BJJ Mindset Series: Toughness

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is widely known as the “gentle art”. It is a form of fighting and self-defense that emphasizes technique above all other attributes. BJJ is an incredibly effective fighting system and has proved itself in both sports and self-defense situations. It is one of the best foundations in MMA.

Royce, Renzo, and Rickson Gracie, members of the legendary Gracie family, fought in the early days of MMA and displayed the art’s effectiveness for the world to see. Many self-defense schools have also adopted BJJ in their curriculum as it is a highly effective way to defend yourself against bigger and stronger people.

While technique is still the most important aspect of BJJ training, we can’t deny that it is still a grueling endeavor and can be taxing on the body and mind. With this, we must understand that mindset in BJJ is a massive part of your overall training. One of the most important lessons that BJJ will teach you is toughness.


Toughness Defined

The mathematical definition of toughness is the ability of a material to absorb punishment without breaking. In a sport where the intention is to make a person quit, toughness (especially mental toughness) is a critical attribute to have to become successful.

Mental toughness is a skill that, while relatively elusive, can be developed through proper training and practice. A tough mind is necessary for competitors and casual grapplers alike because adversity is a common theme in martial arts training. The more you train your mind to resist defeat and deal with difficulty, the tougher you become mentally. Through a systematic approach to developing mental toughness, you can learn to overcome anything that life throws at you on the mat or in life.

Toughness is a skill that’s sharpened by constant resistance. This is why consistency is a good partner in building toughness. With consistent training in BJJ, you’ll develop and hone your techniques while making your mind stronger. It helps you form a routine that you can adhere to regularly and easily.

Being consistent also allows you to experience adversity more often. This is why it is absolutely important to work with as many training partners as possible while working your overall game. Think of the gym as a place where you work on sharpening your strengths while improving your weaknesses. Do not hesitate to put yourself in difficult positions because that’s where you’ll learn the most!


Goal Setting

bjj students grappling in gi

It can be argued that martial arts training focuses on developing focus, goal-setting skills, and mental toughness. Martial artists are taught to develop these skills through skill-building drills. This includes exercises focused on developing concentration, focus, goal setting, and overcoming our own limiting beliefs. Working on small goals is a nice way to build toughness.

To illustrate, if you tend to panic when under side control, work on your breathing first. Most beginners tense up and hold their breath when they get pinned, making their time on the bottom even harder than it is. Start by working on your breathing first; as you get more relaxed, you can work on framing and guard recovery. This is a great way to build confidence and thus helps you become mentally tougher.

Competition training is one of the great benefits of training in BJJ and other combat sports. Joining competitions give you a more objective view of your actual skill in relation to your contemporaries. When you are competing, both your mental and physical toughness will be tested to its limit.

It is important to note that you need to have a strategy if you’d like to compete. Aside from the obvious physical preparation, you also need to train your mind for weeks to be mentally prepared for the competition. This is where discipline will come in – you need to stay on the path and train for the purpose of being the best you can be. Aside from drilling the techniques in the gym, you also need to mentally drill the scenarios that might arise from your matches. Work on these things consistently and it will definitely help you in your preparation!


Overcoming Adversity

bjj guard rentention

One thing that makes martial artists mentally tough is that they know how to push past difficulties and failures. Training in BJJ is a valuable tool to overcome this barrier because it is impossible to improve in BJJ without getting smashed. All past and present champions of the sport have gone through difficult training sessions over the years, and it is only through hard work and perseverance that they rose to where they are now.

While winning competitions is awesome, understand that your self-development is far more important than any gold medal you’ll win in competitions. The lessons you learn on the mats should be the prize in itself. The more you train in BJJ, the more you’ll know who you are and what you are capable of.

Here is an amazing quote by Renzo Gracie that illustrates the power of training in BJJ:

“We’re not in the business of martial arts, we’re in the business of building confidence…not only to defend yourself, but with that comes the confidence of facing life.”


A Lifelong Pursuit

Training to toughen the mind should be a lifelong pursuit. In this video, retired United States Navy SEAL David Goggins shares why he likes to use physical training to strengthen his mind.

He says that hard training and being uncomfortable is his way of knowing who he really is. For him, there is no finish line. He always strives to push for excellence regardless of the situation. Being uncomfortable every day may be difficult, but it is a sure way to become mentally stronger.


Final Thoughts

Being tough is a process that requires time and dedicated practice. Take note that while physical and mental toughness are two separate things, there is a lot of overlap between them, and should be trained alongside each other. BJJ, along with other martial arts, is perhaps one of the best ways to help strengthen your body and mind.


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