Examples of fundamental techniques include the basic positions of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, such as:

    • Mount
    • Guard
    • Side control
    • Sweeps
    • Escapes

    Neglecting these basics can result in a lack of understanding of the mechanics and principles of the art, making it difficult to execute more complex techniques effectively. Of course, when you are just a beginner, these techniques will take time to perfect, but it's important to make sure that you are consistently drilling and refining these basics as your skills develop.

    a giant humanoid shrimp, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean

    For example: If a practitioner neglects the basic technique of shrimping, a movement used to escape from the bottom position, they may find themselves stuck in bad positions and unable to escape. Similarly, if a practitioner neglects the fundamental techniques of maintaining good posture and base, they may find themselves easily swept or submitted by their opponent.

    To avoid neglecting the fundamentals, it's important to consistently review and practice these basic techniques, even as you progress to more advanced levels of training. By maintaining a strong foundation in the basics, you can continue to develop your skills and reach your full potential as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.

    Lack of Focus On Breathing

    Breathing is a fundamental aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and many practitioners neglect to focus on it during training. Proper breathing can help you stay calm, conserve energy, and improve your overall performance.

    One simple way to improve your breathing is to focus on it during your training. Instead of holding your breath during rolls or drills, make a conscious effort to breathe deeply and regularly. This can help you stay relaxed and focused, even in high-pressure situations.

    Another way to improve your breathing is to practice breathwork exercises outside of class. One example is the walking exercise, where you set aside a 25-30 minute walk time and concentrate on any tightness in your body while simply inhaling through your nose.

    By focusing on your breath and being mindful of any tension in your body, you can improve your overall breathing technique and enhance your performance on the mat. Being under certain positions like side control can feel like you're drowning. Panic can set in. Learn to breath and remember the specific techniques that apply in each situation. This takes experience but is easier with more mat time.

     a giant wind goddess, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean meditating, taking a deep breath and blowing air

    For example: During a roll, if you find yourself getting winded or feeling anxious, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Take a deep breath in through your nose, relax, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. This can help calm your nerves and increase your stamina, allowing you to perform better and stay focused during your roll.

    Inadequate Strength and Conditioning

    Strength and conditioning are crucial components of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, and neglecting them can result in decreased performance and increased risk of injury. BJJ is a grappling-based martial art and does not focus on striking techniques. This means that if you only train in BJJ and face a proficient striker, you may struggle to effectively strike back or defend yourself.

    One way to improve your strength and conditioning for BJJ is to incorporate functional training exercises that simulate the demands of the sport. This can include exercises such as:

    • Squats.
    • Deadlifts.
    • Pull-ups.
    • Turkish Get-ups.

    Which can improve your overall strength and endurance on the mat.

    a water god, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean, looking strong

    Another way to improve your performance in BJJ is to cross-train in other martial arts, such as kickboxing or boxing. This can help you develop striking skills and give you a better understanding of how to defend against strikes in a real-life situations.

    For example: If you find yourself struggling to keep up with your training partners during intense rolls or feeling fatigued during long training sessions, it may be a sign that you need to focus more on your strength and conditioning. By incorporating targeted exercises and cross-training in other martial arts, you can improve your overall fitness and take your BJJ skills to the next level.

    Overreliance On Physical Attributes

    An example of overreliance on physical attributes in BJJ would be a practitioner who relies solely on their strength and explosiveness to execute techniques rather than proper technique and timing. This may lead to them burning out quickly during training and struggling to maintain their performance during long rolling sessions.

    Additionally, if they were to face an opponent who is equally as strong or more technically skilled, their reliance on physical attributes may not be enough to secure a win. This may seem like a contradiction to the last point, but it's important to remember that physical attributes are only one aspect of BJJ and should be used in conjunction with proper technique and timing.

    Failure To Adapt To Different Opponents

    One common mistake in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is failing to adapt to different opponents. BJJ is a highly technical martial art that relies on leverage and technique rather than brute strength, but it's important to remember that not all opponents are the same. Each opponent will have their own unique style, strengths, and weaknesses, and it's important to adapt your strategy accordingly.

    While BJJ is highly effective in one-on-one situations, it may not be the best choice in scenarios where you are facing multiple opponents. In these situations, it's important to focus on self-defense strategies that allow you to quickly incapacitate your opponents and escape to safety.

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    For example: If you are facing an opponent who is larger and stronger than you, you may need to focus more on technique and leverage to overcome their strength. On the other hand, if you are facing an opponent who is highly skilled in takedowns or submissions, you may need to adjust your strategy to avoid their strengths and capitalize on their weaknesses.

