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How to train away from the gym

“I can’t make it to class, how can I improve my jiu jitsu?”


Let’s face it, if you’re trying to get better at something, especially jiu jitsu, the best thing to do to make that happen is to actually do it. There’s literally no better substitute for time on the tatami. You’ve heard it over and over again, “the mats don’t lie”… and it’s true. However, let’s be realistic. Unless you’ve given up everything in order to perfect your art, including your job and you’re family, you’re going to find yourself in a situation where it isn’t possible to get on a mat and train. So then, what can we do that will help supplement our game? While there are many competing theories on what helps jiu jitsu, I’ll cover a few things that I use to help myself for the time I get back to the mat.

            Muscular Strength

Maybe you’re on a business trip… maybe the weather’s bad and you can’t drive to class, or maybe you live really far away from your school. There are a lot of reasons that it’s not possible to make it to class on any given day. I’ll reiterate, there’s no substitute for mat time, however, I find that being strong definitely helps in grappling. Sure, jiu jitsu is meant to defeat the stronger opponent. What if, when comparing your self to another practitioner, all of the variables are the same except strength? I think you know where I’m going with this. It isn’t a sin to use strength to your advantage along with your technique. Personally, I use a 5 X 5 routine to develop overall strength and power, but you can choose the strength routine that you find works best for you. This routine can be anything from a HIIT program, Crossfit, or any number of split routines that you’d like. Rest assured, your competition is doing the same.

I would recommend picking up Travis Stotezells program here and using this regularly

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            Cardio Endurance

Jiu jitsu is hard. It’s extremely tiring. The only reason I wasn’t huffing and puffing on my first day of class was because I’d been a wrestler in high school. Jiu jitsu is a very different kind of tiring. Many athletes, who are well trained and have excellent endurance otherwise, are not able to transition the same kind of ability when on the mat. I may sound like a broken record but I don’t care… THERE’S NO SUBSTITUTE FOR MAT TIME. That being said, conditioning yourself and increasing your cardio ability will help. I’ve always been a runner and a swimmer, so those are the two things I use the most to help my jiu jitsu. I use running because it elevates my heart rate very high, especially when I do sprint workouts – which I highly recommend. I use swimming because it helps increase your lung capacity and teaches you to remain calm when breathing is difficult. I would highly recommend these two things if you’re not able to make it to class or just want something else to do to supplement your jiu jitsu.


If you’ve spent time studying jiu jitsu, you’ve probably wondered how the heck some of the pros move the way they do. Jiu jitsu can get you moving or forcefully moved in ways you’ve never thought. Flexibility can seriously aid your game and help to prevent injuries. As of late, I’ve incorporated simple Yoga routines into my everyday life to help increase my body’s ability to be flexible. Many experienced Yogis have lauded the many benefits of Yoga like: increased power, increased muscle function, mental toughness, control, and my favorite, active recovery and muscular repair. Don’t believe Yoga helps athletes? Ask the 2014 super bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, as they’ve also reaped the benefits of Yoga.

Bottom line

Jiu jitsu is hard. Nothing replaces real training but there are a lot of things that will help your jiu jitsu. Timing, speed, cardio endurance, strength, power, and quick thinking can be added to your technique to help ensure the success of what you’re trying to do. But like Kurt Osiander says…. Go Train