2 Critical Habits for Your Training

“Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned.” - Tony Dungi

I came across this Tony Dungi quote recently. Tony was an NFL head coach and was notorious for turning around some pretty bad teams—first the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then the Indianapolis Colts. He came close with the Bucs and then won the superbowl with the Colts in 2007. Like anything else in my life, as soon as I heard this quote, I started thinking how this correlates to grappling.

Then it hit me.

I remembered being dead tired, exhausted from a grueling practice back in my wrestling days. My coach, Jim Miller, stopped us after he saw a few of us getting sloppy and complacent with our drilling: Sloppy set-ups, bad shots, not following our partner to the mat to finish the takedown. He would paraphrase Michael Jordan and say, “You can’t turn it on and off like faucet. The way you practice in the room is the way you will compete on the mat.” These words have stuck with me over the years, and helped me immensely in my BJJ career.

Whether you decide to ever compete or not, having good jiu-jitsu habits will propel your game to the next level. Here are some two important ones:

1. Finish your moves. I often I see half moves drilled by lower belts. They perform a sweep but never come on top. They do a pass, get by the legs, but never settle in side control. If you drill this way, it shouldn’t surprise you when live-sparring comes around and you struggle to land any of the things you practice. Think about the three second rule. The IBJJF requires you to control you opponent for three second in order to score from any position, whether you are passing, taking the back, or sweeping someone. Finish the move and demonstrate control before getting another repetition in.

2. When you are sparring, do not accept positions. On the flipside of our first principle, when you spar you should not accept anything. Your opponent does a double ankle sweep and you fall to your butt? Get back up! He has not scored until he comes on top and holds you down. Your opponent gets around your legs on a toreando pass? Turn to your side, hip escape, and reestablish your guard! He has not scored until he settles on top for three seconds. If you watch top level practitioners, they are always in motion, yet many of us, especially when we are tired, tend to accept positions before we have to.

These two simple habits will propel your game forward. You will be hard-pressed to find any high-level practitioner that does not follow these habits, but you will be surprised how many lower belts struggling to improve are missing out on them.