Inside The BJJ Mindset: The 6 Biggest Secrets of The Best Students

They say an empty can rings the loudest. Perhaps we can also say that the most obnoxious person in the room is the weakest. BJJ isn’t called the “gentle art” for having the most aggressive and intimidating students. The ones who can overpower you in 2 seconds aren’t the biggest ones, either. Instead, it’s the ones that have the BJJ mindset.
It’s the ones who you wouldn’t expect it from when you walk into the gym. The ones you roll with and smile and shake your hand, regardless of who wins—the ones who seem to have learned enough but are willing to learn from you.
The first step in achieving a BJJ mindset is assuming the beginner’s role. It doesn’t matter what belt level you are. Think about what more you can learn. Even black belts can learn something from a newbie.
Let’s break down a few things you learn in training that will be helpful not only in the gym, but in your life outside of it.
  • 1 Muscle is not everything

    Even if this guy pulled and pulled, he wouldn’t be able to get that armbar if the position is all wrong.

    It may surprise you to know that the most competent BJJ student in the gym isn’t who you’d expect. Physical strength is definitely an edge against an opponent in any combat sport.

    However, the biggest mistake a lot of beginners in BJJ can make is to rely on sheer muscle and force. Take it as a fair warning – your forceful efforts may just make you end up in worse positions.

    Having the BJJ mindset takes religious training in proper techniques. What’s even more important than force is applying it correctly. That requires something that even our black belts still do: practice, practice, practice.

    So, before you add another arm day this week because it might help your BJJ, consider polishing up your guard passes instead.

  • 2 Watch out for the smaller guy

    two guys wearing white bjj gi tangle up in a rollSo, now you’re aware of the skills you should focus on. Next, let’s point fingers at the person at the gym you’ll find to be most challenging in a fight. That person is none other than… well, anyone.

    That scrawny guy who doesn’t look like he can tear a piece of paper may be able to tap you out in under a minute. That shy girl at the back who looks nowhere near threatening can have the most vigorous application of the rear-naked choke. It’s unrealistic to paint a picture of what the ideal BJJ practitioner looks like – because there isn’t.

    Anybody can manifest a BJJ mindset regardless of age, physical fitness and size – you name it. It’s important to treat everyone in the gym with equal respect. Your purpose should not be for weeding out the threats. Instead, it should be to connect and make new friends.

    A competent practitioner is never quick to judge who the potential underdog is. You might find yourself face-to-face with the alpha themselves… and immediately regret it.

  • 3 Respect is key

    a bjj class with students lined up and bowing towards the teacher

    Respect everyone you meet, regardless of how big or small they may be. And, by big or small – we’re not just talking about sizes here.

    Very few sports teach you to be humble and respectful such as BJJ. You’ll find that social classes don’t exist in a BJJ gym. That means you’ll find people from all walks of life who learn with and from each other.

    Who they are and what they do outside the gym do not define their respective skill or belt level. You have to remember that there’s always something you can learn from another student. At the same time, there’s the knowledge you can impart to others, regardless of how much skill you’ve acquired.

  • 4 Stray shots happen

    Although there is no striking in BJJ, at times, there are stray shots that can cause injury. (Or at the very least, pain.) This can be annoying – and, well, painful – but most of the time, it’s not on purpose.

    It’s natural for some accidents to happen in any contact sport, and BJJ is no exception. So be extra careful with yourself, especially your privates (hello, gentlemen). Be careful with your sparring partner too. You want to make friends, not enemies right?

  • 5 Winning is not the point of sparring

    Sparring is an excellent opportunity to learn and experiment as a team. Your training partner has your best interests at heart and supports your growth, and you do the same for them. That is why you enjoy rolling with them. But would you feel the same way if your partner is proud and arrogant whenever they win against you?

    Bet you won’t. Nobody would feel very enthused about supporting someone who won’t reciprocate.

    Successfully tapping your partner out in rolling is truly an accomplishment. By all means, be proud of yourself! Be careful to take your desire to win to extremes, though. Again, humility is at the centre of the BJJ mindset.

    On the mat, that means being a good sport. It also means being willing to learn more, no matter how skilled you believe you are. A competent BJJ practitioner knows better than settling and thinking there’s no room for improvement.

    So, double-check yourself before you give in to the urge to gloat over your partner. You don’t want to find that none other than yourself is happy for you. And when it’s their turn to win, cheer for them! It’s a small gesture that shows sportsmanship and respect, and to most beginners, that slight morale boost is all they need to be confident.

    How would you find out if you finally have the BJJ mindset in you? Ask yourself: do my wins and losses bring out the best or the worst in me?
  • 6 Its a long and winding road

    Bellyaching your way through training isn’t going to make you learn the skills or go up a belt any faster. It won’t help you win against your opponent either.

    Patience is a virtue that BJJ teaches you to observe and live by, regardless of your rank. Frankly, at some point, we’ve all felt antsy doing the same drills over and over again – and that’s completely normal. What matters is no matter what you feel, never forget to trust in the process and, of course, yourself. Slow progress is still progress; you’ll get there.

  • Final thoughts

    You’ve learned that being the best at BJJ takes more than power and wit. While those things help, the BJJ mindset – that is, your spirit and respect make you the best you can be, inside and out, and within and outside the gym.

    So go out there and kick some ass – as gently as you can.