Meditation and visualization in BJJ

Meditating in nature

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Berimbolo for your brain

My father used to quote Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” to me when I was young and I find myself going back to that text whenever I’m facing difficulty.  Though BJJ is called “the gentle art,” more often than not BJJ feels like a war and I can’t think of a more apt text than “The Art of War.”

In particular, I turn towards the section where Sun Tzu summarizes with the saying, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” I’ve found meditation and visualization to be the best tools to apply this concept to BJJ.

Know yourself: Meditate

Meditation has a ton of benefits for BJJ players and non-BJJ players alike. One of the biggest benefits is being able to understand your self, your body, and your game.  It’s a time where you can critically assess yourself, from your body’s capabilities, to how you’ve been employing techniques. A great place to start is by asking yourself these 10 questions from Inner BJJ.

During this assessment, it’s a great time to review techniques. While meditating, you can go over techniques with as much detail as you can, paying particular attention to how you can adapt the technique to your body.  By focusing on details, it will also help you create goals based on improving technique, not just being able to submit someone.

Lastly, review previous rolls you have had with teammates or in competition and try to understand why there was success or failure. For me, I’ve become aware that there have been many times where it wasn’t my partner’s larger size that caused me to fail, but my own lack of technique and initiative.

Know your enemy: Visualize

Here’s where things get interesting.  Though you can’t necessarily know your “enemy” completely, visualization can help you to understand patterns in people’s reactions and outcomes of certain movements.

It’s easiest to begin by first visualizing sparring against yourself.  Start small: Visualize grabbing your mirror’s lapel.  How do you usually react?  In your mind, explore different actions and reactions (if you grab the lapel and pull, what happens?), then explore the possibilities of each new situation, like submissions or sweeps. It’s a great mental exercise to combine with technique review as well.

Then if you really want a mental workout, start with a successful submission and work backwards. We’re all told to master one technique, so starting from that technique, try to figure out how to get there, keeping in mind the psychology involved. For instance, if you want to go for an armbar, you have to bait something else first.

Add meditation and visualization to your toolbox and you’ll start to recognize patterns and moments of opportunity much quicker and make your BJJ game even more interesting!

6 things to do when you can’t train BJJ

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. Continue reading