How to Develop a Combative Mindset for BJJ Rolling Sessions

How to Develop a Combative Mindset for BJJ Rolling Sessions

Wayne Needham is the go-to performance coach for combat athletes in Britain, Leicester. He has an extensive competitive background in Shoot Fighting and grappling and is the strength coach MMA fighters hire when they want the title. He is a main contributor to http://www.grapplershealth.com/

Today we are going to discuss developing a combative mindset for sparring.

For recreational athletes sparring is the most enjoyable part of the session. For athletes that
compete, from amateur to professional level, sparring has its own training sessions and it can
be enjoyable, but it can also be daunting and make or break them.

Far too often athletes turn up for sparring with the wrong mindset: they talk and socialize with
training partners, talk on phones, train like crap and then they wonder why they cannot execute
techniques during the sparring training -under pressure- but during a regular grappling session
with no pressure they can execute techniques easily…

Well, I’m going to give you a template for success so that on sparring days you’re at your best
and you carry this level onto the competition mat…

OK, so let me start by saying that idea of having the perfect day with no hassle and you’re
gonna train with optimal blood sugar levels is an illusion.

Life will find a way to mess with your schedule and affect your sleep at times. You just have to
mentally tough and deal with it instead of caving in and using that as an excuse for a bad

A good routine to have is turning up at the club early, so you get there and begin your own ritual
to get yourself physically and mentally prepared.

I prefer leaving the phone at home and listening to music on the commute to the club and it
should be happy relaxed music; you don’t need to psyche yourself up.

Yet entering the club make minimal if any conversations with anyone and find a quiet place to
get dressed: I even like my athletes having certain clothing equipment they only wear when it’s
time to spar!

Now we begin what’s called a passive warm up: this is where the athlete layers up so if you do
judo wear jogging bottoms over your gi pants a hoodie under your gi top and a wooly hat. Now
find a place to lie down and begin…

For the physiological warm up I prefer no music from I pods get comfy close your eyes relax and
perform a method called box breathing where you breath in over a 5 count hold for a 5 count
breath out for a 5 count hold for a 5 count and repeat. 5 minutes of this is plenty.

This is great for slowing down your body and mind. During that period begin the self dialogue
and plan on what you’re going to accomplish during this spar: “I will not be taken down”, “I’m
going to fight from side control”, ” I am not gonna gas out”, all these will mentally build you and
prepare you with a laser focus.

Now we move onto the
General warm up 1: put some motivation music on and choose some type of cardio to perform
for 5 to 10 minutes depending on your fitness level: it could be skipping, running around the
mat, using a rowing machine, stationary bike elliptical machine, shadow boxing…anything you


Now we move onto the dynamic/mobility phase: chose 10 movements from head to toe for 10
reps each don’t go for just anything – go with what your body will give you!
Next we hit the first intensifier to elevate the heart rate, break a sweat out and really get things
moving: you can sprint on the spot for a 5 count and jog lightly for a 5 count for 5 sets, you could
use jumping knees to chest as well: anything that can get you worked up without causing a

General warm up 2: now repeat the first general warm up – you will now feel very loose and
have a better range of movement.

Second intensifier: here we perform a mini-circuit. This could be 20 burpees or 5 rounds of 10
push ups 20 sit ups 20 dorsal raises and 25 squats followed by lunges for example.
Now we remove the extra layers, lose the I pod: you are ready to participate in sparring –
warmed up properly and mentally motivated!

OK I hope you enjoyed the article and remember train hard fight easy !

Wayne Needham

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