6 Key Habits of Dedicated Jiu Jitsu Player

bjj_qualityWe all know how Jiu Jitsu is supposed to be more than just a sport or a hobby. It’s an all consuming affair that eats up into your personal, work and love life as some would have us believe! Whatever its true nature, the one thing that is certain is that to even maintain your current standard of Jiu Jitsu game you have to develop certain habits that empower you to continue this journey. Hence the phrase, Jiu Jitsu is a lifestyle. Habits are something that weave into your daily life and don’t need special willpower to execute. It becomes as normal as brushing your teeth on waking up and ultimately help you progress. Jiu Jitsu requires specific habits that help you to stay energetic and recuperate faster from the daily grind as well as unforeseen or chronic injuries.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ~Aristotle

Meditate

Ignore this advice at your own peril. Grappling, submission fighting, MMA and the likes of it are aggressive sports which always test the limits of your mental balance. Every training session is a highly charged experience which stimulates and spurs you on. No matter how friendly the roll, you always end up dumping a certain amount of adrenaline and cortisol and other stress hormones in your system.

The sympathetic nervous system is activated when you train intensively which keeps your body primed for a fight by stepping up the heart rate and other metabolic functions and inhibiting those that let the body recover and rebuild. You don’t need to be a science geek to realize the harmful effects of staying in this zone all the time when you’re not training or competing. Top athletes across all sports always make a habit of meditating at least once a day. It kicks in the relaxation response of the body and flushes out the toxic stress chemical dump accumulating in the body. You gain longevity and mental clarity that allow you to look at the bigger picture and not lose precious energy over petty distractions.

The Japanese martial artists practice a form of meditation known as ‘MOKSA’ or ‘MOKUSA’ before a training session and sometimes even at the end of it. The aim is to clear the mind and body of all distractions and bring attention back to just the training hall. We have covered in detail the steps to practice Mokusa in a separate article, How To Set A Winning Mindset For BJJ.

Yoga

Yoga goes more than mere stretching. It challenges your breath, kinesthetic awareness and ability to maintain concentration for a long period of time all in one go. Rickson Gracie was perhaps the first to popularize the practice of Yoga and its associated breathing and healing abilities. Now its a staple feature in the training regimen of every athlete who aims to go beyond local competitions onto the big stage.

  • Apart from its competitive benefits, practicing Yoga regularly keeps you grounded and sensitive towards accumulating strain in the joints.
  • It works on regulating the endocrine system which is in charge of keeping our entire body working smoothly by regulating all kinds of functions in the body.
  • The muscles stay at their optimum length with regular Yoga practice which means you don’t run the risk of injury from muscle tears or a misaligned skeletal system.

We have published a list of exercises from Yoga in a separate blog post to help you with your inverted guard game. It is a must read if you looking for some more insights.

Apart from the poses, there are advanced breathing practices which should not be done without the guidance of an experienced teacher. Doing them properly will help you gain incredible strength and endurance and a kind of metabolism that helps you heal faster than usual. To seek out a right kind of teacher for this, don’t look for certifications or alliances. Instead just look at the vitality and strength of the teacher himself.

Rickson Gracie’s personal workout involving natural gymnastics and Yogic poses and breathing:

Healthy Diet

A healthy diet in fact contributes 80% towards your success. You can not go hard on the mat and then grab some burgers, fries and shakes to compensate for it. Unless you are Gary Tonnon! But seriously, learn from the Gracies who have made up their own variation of a diet suited for BJJ athletes with plenty of greens, fruits, yogurt, rice and fresh meat or fish. Often you don’t need to be too fussy about your regular diet as long as you avoid processed food and refined grains and include vegetables, fruits and meat that is locally grown or at least preservative free.

When it comes to supplements though, they can give you the extra edge in your performance. Herbs like spriulina, ginseng, ashwagandha enhance the functioning of your vestibular system and reward you with superior balance, awareness and movement skills. Also protein supplements with creatine and BCAA (Branched Chain Amino Acids) are highly valued as they aid in decreased recovery time and increased gains in strength and explosiveness. You can have the best of both worlds of fresh fruits and vegetables along with supplements by blending them together in the morning to make a healthy and delicious smoothie. Or have a bowl of Acai to begin your day with like those in Brazil, that is if you can get your hands on it.

Gracie Diet: Apple Banana Smoothie

We at Ojimas have come up with OSU, a special tincture combination of adaptogens and amino acids that increases stamina and resistance to stress. The Adaptogens constitute a new class of metabolic regulators (of natural origin) which have been shown to increase the ability of the organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors.

While you are being sincere and serious about your BJJ diet, remember that indulging in some sinful junk food once in a while won’t damage you permanently as you have made a habit of eating good food most of the time. Treat such occasions as cheat days and make sure to pack in as much fun as possible while you are at it.

Get adequate rest and sleep

We have already mentioned the benefits of meditation which activates the anabolic processes through the parasympathetic nervous system. Do you know when else you could get the same benefits? When you are in the deepest phase of your sleep. Deep, undisturbed sleep generates growth hormones and is the only time of the day when your body is doing nothing but repairing itself.

Ensure that the room in which you sleep is dark and well ventilated. The darkness is rather important in our times of overlit and overstimulated urban lifestyle. It activates the pineal gland to produce melatonin which regulates sleep timing, blood pressure and overall well being of a person.

Hydrate well

This needs so special mention yet is perhaps the most neglected of all things by most martial arts practitioners. We don’t realize but we lose a lot of water along with various salts and minerals when we have an intense training session, especially if we are sparring. A reduction of just 2% of fluid can result in degraded performance by as much as 10-20%.

Your intake of water depends upon your physiological nature but as a standard measure, keep yourself hydrated through the day by sipping on water. Don’t wait for thirst to strike you while training when it might be too late. You can end up with cramps or an overstressed endocrine system when you are lacking enough water intake. 2 liters is the minimum recommended volume of intake for most people. You will need more when you factor in your own internal heat, metabolism and the climate of where you train.

But like we note, we also lose electrolytes along with water through our sweat. These control important neurological functions and a deficiency can cause severe degradation in performance. Potassium and sodium ions are the two major elements that control cellular function. Isotonic drinks are one such category of sports drinks that contain important electrolytes in the right concentration to be readily accepted in the human body. In that case, your best bet is the natural remedy of coconut water that leaves you feeling refreshed and energized instantly and comes without the added sugar load of commercial sports drinks.

Continuously challenge yourself

Spending all your free time on the mat won’t help you to grow as a human being and will make you an one-dimensional character. It is already a scientifically proven fact that learning new things is essential to good mental health and sanity. It retains plasticity of the brain. Else you risk becoming an obsessed neurotic as your world view becomes myopic. And the best part of being involved in different activities is that you get to meet people from diverse backgrounds and expertises, something you sorely miss out if you spend all your waking hours on the mat.

Being a BJJ person, picking up an outdoor activity is the best way to challenge your abilities. Go for a hike, a trail run or climb a mountain. Visit the nearest waterfall. Surf the waves. Get together with the local runners’ group and test out your endurance with a 10k run. The opportunities are endless in today’s world and they will give you a richer social life as well act as a great stress buster.

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