Preparing for a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition is a grueling task that requires a lot of hard work. Depending on where you are training at, you might or might not have access to specialized competition preparation classes. Most of the biggest BJJ gyms out there have big competition teams, and henceforth, have special classes to get everyone in fighting shape. Organizing classes like the best BJJ teams out there, or at least parts of classes, is something everyone can do. With that in mind, let’s take a look at how the best in the world prepare their grapplers for tournaments.
If you’ve ever tried a competition prep class, you probably know what you’re in for. These are, or shouldn’t just be hard rolling classes. Open mats are perfect for that. Competition preparation has to be highly organized and structured, containing plenty of different training modalities. That said, each of the best BJJ teams out there has their own training philosophy and methodology IT is undeniable that all of their methods work, as these are the teams that end up producing the most world champion athletes yeara by year. What can we learn from their competition preparation classes?
BJJ Competition Training
BJJ tournaments are unlike competing in pretty much anything else. Of course, I’m going to be focusing on IBJJF/ UAEJJF style tournaments, as those are still the most prestigious and visited ones out there. When it comes to modified reules tournaments and submission only, the training might change according to the ruleset and requirements. But that is as a subject for a different day.
In a BJJ tournament, the hardest thing to prepare for is intensity. Since Jiu-Jitsu competitions are organized in a tournament style, you’re bound to have at least several matches before reaching the finals. That translates to several different opponents that will most likely work with different styles and at different paces. This makes specific preparation for a BJJ tournament extremely hard, as there’s no way to predict the intensity, duration and scrambles each round will bring that means you have to prepare for the hardest possible outcome, both technically and physically, Then, there’s the mental aspect of it all where you have to push through even when things seem bleak because, in Jiu-Jitsu, you can easily end up winning a match you’re losing by a big margin of points.
The best BJJ teams in the world clearly have things down to a science to help their athletes prepare for the biggest tournaments out there. Of course, there’s strength and conditioning that most athletes do outside of the BJJ Academy anyway. However, when it comes to technical, tactical and overall competition preparation, special classes are organized to get everyone in the best shape possible for Brazilian JIu-JItsu tournaments. And, for all of us mortals out there, there’s a lot of takeaways form how the best of the est organize their competition training.
How the Best BJJ Teams Organize their Competition Training
Before you go off commenting that your major team affiliation has not been mentioned among the best BJJ teams, hold your horses. The teams outlined below are those that have had impeccable records for decades in the sport of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They’re also still the leading grappling teams in the world, producing world champions of all belt levels and ages. Of course, there are a few missing, but the point here is not to include every major BJJ team and their preparation, but only the very best. In that regard, we will take a look at the training methods of 6 different teams that have been at each other’s throats in the quest of becoming the best BJJ competition team out there. So far, they’ve had to settle for sharing the honors, though.
Among the best BJJ teams, we’ll be looking at today is the Alliance team. It is led by Romero Calvacanti and the Gurgel brothers. Also featuring in this list is the inevitable Gracie Barra, the largest BJJ affiliation out there, which has Carlos Gracie Jr. at its helm. One of the strongest competition teams to ever perform at the biggest stages of Jiu-Jitsu is Atos. The team is led by Andre Galvao with the help of the Mendes brothers and their Academy Of Jiu-Jitsu brand. Checkmate and GFTeam’s training methods are also something worth looking at. Finally, we’ll round things off with one of the most intriguing competition teams in modern JIu-Jitsu – the Danaher Death Squad.
Alliance Team Training
Alliance area a team that adopts the “take no prisoners” approach. Their competition preparation starts hard and fast from the very first moment. They tend to have really long and grueling warm-ups, consisting of lots of solo movement drills. Forward rolls, Granby, hip escapes and similar drills go on and on until everyone is drenched in sweat.
Only then does the real competition training start in one of the best BJJ teams out there. Given the style of their most famous athletes, like Michael Langhi, Gurgel, Gianni Grippo, Isaque Bahiense and others, passing has a huge role to play in their training. In that sense, at least 30 minutes of passing drills that switch between technical and high-intensity drilling mark most of Alliance’s competition preparation classes. Of course, such types of drills help the bottom grapplers develop insane defensive guards as well.
Another mark of high-level Alliance team competition training is sparring. When they spar, Alliance team members go for highly technical and extremely high paced sparring sessions. Ther is a lot of focus on technique for two main reasons – one is that it improves performance, and the second is that it keeps their top competitors safe from injuries while training. The cleaner the technique is, the more pace competitors can apply, thus producing some real grappling machines in their dens.
Gracie Barra is often seen as more of a for show affiliation. Howevwer, that is because most of their competition training takes place behind closed doors. The Gracie Barra competition teams take tournaments so seriously, that they often organize specialized training camps for major competitions. That way, most of their top competitors from different academies end up training together for days in a very organized and specific manner.
A huge part of Gracie Barra’s competition training are drills. However, they don’t just do any drills but have specialized drill classes in place. One example is stand up drilling, where competitors do ost of repetitive takedown/guard pulling drills. However, they also like to use scenarios as well, where the bottom person continues to work going for counters once a takedown is complete. Speaking of scenarios, common Graci Barra drill sequences include playing guard but training only retention with no sweeps or submissions allowed. The top person has 2 minutes to pass the guard, before witching roles.
