Win the War not the Battle – Longterm goals over short term gains in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu the results of training are hard won and happen over time not immediately, so people used to the modern culture of easy, effort free, instant gratification easily lose interest. BJJ is hard work and requires demanding training before progress can actually be made. This is one of the reason’s behind the high turnover rate in the sport, I’ve lost count of the number of people who have come and gone from the classes I have attended over the years. Probably enticed by watching MMA and deciding they want the ability they see displayed by the fighters then quickly give up when they are not immediately beating everyone in sight.

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Obviously the image was more appealing than the reality of acquiring it. Nothing worthwhile is gained in the short term. Most things of worth are acquired over the long term and require repetition and constant reapplication. This requires time, effort and dedication. Because of this process the improvement in BJJ is so gradual that it is hard to notice you are getting better until one day it occurs to you how far you have come and how instead of spending every session stuck under side control now you are doing your fair share of the pinning on others.

Because of the way this works its good practice to not focus too much on the outcome of any one roll, day on the mats, week of practice or month of training even, if we focus on having to win every roll in order to protect our own ego and maintain our image within the gym hierarchy, we miss the bigger picture of potential improvement that lies in the future. Holding back from going against a partner you know will dominate you, sitting out a round because your exhausted and know theres a chance the next guy might beat you, and then what if your instructor see’s any of this. We worry it will lower his opinion of us and we will look bad.

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Concentrate on the long term development of skills rather than obsessing about beating your training partners.

As an instructor of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu myself I can tell you that it means nothing to me when I see a student tap, be trapped in a pin or lose the roll to someone who’s been training less time. The fact that they are training consistently is good enough for me and its all a necessary part of the training process. I’ve seen it and experienced it myself so many times in BJJ that it is inconsequential, meaningless even in the grand scheme of things. Think about it this way in years to come will you even remember 90% of the rolls you had in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, probably not. But your mind will remember the muscle memory you gained from these experiences. So win or lose doesn’t really matter as the improvements don’t happen today, they happen further down the line in accumulation as long as we stay consistent in testing and refining our techniques under pressure.


A good way to see improvements in BJJ or any martial arts is to have small individual goals to work towrds within the grand scheme of things. This could be working on gaining the ability to pull off a certain sweep in rolling or becoming really effective at escaping a position you always have trouble with. Having individual smaller focused goals that are more development focused and part of the overall larger picture of becoming better, allow us to see and feel our progress on a more frequent basis by way of it being broken into smaller pieces and therefore serves as a great inspiration boost to keep training, not to mention making us improve faster overall by focussing on whats important. For example rather than beating yourself up because you didn’t beat X amount of people today or someone tapped you, you can be pleased because you pulled of an armbar you’ve never done before, or were able to sweep someone from butterfly guard or even last 30 seconds longer than last time against a difficult opponent.


Lots of small but significant improvements are happening constantly in BJJ that we just cant see when all we focus on is losing or winning. Thats not intelligent training and defeats the object of the word “training” entirely, your not there to win, your there to learn, and if your learning you are winning. The only way you can lose is if you come out of the session worse than you went in, which is not possible. Even if you feel tired and like you didn’t do too well afterwards, the improvements will be there inside you taking shape regardless. Focus on winning the long term war and not the short term battle that way your training to get better at Jiu Jitsu not just to tap people for a quick ego boost.

Think of getting better as the equivalent of land erosion, in a day the difference will be imperceptible but over the years the difference will be immense.


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