Change your Mindset, Change your Jiu-Jitsu

Change your Mindset, Change your Jiu-Jitsu

Photo: Leon Sandoval www.heyleon.comInstagram @heyleonmedia and Facebook.com/heyleonmedia


I’m watching with an attentive stare. I want to make sure I absorb every aspect of this technique. Coach methodically touches upon different variables, gives an opportunity for questions, and then it’s time to drill. I feverishly practice the technique with my partner. As we both start to get the movement down, we start to up the resistance to give it a little more realism. I think I got it. It’s starting to feel smooth and I’m figuring out where to place my weight. We keep drilling in anticipation for the clock to hit half past.

We start rolling and I immediately try to set up the new technique I’ve learned. I start trying to pass my partner’s guard but in the process my outside leg gets tangled. This doesn’t flag as a problem to me at the time; I still have what appears to be an opportunity to attempt the submission. I reach for the arm and start to establish the proper grip when suddenly the all too familiar feeling of weightlessness is upon me. I get swept to my back and I’m stuck playing defense for the remaining time.

Second roll starts. I’m determined to pull off this move. I know that it doesn’t work when I’m caught in half guard so I’ll have to make sure I get to a better position. I’m playing off my back and I have my partner in my full guard. I get my knee shield in and my brain signals to start setting up a sweep. I establish a grip on his collar and the other on his sleeve; making sure I prevent him from posturing up or posting on his hand. He starts to drive forward, attempting to bulldoze me flat on my back. In this moment I load his weight on my shin and sharply pull him off balance. I scissor my legs and roll to my shoulder to finish the sweep.

Finally, I’m in a better position and can work the submission I learned. I get established, making sure my weight is properly balanced. I reach for the arm and start to get the proper grip, and then it happens! The feeling is difficult to describe. That feeling you get when you attempt a submission and finally succeed… at being hurled through the air and getting swept to your back. I’m incredibly frustrated at this point. I don’t understand why this keeps happening. What am I missing?


I’m sure you’ve heard it many times: “position before submission”. I didn’t truly understand what this meant in the beginning. Actually, it took a fair bit of time to finally grasp the importance of establishing positional control before a submission attempt. Longer than I think it should have and I’m not sure why. Maybe I wasn’t processing the lessons correctly or maybe I had not yet developed the necessary body awareness to apply them. This led me on a path filled with frustrating growing pains and what appeared to be auditions for Cirque du Soleil as I was being thrown through the air.

I was focusing entirely on techniques and submissions when I lacked the necessary foundation to build upon. I wanted to win so I stuck to the areas in which I was strong and knew I had a greater likelihood of success. This was my ego doing the thinking and it was holding me back. If I wanted to continue improving I had to change my mindset and establish better goals.

I’ve learned that not every roll had to end in a submission or even have an attempt at one. Fundamentals and positional control have now become my primary focus. I try to make sure I don’t always lean towards my strengths and working positions I don’t spend much time in. This part isn’t hard because I have so many high-level training partners that I’m usually in difficult positions all the time. When I’m in those positions, I ask myself questions:

– How did I get here?

– What decisions did I make or not make that created this situation?

– What is the opponent’s goal and how can I prevent them from achieving it?

– What actions could I have taken to alter the course the opponent is on?

Thinking this way helps me reverse engineer my rolls and take as many lessons from them as possible. Additionally, I’m becoming increasingly more aware of my body’s abilities and limitations. This helps me keep my goals realistic by concentrating my efforts on things I’m actually capable of. Finally, I’ve changed my approach to Jiu-Jitsu by concentrating on and trying to better understand concepts:

– How to magnify my strength through framing: resulting in the ability to expend less energy while preventing dangerous positions.

– Isolating limbs and two-on-one: leveling the playing field against stronger opponents.

– Creating angles through hip movement: resulting in gaining better positions and creating openings for attacks.

Once I expanded my approach and applied what I learned to every roll, my Jiu-Jitsu started to take on a new shape. I believe this way of thinking is what will propel me towards a higher level of Jiu-Jitsu.

If you approach things the same way every time, you can’t expect to achieve different results. Change your mindset and you’ll change your Jiu-Jitsu.

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