14 Biggest Mistakes in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

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If you’re hoping to learn BJJ in a way that you’ll be able to execute things flawlessly, you’re fooling yourself big time. Every single thing you do in Jiu-Jitsu is not going to be perfect – there will be mistakes, no matter how small and tiny. The pursuit of the flawless BJJ technique is a futile effort, but one that is very fun nonetheless. That said, you will be making mistakes in BJJ, some big and some small. Some will cost you, others will go by unnoticed. The one thing you can control is avoiding the biggest BJJ mistakes that really do interfere with your progress. 

As I like to say to new students in my academy, there’s no right and wrong in BJJ, There’s just the easy way, the hard way, and the dumb way. The easy and hard ways of doing things are pretty self-explanatory, and it is often the dumb way that needs further elaboration. Put simply, whenever you make a mistake in BJJ and give your partner/opponent a gift, that’s when you’ve done a dumb thing. however, there’s a catch – the biggest BJJ mistakes are not only of a technical nature.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: A Game Of Mistakes

biggest BJJ mistakes trainingIn the game of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, every exchange that’s a part of a roll or a match comes down to one thing – who makes fewer mistakes. If your opponent makes one mistake more than you, and you capitalize on it, you’ll end up winning, or at least in a better position. That said, not capitalizing on someone’s mistake is, in itself, a mistake. You get where this is going.

BJJ is a game of mistakes. Executing something perfectly simply means the other person made a mistake in executing the counter or defense to that particular move. In other words, they did not do it perfectly. During most exchanges, it comes down to exploiting our opponent’s mistakes. However, in the higher levels of the sport, it is more about learning how to force the opponent to make mistakes, rather than waiting for them to do it.

The keynote here is that you shouldn’t hope that an opponent will make mistakes, especially at the highest levels. It is not like they won’t make any mistakes, or that they avoid the biggest BJJ mistakes successfully. It is just that you’ll have to make people do them, instead of hoping to capitalize on their ignorance and the dumb way.

Finally, you’ll need to be aware of what you’re doing every time you roll or complete. That’s fairly easy, as long as you can keep your composure. first, avoid doing the biggest BJJ mistakes, and then, weed out any smaller ones you recognize. Or, in simple terms, do one less mistake than your opponent.

The 14 Biggest BJJ Mistakes Holding You Back

While the selection below might not be the ultimate list of the biggest BJJ mistakes, these are all certainly things you’ll want to avoid. As you will notice,. these aren’t just mistakes of technical nature. There are also tactical, hygienic, and even mental errors among them, which you should be able to recognize and avoid if you want to progress in Jiu-Jitsu.

Straight Arms

If there is one thing you don’t need in BJJ it is straightening your arms. Better said, you do not want to have your elbows leave your body whenever that is possible. Granted, at certain points, framing with a straight elbow (stiff arm) makes sense, but you’ll have to be very careful about timing t right. As a general rule though, no grip is worth holding on to, after your elbow is straight and away from your body. Try focusing on this for awhile and you’ll learn why I placed it at the top of our 14 biggest BJJ mistakes list.

Breaking Alignment 

Another conceptual mistake many people make is using their body out of alignment. If you try and use different parts of your body on their own, you’ll have a hard time dealing with stronger or more athletic opponents. If, on the other hand, you use your entire body as a whole, you’ll be able to defend almost everything and make most attacks work.

From top positions, this alignment is often referred to as posture, but what’s important to know is that the same principles apply when you’re on the ground. It would e a massive mistake to compromise body alignment regardless of where the match is taking place.

Tensing Up

biggest BJJ mistakesThis is one of the biggest BJJ mistakes people make throughout all belt levels. It is a natural response of our bodies to tense up when something unexpected happens, i.e .spomeone starts bucking suddenly from the bottom mount. However, we’re only doing a disservice to ourselves by becoming tense.

A relaxed body is much heavier than a tense one. Conversely, it is much harder to move someone who is relaxed, be it top or bottom positions. The key here is simple – relax your jaw, and your body will follow. And, there’s a simple formula for relaxing the jaw – smile!

Going 100%

This is along the lines of tensing up and has to do mostly with training. It is a huge mistake to treat every roll like itis the finals of the Worlds and go all out. In fact, it is one of the absolute biggest BJJ mistakes to think you should go 100% in competition as well. While the intensity should be higher, you should always aim to have something left in the tank and force the other person to make mistakes.

If you want to be able to remember what you did wrong in rolls you’ll need to literally slow them down. Along with understanding, progress inevitably follows.

