About five years ago I started working with several of the best judokas in Hungary. That led me, almost logically, to train for ground fights. I joined Carlson Gracie Team three years ago, and today I focus mainly on the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ). For the past two years I was working as a strength coach with several black belts, as well as a blue belt practitioner. I like to say that I am a strength and not a strength and conditioning coach, for a simple reason that they are about to discover in the following lines.
How strong should a BJJ practitioner be? Well, first of all, it should have a solid entry level. What I always tell the boys is that they don’t have to be strong in the powerlifting standard, although they do have enough to master the tatami, feel safe about their abilities, and be convinced that they are stronger than the adversary. Lately I have been hearing that the BJJ is only technical and that force is not so necessary. And even if I am not arguing with black belts, I know perfectly and from my own experience that when the skill levels are quite similar, the extra strength becomes a differential.
First, let me tell my fellow Jiu Jitsu practitioners that this art is a skill as well as strength. Therefore, the more you practice, the better it will go. And how much better you go closer you will be of perfection. With this I am not saying that perfection in Jiu Jitsu is attainable, but that every day one more step can be taken. Just don’t expect me to give a series of exercises or a 12-week program. Strength training is an art, a philosophy and, like the BJJ, it cannot be learned in an intensive program. What you can expect are some principles, because they are the only ones that can do something for your performance.
Then we said that the more you practice, the better you become. But you can’t practice every day in the same way and with the same intensity. If you do, the price you will pay even after a short period of time will be very high. In my case, I train Jiu Jitsu 5 or 6 times a week, and I follow my own training principles. I saw black and brown belts who only trains once or twice a week but I don’t fight with them because it makes no sense. So, I find my way and see what is good and what is not so good for me. I also roll 1 or 2 days with blue and purple upper belts. Although they are not easy workouts at all, we usually do four to five rounds of 10 minutes with high intensity. One or two days I train with lower white belts, even training some of them. These are what I call “my easy days”, where even if we fight, I don’t use more than 50% of the maximum effort. In summary, as in strength training, in Jiu Jitsu’s I also have my easy, medium and hard days and are more focused on techniques and fighting skills. When I teach white belts, I also learn with them through the questions they ask me. I think that now there is beginning to notice the similarity between BJJ and strength training.
The best strength training program for BJJ would be those that includes compound training with adequate amount of working days compared to rest days, because you will have to compensate when you are also doing BJJ.