Failing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Learning anything worthwhile is going to have its challenges.  That’s good. Challenges are what make us all evolve. Obstacles are a necessary ingredient for success.  If its not somewhat challenging then we quickly become bored. Like playing Tic-Tac-Toe, what’s the point?

With these obstacles and challenges comes failure. We are very familiar with failure in the BJJ community.  Some of us may not like it, but at least its accepted at some level.  I suggest looking at failure as an incentive. An opportunity rather than a set back.  As with a majority of BJJ, the correct mindset makes all the difference.


When a technique “fails” us, there are two main reasons.  The first type of failure is MECHANICAL DEFICIENCY.  This means that you have not drilled and repeated the technique enough to deeply understand the moving parts (ie, the mechanics).  You have neglected your technique due to apathy and laziness, or its just a new technique to your arsenal. Either way that failure is on you.  That’s your deficiency. So, when you recognize this deficiency, you have a clear indicator that you need to practice more.  That’s in your control.  If you are misunderstanding key details, seek out your coaches and pick their brain. Take the opportunity to fix what needs to be fixed. This is what the first part of every class is dedicated to.

However, even when we have a solid mechanical grasp of a technique it can fail.  This brings us to the second type of failure, DEFENDED TECHNIQUES.   Your opponent’s skill can shut down your technique.  Example: Let us say that you have a solid Pendulum sweep. You attempt it on your opponent and he is aware of your intent. He can then “roadblock” or defend your sweep if he has the skill to do so (let us say that he does).  When your opponent defends your Pendulum sweep, is this a failure?  Yes and no.  Remember, failure is an opportunity. In order to defend the sweep he has to give up something in return. Nothing in Jiu Jitsu is free.  If your opponent closes the door on you he has opened a window. You just need to be aware of the open window and seize the opportunity.  The classic example is this:  When your opponent defends a sweep he is susceptible to a submission, and when he defends a submission he is susceptible to a sweep.  This “linking” of techniques permeates the higher levels of Jiu Jitsu.  Awareness is increased with an internal openness. A mindset of non-attachment and fluidity. A mental DISCONNECT if you will.  This is what the second part of every class is dedicated to.

Do you get angry when your technique fails?  This is not good. Fail graciously and see it as an indicator, a cue, and use it as an opportunity for growth.  The first type of failure is a bitter pill to swallow if you are lazy. That’s an easy fix. Stop being lazy and drill.  The second type of failure is a gift! Your skilled opponent has just provided a golden opportunity for your evolution.  So when you are bested by skill, you should smile and be grateful.  Like I said, mindset make all the difference.


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