The Difference Between Full Time BJJ Athletes & Recreational Practitioners

The Difference Between Full Time BJJ Athletes & Recreational Practitioners

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is quickly becoming more and more professional. Not only is the sport starting to develop various platforms for athletes to make money and be considered “professional grapplers,” but there are also much more Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners training full time to compete. The level of skill has seen immense growth over the last decade and the numbers of people competing at the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Worlds have increased exponentially every year.

This gives proof to the fact that more and more people are making Jiu Jitsu their lifestyle and attempting to be World champions. That being said, Jiu Jitsu is also exploding with recreational popularity. People have seen the benefits that Jiu Jitsu can bring and more and more people are starting Jiu Jitsu and more and more academies are opening.

Now we have a tremendous amount of Jiu Jitsu competitors that want to compete at the highest levels and consider themselves full time athletes, and we have people that just want to train Jiu Jitsu recreationally at an all-time high. What is a recreational practitioner? These are the people that don’t really want to compete and practice bjj for various reasons such as self-defense, exercise, socialization, health, fitness, and many other reasons.

The combination of these two types of bjj practitioners has never been more abundant, but it can create tension.

For instance, some recreational practitioners may have started at the same time as some of the people who made Jiu Jitsu their lives and it can become a source of frustration because people in the academies are progressing at different rates. This is due to the fact that the guys who want to make Jiu Jitsu their lives are typically younger and they are able to train 6 days a week, 6 hours a day, where as the recreational guy probably trains 3 times a week for one hour. This means that in one day in the life of a full time competitor they are training as much as many recreational guys do in 2 weeks as far as mat time.

The Life of a Full Time Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competitor

With the rapid growth of competition comes the rapid growth of the competitor. Jiu Jitsu has never had more professional grappling venues than it does today. We have promotions such as Metamoris, EBI, Fight to Wing Pro, Five Grappling Super League, and many other “Professional” grappling events that are starting to represent the pinnacle of the sport. With that being said, people are starting to train like full time athletes; they incorporate similar training regimens to that of UFC fighters, Boxers, and professional athletes.

This leads to rapid acceleration and progression. Long gone are the days where you can train once a day with no strength or conditioning and proper diet and still compete at the highest level. These days, to even do well at blue belt, purple belt, brown belt, and black belt Mundials you have to adapt and incorporate a rigorous training regimen. The bar is set so high these days that unless you are able to train at least 4-6 hours a day, it may be difficult to keep up with the best competitors in the world at any belt level.

Not only are full time athletes training like professional athletes, they are also living the lifestyle of a professional athlete. For example, they are sleeping properly, stretching daily, doing yoga, taking supplements, incorporating strength and conditioning regimens, and incorporating strict diets. All of this combined makes for an extremely dangerous competitor.

People are not so used to having athletes like this in their academies but now that there are so many, it can cause tension in academies. This is because these students tend to progress at a much faster rate and are able to train much more than other practitioners. You have to think of it in terms of mat time, these full time competitors are getting as much mat time as recreational practitioners do in a week or two in just one day, when you add in their lifestyle, youth, and everything else, they are going to be harder to deal with.

Many people complain about going against the young tough and athletic guy that trains everyday but the thing is, there should be no ego involved. These guys are training and working towards a goal and this is their life, so to assume you are going to be able to be as good as them is not realistic. Let’s look at real life examples like the Miyao Brothers. These two have been infamous for training all day every day. They won the worlds at every belt level, and Paulo even won the Black Belt Worlds. They are a perfect example of the type of athlete that is training Jiu Jitsu today. Many people saw their success and looked at what they did to get there and realized that they worked every day all day towards a goal. Now they have students who are doing the same.

The thing is with this type of training their cardio, awareness and timing improves so much. Even if the recreational guys are smart and capable of learning the same techniques, it is very likely that they will not be able to execute them as well as these athletes. For instance, if you learn the same move as one of these guys, you may know that technique, but they have probably drilled it and executed it as many times as you would in 3 months in one day. Check out this video below of Atos up and coming practitioners training for competitions.

Recreational Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Practitioners

With the growth in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu there has also been exponential growth in students joining bjj academies. Not only are more and more people signing up for bjj gyms, more and more people are opening up their own Jiu Jitsu schools. There are more bjj schools now than there ever has been and this brings in more practitioners.

With the growth in these bjj academies more people are starting to join. The thing with Jiu Jitsu is, 90% of people who sign up are just joining for self-defense, exercise, and other benefits, nobody just signs up as a brand new white belt and says I want to win EBI or Worlds. You typically are not immersed into this bjj culture until you have joined a school and once you have, very few decide they want to be full time athletes. The rest of the people are typically just recreational practitioners. Although these guys may love bjj as much as anyone else, people have lives and responsibilities that don’t allow them to just chase a dream of becoming world champion. The older practitioners with families and jobs that just want to train for the love of the sport a few days a week.

The problem with being a local practitioner these days is that every academy has some killers that are training full time and it can be discouraging when you get beat up by these guys or when they go from white to brown while you have been at blue the entire time. Some people get upset because they are a purple belt and see a new white belt come in who becomes a full time athlete, the first year you can beat them up, their second year they are already legit blue belts who can hang with you, and by their third year they are savage purple belts that can submit you easily. It is discouraging because just 2-3 years ago that recreational practitioner was able to beat this new guy and now this new guy is a full time athlete who has developed their bjj at a rapid pace. It’s not that people have ego’s and don’t like getting beat or are not happy for their teammates, it is just hard to see people progress so much faster than you because they have all the time in the world to dedicate to their craft and you’re only able to come a few days a week.

So there you have it, Jiu Jitsu has grown so fast and now we have professional athletes that are training full time and we have our good ole recreational guys, in the end of the day we are all in this for the same love of the sport and everyone should get along! If these young guys are giving you problems on a day to day basis we have some great solutions for you here at bjj Fanatics.  Bernardo Faria Is a 5x Black Belt World Champion who is known for his simplicity, he is not athletic, flexible, crazy strong, and is just like you and me.  He has an amazing DVD Set called “Battle Tested Pressure passing” that is a great resource for defeating these younger and tough guys.