10 Motivational Tips for Non-Competitors in BJJ

10 Motivational Tips for Non-Competitors in BJJ

I was just talking with a teammate who’s in the process of getting ready for the Pans…cleaning up his diet, prioritizing sleep, attending camp, 2-a-days…you can just see the fire getting more intense as the date gets closer. Me? I don’t compete, so watching his life is like a miniature reality show.

I started training specifically to get away from competitive environments. Not saying I never will compete, but medals aren’t what motivate me. Kicking off my 5th year with exactly zero competitions under my belt, I feel just as motivated to train as I ever have, but I know that can be hard. Here are a few tips for us non-competitive folk who want to stay engaged with BJJ as long as possible…

  1. Know why you train: One big reason I train is weightloss. When I stop, I can see a difference in my body in a week. Same with when I start training again-one week of 3-4 classes and I feel (and look) better.You may train for mental challenge, self-defense or even just to be around people you like. Focusing on those benefits is a good way to continuously “remember” what gets you in the gym every day.
  2. Support people who do train: This might just be a few extra classes as a drilling partner to help a teammate prep for NAGA or it might mean upping your intensity level when they ask for it. Either way, being a part of someone else’s competition process can help keep your own drive fresh.
  3. Watch the pros: Get on YouTube and watch new matches, classic matches, any ones you can find. You’re an educated spectator and unlike watching most other sports, you know what the fight feels like personally. Pros can also be great motivation and education for understanding yourself as a practitioner.
  4. Blog: Not everybody’s into writing, but this is a great way to get out of your local spaces and connect with the larger BJJ community. By my estimation, BJJ has the best blogosphere the Internet’s ever seen and just getting out there and interacting can get you through countless slumps.(Not to mention that it’s pretty cool to look back and see your own growth across time.)
  5. Get involved: BJJ has a lot of great charities (like Tap Cancer Out who just donated $60K to the Lukemia and Lymphoma society) and events (grapplethons and the like) where you can find ways to let your training touch the rest of the world. You can even learn to run your own.
  6. Attend Events: Open mats and seminars are always great ways to meet other people who train, along with exposing yourself to other grapplers…something you might not get much of if you’ve spent years training with the same, small group of people.
  7. Consume Media: From videos to podcasts to books, BJJ has some great artists who can fulfill your entertainment desires.
  8. Visit gymsWhether it’s traveling for work, on vacation or just training at a friend’s academy, visiting other gyms occasionally (very different than training at multiple gyms) can be a good way to keep your relationship with BJJ fresh.
  9. Switch things up: I train almost exclusively in the gi, but I’ve seen many people who, when they start getting bored or burnt out, switch from gi to no-gi or vice versa. Others will take breaks and focus on Judo. Personally I’ve occasionally cut back on actual training and focused on technique classes or agility sessions. It all makes for better BJJ, so it’s all good.
  10. Watch instructionals: YouTube rules all, but there’s just something more substantial about working your way through a curated DVD or book. Improvement aside, focusing on just one aspect of what you’re doing is a good way to direct your training if you ever feel off track.

Full contact competition is a foundational pillar of BJJ that I hope never goes away, but there is also much value to be found in the simple, day-to-day practice of the art. What’s kept you going outside of competition?


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  1. Jiu Jiu
    January 31, 2014 at 1:29 am

    Lots of mine has to do with the blogging community. I also find that the social connection between me and my teammates helps keep me going. And I LOVE visiting new gyms. I think that visiting new gyms is one of the things that most keeps me on my toes.

    At my current gym, I can roll with all experienced folks, I know their style, I can anticipate, etc. At new gyms, I realize how easy people have been taking it on me – people going much more aggressively, people smashing me harder, etc. I’m not saying that that experience is better, or that I enjoy it, but it makes me realize how much more I have to learn.

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