Coming In Sick

IF this was a mistake before, in today”s day and age it is definitely one of the biggest BJJ mistakes that should be punishable by law. In fact, in most places it probably is. Coming in with a cold is just a huge no-no and has always been one. That said, all health-related issues you might have, that would keep you from doing anything else, should also keep you off the mats. Just stay at home with a cold, a runny nose, a funky itch and rash, and other similar health issues.

Not Diversifying Your Game

One of the biggest BJJ mistakes blue and p[purple belts do, along with competitors of all levels is not introducing diversity to their game. Okay, you’ll figure out how to become a nuisance with back takes, chokes and Omoplatas, for example. But what’s next? A few years from now,w you’re still doing the same things, but now they don’t even work against white belts, let alone others. Even more importantly, they don’t work nearly as well in competitions either.

Simply put, for progress, you’ll have to open up your game. Experiment, do new things, fail at them, suffer, and learn from your mistakes.

Training Injured (Stubbornly)

Probably the most obvious thing on our list, and yet, a mistake that we all willingly and consciously do. Fooling ourselves about being fine and forcing training when we’re not recovered yet from an injury is one of the dumbest things that we can do as athletes. And yet, everyone does it, me included. There’s no way around the fact that every injury takes time and attention to heel, and there should be absolutely no BJJ during that period.

Not Listening To Your Instructors 

HUgely important, once again obvious, and yet, one of the biggest BJJ mistakes people keep on repeating. From experience, these are mostly purple belts that think they’ve got everything they need from Jiu-Jitsu. Sadly, that’s not the case. There’s a reason why someone is your instructor – they are there to help show you the easy way of doing things. Listen to them, even if something doesn’t really make sense at the moment. Further down the road, it would be better to say “now I see it” and know it, rather than “now I see it” and having to start to learn it.

Inconsistent Training

This one is dependent on your goals. If you’re coming into training just for recreation and to blow off steam then you can use whatever schedule fits you. If you want to be a competitor, or simply learn Jiu-JItsu as much as you can, then you can’t be inconsistent about training. Every academy worth its while has a curriculum. That means that every time you come to train, instructors connect stuff from previous classes and introduce stuff for future ones. Skipping classes randomly will leave you with huge gaps in your knowledge which will definitely affect your progress and goals.

Not Tapping

Duh! Still, to this day, I am amazed at the stubbornness of people that have been in the game for long and refuse to tap on time. Why would you risk an injury? Ego is the hardest person to submit, I know, but you’ll have to figure out a way to accept that you’ll tap, and do it on time, if you don’t want to commit one of the biggest BJJ mistakes over and over again.


Guilty of his one lately myself, training too much will have the same results as inconsistently training. There is only so much information that the mind can process and so much work the body can do. they both need rest and nurturing, and they need it on a daily basis. If you enter burnout, nothing you do will work, you’ll be unable to learn new things and you’ll start giving things away left and right, becoming a mistake machine yourself.

Flat On Your Back 

UNless you’re resting in between rounds, there’s absolutely no reason for you to ever be flat with your back on the ground. Whether you’re in the bottom of side control, or playing guard, at least none of your shoulders, and preferably your shoulder blade with it should be off the ground. Give this one a try and you won’t believe the impact it will have on your BJJ game.

Focusing On Belts

biggest BJJ mistakes belt huntingAs far as a mentality for training BJJ goes, you can have a whole host of individual goals and nobody can call them wrong. Except for one. Working only with the intention of getting the next belt means you’re not doing Jiu-Jitsu, but rather belt hunting. The trick is, the more you’re after a belt, the further away it is going to be. If you want to have a worry-free BJJ journey, stop focusing on the belts and avoid one of the biggest BJJ mistakes ever as early as p[possible.

Asking “How Did I Do?”

Along the lines of belt hunting, just way more annoying for everyone around you that you aks. It is okay to look for progress on daily basis, in everything you do, but it should be you that recognizes it, leans from it, and grow it. there’s no point in asking others how you did, especially if they have the right mindset and focus more on how they did, rather than you. LEt go of what others think and enjoy the journey.

Final Words

Learn to love mistakes. They will help you identify where you need to improve and even help you figure out how to improve. Since you’ll constantly make them, you should learn how to make the most out of them. That said, however, the 14 biggest BJJ mistakes above are ones that you should be avoided at all costs. There’s a reason why we laid them out for you – they’ll only hold you back. get them out of the way and keep learning from the small mistakes you’ll inevitably keep on making while you’re grappling.

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