Mastering The Poker Face in Jiu-Jitsu

Mastering The Poker Face in Jiu-Jitsu

From time to time we all get baffled by the sheer will and determination to keep going many competitors exhibit. There was Leandro Lo being kneebarred, Romulo Barral being toe holded, Miyao being leg locked pretty much any way imaginable and yet there was no tap.

But before there’s a submission locked in place there’s the psychological aspect of the fight. To have confidence in your own skill you have to see the impact you have on other people. There’s plenty of ways to estimate your opponent but face is the first and foremost.

Pure unadulturated pain. The tell tale sign that something you’re doing is working. But this also works both ways – bjj is a two sided game so this is of course something you can use to your advantage – a blank face and a bored expression will take you long ways.

So what are some basic steps to developing a poker face?

  • For one you should relax your face. Render sort of a blank dead pan expression.
  • Avoiding eye contact won’t get you far – don’t seek it out but don’t avoid it either.
  • Blink occasionally, don’t stare or throw hate gaze. Just empty. No feedback.
  • Keep your lips together and jaw unclinched.
  • Look ahead.

Alex Ecklin writes:

 One of my favorite fighters of all time, Fedor Emelianenko, holds a quality that I admire greatly. This quality is, in my opinion, very very important for fighting. As well as training.
The quality is the poker face. But that is what we see. What really goes on however, is inside composure. Many thoughts and emotions pass, but they are all channeled and controlled.
In training, if you get swept, if you get submitted, if you get your guard passed, don’t show the emotion on your face. Don’t slap the mat and show your frustration, don’t be visibly upset. Use the frustration to shake hands and sweep back, submit back, or get your guard back. Etc.
If I am rolling or fighting with someone and I see them getting frustrated, my confidence goes higher than ever and I know I got them. If I am hitting them with my best moves and they look like they just woke up from a nap, that’s a real mental battle!
Remember, fighting is not only physical.


Truth be told any little thing that can give you the competitive edge should be utilized. So in competition you need to be perfectly in tune with both your own body and the body of your opponent.