‘Embrace the grind’ is one of many common phrases that you might hear in BJJ or any other combat sport, but even if you understand what it means it can be difficult to really put it into practice. It’s one of those things that’s very easy to say and very easy to do in theory, but in practice it becomes a whole lot harder. It’s not a guarantee that you’ll ever reach the highest level of the sport either, as there are many hard-working individuals who never manage to become an elite grappler. But if you do have dreams of glory at the ADCC or IBJJF World Championship, you’ll never be able to stand on top of the podium without embracing the grind.
What does Embrace the Grind mean in BJJ?
Embracing the grind is a simple concept, as it’s just the act of accepting that hard work is an absolute requirement for success and not being discouraged by failure. Rather than complaining about that fact, the best course of action is to come to terms with it early on in your career and get used to it. Anyone who doesn’t embrace the grind and invest the time required into their physical and technical development is never going to be able to succeed in BJJ or any other combat sport. The moment that someone starts looking for ways to get out of doing the hard work required of them, they’re going to slip behind the competition around them.
There are hundreds of other elite competitors out there who are willing to put the work in behind the scenes and relying on natural talent or an existing advantage is never going to work forever. It might work for a while, and there are tons of examples of combat sports athletes who have managed to reach a high level based solely on a natural predisposition and great foundations at an early age. Only a small number of them have managed to win a BJJ world championship too, but they won’t ever be able to become a generational talent like Gordon Ryan or Roger Gracie without learning to embrace the grind.
In the same breath, even the best fighters on the planet have experienced losses in the past. It’s rare to remain undefeated at the professional level of any combat sport, but even moreso in BJJ where athletes will have hundreds of matches over the course of their careers. Even those who do remain undefeated at the professional or black belt level, they all experience plenty of losses in the amateur or colored belt levels earlier on. Over decades of competition and hundreds of matches, it’s impossible to win every single one of them and it’s vital to not get discouraged by any of those losses.
How do you do it?
Not only does it require a huge amount of time spent on the mats attempting to develop your skills, but it also requires a lot of time in the gym working on strength, cardio, or even injury prevention. When two elite grapplers meet on the mats it’s a game of inches and the slightest mistake from either one can change the course of the match. Better cardio and injury prevention helps grapplers train longer and more consistently, enabling them to develop their skills even further than they would otherwise. Better muscular strength or endurance can also help tip the balance in their favor if they’re facing an equally-skilled competitor.
The idea of encouraging BJJ competitors to embrace the grind doesn’t just end there either, as preparation extends outside of the gym and the mats as well. It can be tempting to stay up an extra hour or to eat a delicious dessert, but proper nutrition and rest is absolutely vital for professional grapplers. Not only does that allow you to be the best version of yourself in every single training session, but it also ensures that you’re doing everything you can to stay injury-free as well. That again means more time on the mats and a greater rate of skill development which, in the long run, is the end-goal of every BJJ competitor.
While the goal is always to develop skills and physical ability to the highest possible level, failure is unavoidable. To embrace the grind in BJJ you have to accept that fact, and understand that every loss is another opportunity to grow as a competitor. Particularly in the early days, there will competitions or training rounds with people so far outside your current skill level that climbing the mountain seems impossible. Rather than getting discouraged by that, use it as fuel to drive you in the weeks and months coming and set yourself the goal of performing better the next time you come across that person.
The Other Side of the Coin
Life isn’t all about training of course and finding that balance between life off the mats and life on the mats is incredibly difficult. It’s easy for any BJJ competitor to get lost in the whole ’embrace the grind’ idea and either ending up miserable, or getting injured and feeling completely lost without the sport that is your whole world. While it’s vital to dive deep into BJJ if you really want to be a top competitor, it’s also important to enjoy your time off and make sure you’re still maintaining relationships outside of the sport with family and friends. Those moments are almost as important as time spent training, because they allow you to approach the sport refreshed mentally and physically when you step back onto the mats.
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