BJJ Mindset Series: Discipline

A big aspect of training martial arts is its regard for discipline. Discipline is considered to be the foundation of a habit, an effort of will. Martial artists have imprinted discipline into their routines to keep going, making it a habit where a conscious effort of will is no longer required. In this BJJ mindset series, we will talk about the value that keeps martial artists going: discipline.


What Is Discipline?

In martial arts, discipline is controlling one’s emotions, reactions, and desires. It produces a sense of equilibrium within one’s self. Through discipline, athletes become more conscious and in line with their goals by focusing on the present moment.

Discipline is what saves an athlete when he slowly slips away from his routine or habit. It determines how quickly a person gets back on track to continue the habit when unfortunate things happen, which is also a useful trait in life. Adversity happens to everyone, but fighting through them and getting back on track creates a big difference in the outcome.

It is during uncertainty where discipline kicks in, giving us our most well-deserved rewards. Time and time, people need the motivation to keep going. Even though there is nothing wrong with this, it typically just comes and goes. Motivation keeps a person going for days or months, but discipline will keep a person going for years or even a lifetime.



Kaizen is a philosophy that you may initially apply to your life to build a habit out of discipline. It is a Japanese word that means to seek continuous improvement or to change for the better. Commonly used by Japanese businesses, Kaizen aims for improvement in a methodical and gradual process.

John Danaher, who is famous for being one of the best coaches in BJJ of the modern era, is a firm believer in Kaizen. According to Danaher, anyone can reinvent themselves in five years and be at the highest level in what they do, given that they have the discipline to do their interest full time along with Kaizen.

Kaizen is the idea of small improvements day by day, which has a compounding result when seen in a wider scope for years. When applied to BJJ, Kaizen may be achieved by doing things during or after every training session, such as doing additional rounds, learning a new technique, performing a movement or technical drills, limiting rest time, or simply by just attending classes regularly. It all depends on your goal.

Similarly, when applied to workouts, Kaizen may work similarly as progressive overload in weightlifting, where you add additional weights or repetitions after workouts or in a given period to progress just that little bit more. This creates an accumulative effect that will increase the intensity of your workouts, giving you better results in the long run.


Discipline In BJJ

As mentioned earlier, discipline keeps a person going in his routine, no matter the challenges ahead. It is what keeps a BJJ practitioner going to classes, no matter how bad the day or his personal life may have become. Jocko Willink, a former Navy SEAL and BJJ black belt under Dean Lister, said in his podcast that discipline acts like it’s your worst enemy, but in reality, discipline is the most trustworthy ally who will look out for you.

For some people, waking up to start their day early is discipline. To Jocko Willink, it is just the beginning. Discipline is more than just waking up early. It is when you apply it to keep improving yourself every day to become stronger, healthier, more intelligent, and emotionally sound.

Maintaining and making sure that our body is in good condition every time we hit the mats is discipline. Outside the mats, when not training, conditioning the body by lifting weights, running, or drilling movements to supplement BJJ means going in for the extra mile to simply become better. Eating a healthy and balanced diet is great and can boost the immune system. Getting an adequate amount of sleep while avoiding vices and things that negatively affect the body, so you can perform at your best is another form of discipline.

Discipline is applied in various ways that sometimes we hardly even notice, as it already runs through our routine unknowingly. Jocko mentioned that discipline calls for strength, fortitude, and will. It doesn’t accept weakness and won’t tolerate breakdowns. While some people are comfortable living in their comfort zone, it is the simple path that calls people to be weak, disregarding discipline and succumbing to their short-term gratification and desires.

Discipline includes mental training. It is about controlling your emotions to make excellent decisions, and controlling your ego so that it doesn’t control and make the worst out of you. In situations that require our rational thinking, such as a confrontation, discipline introduces itself by doing only the things that will neutralize the situation and not giving in to anger and aggression if the situation calls for it. It includes facing your fears, so you can conquer them, similar to the feeling when signing up for competitions.

Even more so than controlling our emotions, discipline is treating people the way you want to be treated and taking responsibility for the more arduous tasks to do what’s right for yourself and the people around you. Discipline is appreciated inside and outside the mats, making our lives better.


Final Thoughts

In BJJ and our daily life, starting from the early mornings that we step out of bed, discipline is applied and is run throughout the course of the day. It is important to impose the value of discipline within ourselves to have a sense of control, as anything too much can negatively affect us. No matter your purpose of doing BJJ, be it for weight loss, self-defense, or competition, it will require your patience and self-discipline. Unlike other traits, self-discipline is learned. It is not a trait that people automatically possess – rather, it is something that has to be trained.


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BJJ Mindset Series: Consistency

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