When you first walk into a BJJ gym, you may see Jiu Jitsu as a one on one competition. It’s true, BJJ is a solo sport in many aspects. During a roll or competition match it’s just you against your opponent, one winner, and one outcome. Given all of this, it is easy to see how people fail to realize BJJ is a team sport.
There are so many other factors that go into your BJJ training beyond the current bout. Though physically your wins are a solo accomplishment you can’t succeed in BJJ without others. Your coaches, training partners, and even your opponents help mold your physical and mental abilities both on and off the mats.
Jiu Jitsu As A Team Sport
Your Teammates Are Crucial To Your Progress
There is no doubt that teammates help you improve as they are necessary for drilling and rolling. Essentially, you can’t do BJJ without them! Solo drills will only get you so far, and even work with a dummy quickly becomes unfulfilling.
Teammates give you a live partner that you can spar with daily. They challenge you by giving you the pressure and resistance you need to learn how to execute moves properly.
Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary samurai, said, “You can only fight the way you practice.” You could train solo or dummy drills all day long, and it may help with your form. Still, you won’t know how to respond to a real person’s strength and endurance appropriately without your teammates.
Your Instructor Is Not Your Only Teacher
Although your coach is your primary teacher and provides you with the skills you need to succeed in BJJ, he/she is not the only teacher you will encounter during your BJJ journey. Throughout the years, you will learn many things from teammates and your opponents.
You learn from your training partners every time you roll. Getting caught in a submission allows you to reflect on and figure out what you did wrong so you can correct it next roll.
Upper belts are a great source of information. They will help you during a roll and even guide you from the sidelines. I learned a lot from upper belts in my academy. They are always willing to help out lower belts and pass down the lessons and skills they learned throughout their journey.
We’ve all heard the Renzo Gracie quote, “My opponent is my teacher, my ego is my enemy.” When we compete, we compete against ourselves. Our opponents can teach us so much about ourselves and help improve our game.
Whenever I lose a match, I try to remember what I did wrong and reflect on that to perform better next time. I also make it a point to watch my opponent’s next match and see if I can learn from them.
Support From Teammates On And Off The Mats
Your teammates support you during rolls and on the sidelines. I often help lower belts through rolls and welcome instruction from upper belts.
Your teammates also become your family. The bonds created on the mats continue off the mats as well. Your teammates will always be there for you to provide BJJ guidance as well as emotional support when you need it.
When I’m going through a tough time, I know training will help me. Not only is it meditative, but the atmosphere at the academy is always comforting. If I need it, my BJJ family will be there to provide advice, a listening ear, or motivation.
Team Presence In Competition
When you enter a competition as a team, as a tribe, it’s like heading into battle together. You compete as a team for team trophies, but you also have your teammates and coaches rooting for you from the sidelines.
Even if you decide to enter a competition solo, your teammates may come to cheer you on. I’ve had training partners surprise me by coming out to support me at competitions. The support from my BJJ community is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.
The Jiu Jitsu Community
The bond Jiu Jitsu creates is beyond words. Even if you don’t train together, there is an unspoken camaraderie between all BJJ practitioners.
It manifests itself in everyday life, like when you see a guy in the supermarket wearing a BJJ shirt. You feel a special connection to this stranger and know that if you wanted to make a new friend all it would take is to start by saying “You train?”
I’ve also experienced this in competitions with my opponents and their teams. I remember my first competition as a white belt. I placed 1st, and my opponents and their entire team came up to me and complimented me and told me how awesome I was. The graciousness and support in the community from strangers can be pleasantly overwhelming.
BJJ groups don’t stop at the gym and there are no shortage of groups on social media where you can find support from strangers. Once you enter the BJJ world, rest assured you have a strong family behind you, both within your team and in the BJJ community worldwide.
At first glance, BJJ may seem like a solo sport. However, after a deeper look into all of its facets, you can see that it really is a team sport. Your teammates, coaches, and even your opponents are there to help guide you through your Jiu Jitsu journey. Just like in all team sports, BJJ practitioners depend on each other for support and advancement.
Regardless of what happens, your team is always in your corner and by your side, on and off the mats. They will wholly support you through a roll, a match, and in life. Whether you feel alone in a match or a roll, remember that you have a tremendous family behind you.
Kimberly is a Jiu Jitsu purple belt who also holds a black belt in Siljun Dobup Korean Sword Arts. When she’s not on the mats, she enjoys immersing herself in nature or a good book. She trains in New Jersey with her 9-year-old son.