Finally, a huge reason why Gracie Barra is one of the best BJJ teams out there is that they have a hugely successful training program for kids, producing some of the world’s best young competitors. Once again lots of drilling and specific BJJ games make up most of the kids’ competition classes in Gracie Barra gyms. Some fo the most notable athletes to represent GB are Edwin Najmi, Felipe Pena, Gabriel Arges and many more.
Atos Team Competition Training
In the world of modern Jiu-Jitsu, there’s hardly a competitor that doesn’t recognize the name Atos. Both their male and female competitors are crème of the crop, coming in at all belt levels and all ages. From child prodigies like the Ruotolo brothers to legends of the sport like the Mendes brothers and team leader Andre Galvao, Atos is areal en of high-level grapplers.
The Atos team competition classes include lots of highly focused sparring that goes on for hours. The team prides itself on crazy levels of conditioning, and a lot of that comes from going literally all out in sparring. Whatever rare footage emerges from team Atos sparring sessions always shows the same thing – rolling intensity second to none of the other best BJJ teams.
Something that clearly puts Atos in a category of its own is their cerebral approach to tournament preparation. Apart from the physically excruciating training sessions, they go over lots of so-called tournament scenarios too. They go over lots of tapes and look at just about any scenario they can. Thus, their competitors never end up surprised during actual matches. In that regard, they do a lot of positional and situation training as well, looking to become comfortable in just about any given situation.
One more huge thing to take away from Atos competition training si the ending of specific classes. Every competition preparation class ends with Andre Galvao doing a Q&A session for everyone present. This helps clear up the stuff that might confuse the competitors. That way, when action time comes, their goals and tasks are clearly set.
The Danaher Death Squad
There’s not much that’s known about specific preparation down in Renzo’s blue basement, even though classes are usually open to visitors. Danaher likes to teach his own systems. Moreover, he uses methods that favor taking people to a very high level of BJJ in a very short amount of time. Suffice to say, this approach is revolutionary and has yielded some of the best competitors of our time, like Gordon Ryan, Gary Tonon and Nicky Rodriguez.
The way competition training is organized for the Danaher Death Squad is by working on their niche systems primarily. This includes lots of submission hunting training. The focus is on connecting all the Danaher systems together so they work as an endless loop that opponents can’t escape.
Specific rounds organized in a very original manner follow suit. What the Danaher Death squad has identified as being the positions that require most training are the mount, closed guard and turtle. Statistically speaking, most matches spend a lot of time with competitors entangled in one or all of these positions. To that extent, specific training includes the top person looking to submit when in mount or turtle. At the same time, the bottom one is looking to escape to the closed guard. This creates awareness and helps immensely with timing and working off of scrambles defensively, Not to mention crisping up submission skills and passing skills, in the sense of the closed guard.
Finally, something “stolen” from wrestling are so-called scrimmage rounds. This is when team members go deep in a position, for example, a single leg takedown. The point is for one person to finish from a deep position, while the other needs to look to escape. Scriammge rounds are Danaher’s favorite way of training takedowns. Sometimes, he takes these rounds up to 20 minutes of time with no ret. The same concept can easily be applied to submissions as well. This helps perfect finishing or escaping from submissions that are sunk in deep already.
When you think of tough as nails competitors in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you’re probably thinking of the Checkmate guys and girls. With members like Buchecha, Jackson Sousa and Marina Ribeiro to name just a few, it is clear why this team brings about such an impression. The man behind the team, Ricardi Vieira is also a huge part of the team’s distinctive competition style.
Vieira is a real beast and a big fan of conceptual Jiu-Jitsu. As attractive as this way of learning is, not many people have achieved great competitive results by basing their competition training on concepts. Checkmate training sessions include a lot of movement and tactics training. In fact, there’s notoriously little technical training in Checkmate competition classes, compared to specific movement and situation training.
The philosophy of Checkmate is based on three principles: control, distance, and opportunity. All three are staples of the Checkmate competition training classes. Their athletes usually work form a host of set positions without any rest for up to two hours. Classes also contain a bunch of tactical drills that help improve everyone’s timing and anticipation. Finally, the mindset of Checkmate competitors is what places them among the Bes BJJ teams out there. Their approach includes winning every scramble they find themselves in, and primarily, giving away absolutely minimum points to their opponents.
Julio Cesar Pereira is the man behind one of the best BJJ teams out there that favors a more traditional style of grappling. In a world of lots of lapel stuff and 50/50 guard GFTeam are still true to the fundamentals that made BJJ popular in the first place. For example, they have a squad of closed guard players that are absolutely the best in the world. The philosophy of this team is having solid fundamentals and exerting lots and lots of pressure. A real old-school game, but one played to perfection thanks to some highly specific competition preparation.
GFteam’s competition preparation includes lots of training sessions within one day. The usual number is up to three specialized training sessions in a day. IN each of those, there are only 3 or 4 positions that competitors work on. They tend to work technically, without too much drilling, looking to improve the finer nuances instead of intensity.
The reason for such a technical approach to competition training is the extremely grueling sparring sessions. In the GFTeam classes, 10 rolls that last at least 6 minutes each are the mandatory minimum for competitors. IN most cases, the preferred number of rolls is 20, translating to two hours of extremely hard rolling. This BJJ team prides itself at having sparring at the core of their competition preparation.
As you can see, competition training differs from team to team. Often times, methods can change according to tournament demands. However, the best BJJ teams out there usually have asset patterns they tend to follow. Throughout the years, they’ve been perfecting their methods, as is clearly proven times and time again by their top competitors. Luckily, most of these methods are not kept secret. That means we can all benefit from incorporating all of them, or parts of them in our own competition training.