6 things to do when you can’t train BJJ

April 2020: If you’re looking for more ideas on what to do when you can’t train BJJ normally, I recommend visiting the posts in my Training without a gym series. An overview of this series can be found at this post: Training without a gym: Introduction and contents


We all get pulled away from the mats at some point, sometimes through things like injury or sickness, other times by that all-too-demanding thing called life.  While it can be beneficial to take some time off every now and then, being forced not to train can be  aggravating.

For example, I fell seriously ill late last month and the whole ordeal has knocked off more than 3 weeks of training – and I have a competition scheduled next week.  As my energy started to come back, it was a real fight to keep myself from jumping prematurely into training and triggering a relapse.  I actually went to class earlier last week, but the next day I was hampered with lethargy and a runny nose – the equivalent of my body issuing a red flag warning.

Forced rest is boring at best, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve settled on 6 things to do when you can’t get on the mats – and I am willing to bet that you aren’t doing the last one.

#6 Rest

Yes, it sucks but it’s what your body is begging for you to do.  Exercising prematurely can and will make you more sick because you’re not allowing your body to focus on getting better. So sleep more than you usually do, eat as healthy as you can, and try some other things on this list.

#5 Go to class

I know, it seems like a contradiction.  But if you are able to go to class and watch without draining yourself (or infecting your teammates!), by all means, sit in on a class. You’ll be surprised what the change of perspective can bring; you can learn a lot by just watching people spar.

#4 Drill on your own

If you can’t go to class but are feeling well enough to do some BJJ exercises, take the time to make friends with a grappling dummy or learn some solo drills. It may not be as good as having a live partner, but drilling on your own can help refresh your muscle memory and ease your body back into BJJ mode.

#3 Light unrelated exercise

If you can’t do #4, you can always turn to bodyweight exercises or some other hobby.  And something as simple as a walk outside can be just the thing you need if you’ve been cooped up for a while.

#2 Study

The beauty of this “age” of BJJ is that there is a plethora of information out there: books, blogs, Youtube videos (I swear I’ve watched BJJ Scout’s videos at least a dozen times each).  Even if you can’t actively drill the techniques, just being exposed to new techniques and concepts can help you pick things up when you finally get back on the mats.

#1 Meditation and visualization

Going a step further from #2, meditation and visualization can help you critically assess your current game, skills, and knowledge.  You can even do mental sparring sessions, which I’ve outlined in the next post.

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