    This article goes over some additional strategies that can be utilized in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to help you become a better competitor: 10 Most Common Strategies for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Ignoring Defense

    It's easy to want to be only aggressive but that can be a common mistake in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Don't ignore defense (BJJ is a self-defense system after all...). Many practitioners get caught up in trying to execute their own submissions and forget about defending against their opponent's attacks. This can lead to unnecessary injuries and opportunities to be submitted.

     BJJ Guard Player

    In BJJ, it's important to focus on both offense and defense equally. You need to be able to defend yourself against your opponent's attacks and capitalize on their mistakes to discover your own submissions. This requires a strong understanding of:

    • Positional control
    • Movement
    • Timing

    For example: If your opponent attempts to apply a submission on you, it's important to focus on defending the submission rather than trying to counter-attack immediately. You can use techniques such as framing, bridging, and shrimping to escape from the submission and gain a more advantageous position.

    Additionally, when in a dominant position, it's important to focus on maintaining control and preventing your opponent from escaping or counter-attacking. This can be done through techniques such as pressure, grips, and transitions.

    Being Too Tense

    Being too tense is a common mistake that many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners make. When you're tense, your movements become rigid, your breathing becomes shallow, and your mind becomes less focused. This can hinder your ability to execute techniques effectively and make you more vulnerable to your opponent's attacks.

    In BJJ, it's important to stay relaxed and focused during training and competition. This allows you to move more fluidly and efficiently, conserve energy, and be more aware of your opponent's movements.

     a rock monster, wearing a Brazilian jiu-jitsu gi, by the ocean, looking strong

    For example: When you're in a guard position, it's important to stay relaxed and not tense up. This allows you to be more mobile and active in your guard, making it harder for your opponent to pass your guard. When you're too tense, you're more likely to get swept or submitted. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you want to conserve energy and maximize your own rest periods.

    This means that when your opponent is resting in a particular position, you should be using that time to recover and prepare for your next attack. Taxing your own legs as your opponent rests only serves to tire you out and make it easier for them to execute their own attacks.

    Another example is when you're applying a submission. If you're too tense, you may apply the submission with too much force and burn out your muscles before the submission is complete. Staying relaxed and using proper technique allows you to conserve energy and execute the submission more effectively.

    Insufficient Drilling and Repetition

    One of the most important aspects of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is drilling and repetition. Many practitioners overlook the importance of drilling and focus too much on sparring. However, drilling is essential for improving technique, muscle memory, and timing.

    During drilling, you can focus on the details of each technique and perfect your form. This allows you to execute techniques more effectively during sparring and competition. Additionally, drilling allows you to develop muscle memory, which is essential for reacting quickly and instinctively during a match.

    BJJ Practitioners doing martial arts

    For example: If you're learning a new submission, it's important to drill it repeatedly until it becomes second nature. This allows you to execute the submission smoothly and quickly during a match, without having to think about each step.

    Similarly, if you're working on a specific position or transition, drilling it repeatedly allows you to develop muscle memory to perform it effectively and efficiently. We go over the importance and use cases of drilling and repetition in much more detail here: The Role of Drilling and Repetition in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Overtraining or Undertraining

    Working too hard or not hard enough? One of the common mistakes that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners make is either overtraining or undertraining. Both of these can be detrimental to your progress and motivation.

    Overtraining can occur when you push yourself too hard without allowing enough rest and recovery time. This can lead to exhaustion, injuries, and burnout. On the other hand, undertraining can occur when you don't challenge yourself enough, leading to a lack of progress and motivation.

    The key to finding the right balance is to listen to your body and adjust your training accordingly. The inverted U-curve of motivation theory suggests that the best performance and interest come when the task is neither too hard nor too easy.

    If your workouts are too easy, you may not be challenging yourself enough, and you may need to increase the intensity or duration of your training. If your workouts are too difficult, you may need to take a step back and adjust your routine to avoid burnout.

    For example: If you're experiencing constant fatigue, soreness, or injuries, it may be a sign of overtraining. You may need to adjust your training schedule, incorporate more rest days, or focus on recovery techniques like stretching or massage.

    On the other hand, if you're not seeing any progress or feeling motivated, it may be a sign of undertraining. In this case, you may need to challenge yourself more by increasing the intensity or difficulty of your workouts.

    Final Thoughts

    BJJ practitioners should avoid common mistakes as mentioned in this article. By addressing these mistakes and incorporating well-rounded training, BJJ practitioners can improve their skills, avoid injuries, and reach their full potential on the mat. Whether you are looking to compete or simply develop mastery in the art, focusing on quality training and avoiding common mistakes will help you reach your goals.

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    Is there any common mistake that you've made as a beginner Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner? Let us know in the comments below! And feel free to shop Submission Shark BJJ Gear to help support these articles. Thank you for reading!

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