Being a well-rounded grappler should be the aim of any BJJ practitioner.  The idea of being well-rounded is easy enough to understand and agree with, but the method of achieving it is another matter entirely.  This is where many fall short.

To be “well-rounded” means having at minimum a sufficient competency in ALL aspects of Jiu Jitsu, not just the ones where we naturally veer toward. If we avoid the aspects of BJJ we are uncomfortable or vulnerable with, we lose the opportunities to improve.  We will stagnate in our “comfort-zone” while those who are engaging their fears will flourish.

If growth and improvement of our skills is the goal, and we want to become well-rounded, we need to branch away from our default modes of rolling.  We need to become exposed to those situations and positions which we are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.  We must go fearlessly into uncharted territory to broaden or horizons.  This means we need to accept some risk.  And the dojo is the perfect place to do that. With training partners who have your developmental interests and protection in mind.  The worst that can happen is you  fail. You get swept, submitted or your partner gains positional advantage.  Who cares?  Every so-called “failure” is just another opportunity to learn.   If you attempt a guard pass you don’t normally do (i.e. are uncomfortable with) and get swept, you immediately gain knowledge.  The “failure” is immediately error-correcting!  Being swept is a great price to pay for knowledge.

People who are adverse to taking risks usually don’t see the reward of messing up and also don’t want to look bad (or dumb).  To varying degrees, risk-adverse people are short-sighted and ego driven. This hinders skill development in BJJ.

My recommendation:  Put yourself out there. Try movements and positions you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with.  Expose yourself to every little hidden corner of Jiu Jitsu. Take risks without fear of messing up.  If you hate being mounted, get mounted. If you only like top position and avoid bottom at all cost, start off your back and earn your way to the top.  If you hate standing guard passes, do it anyway.  The reward is worth it.  Stop being so conservative. Remember, risk can trigger flow.  So, broaden your world and take a risk.




The casual observer of Jiu Jitsu will most likely be familiar with what an Armbar is.  However, like everything in Jiu Jistu, there is more to it than meets the eye.  Remember the 3 principles for submissions: Isolate, set-up, apply. The technique is fairly simple in its application, but a lot of students, mainly beginners, struggle with the technique’s set-up.  Like all submissions, if the set-up is off, then the application is choppy, ugly and forced. In a word, incorrect.  The following is a simple explanation to help the beginner better understand the standard armbar.


The armbar is a submission technique designed to attack the elbow joint.  Force is applied to the backside of the elbow making it bend in an unnatural way.  Basically hyper-extending it to the point of dislocation or breaking.


Imagine a stick the length of a human arm with the elbow joint being in the middle.  Since we are looking to attack that point (by applying force) we must first secure the 2 end points.  Without securing the endpoints the middle (elbow) cannot be attacked.  It is an easy concept to grasp, but often students forget to secure one  of the endpoints properly.

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Change for the good

Kaizen is a Japanese term that translates as KAI (change) and ZEN (good). Literally, “To Change for the Good.”  It is a mindset or philosophy usually implemented in business practices, but it also is extremely applicable in personal development.  It is not simply just GET BETTER or DO BETTER.  No, it is a realistic philosophy that empowers personal growth.  When talking of personal development, I mean the quality of one’s character, skills and values.  Kaizen is a personal development tool that may be beneficial to BJJ practitioners who struggle with consistency in their training or who feel they aren’t progressing fast enough.

Baby Steps

Kaizen is just baby steps.  Small, incremental and consistent steps toward a goal.  We just need one tiny accomplishment each day.  That’s it.  Minor little victories.

Most goals we set for ourselves are probably pretty big.  Graduating college, a certain job, a nice house or car, a black belt in BJJ, or whatever.   From where we are at, that end goal can seem far off and the task of attaining it very intimidating. Most people will focus on the end goal, but since it is not immediately attainable, they will usually get frustrated and give up on the whole thing. They take on the enormity of the task and it is overwhelming.   The Kaizen mindset shows us to look closer.  To focus on small, seemingly insignificant steps.  Little victories that can be won on a consistent basis.  These small battles are far less intimidating and are easily won.

For new or prospective students of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kaizen is essential!  The process of gaining proficiency (or mastery!) can take a long time.  To see the skill possessed by upper belts can be impressive.  The goal of achieving that skill is natural and admirable. Its a great goal to aspire to.  However, It takes a hell of a lot of mat time to achieve!  So, the white belt needs to focus on baby steps.  Kaizen.  Starting off by just getting on the mats.  That is more than most people who want to learn Jiu Jitsu will ever do.  The next baby step is learning the warm-ups. Then learning just one detail to one technique, and so on.

Compare where you were yesterday to where you are today. That’s it!  Don’t compare yourself to the Purple, Brown, or Black Belt.  It has taken these folks years to get where they are.  Always focus on your own progress.

But, it MUST be done consistently!  That is a key detail.  Everyday small incremental steps toward improvement.  EVERY DAY.  This is easier and more enjoyable if you love the process more than the goal. Enjoy the daily grind.  We have to be willing to put in the work.


Starting small gets the ball rolling.  When you win a small battle, it gets easier to win the next.  Momentum builds.  As Admiral William H. McRaven explains in his book, Make Your Bed, one small accomplishment begets another.  A small victory can inspire more victories.

This is Kaizen.  Change for the good, little by little.  We must learn to crawl before we can walk.  We must walk before we can run. And so it goes.  Set your mind to small accomplishments that can be accomplished often.

White Belts Don’t Do Flying Armbars

White belts need to build their foundation.  The basic skills, or building blocks, that everything is built upon.  Fundamental movements and concepts must be the focus. Nothing flashy or exotic…Just the meat and potatoes of BJJ.  We are nothing without these.  Apply Kaizen, and get to class on a regular basis.  Set small, achievable goals that can be accomplished.  However, make these small goals challenging enough push you but not too challenging that you get frustrated and quit.