Four Important Strength Training Exercises for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Cross-training is important in any sport. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is no exception. Jiu-jitsu is all about equalizing opponents by using grappling techniques, especially on the ground. In fact, one of the founding principles of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that a smaller person can defend themselves effectively against a larger one with BJJ techniques. However, strength training can support the combat sport-specific training that comes from practicing jiu-jitsu. This can result in a more balanced physique and better results.

Resistance or strength training helps athletes to build muscle. It can also support bone health and help prevent the development of osteoporosis. There are plenty of ways to approach strength training. The most common is weight lifting. Bodyweight exercises and resistance-band workouts are other great ways to incorporate strength training into a workout routine. For jiu-jitsu, large muscle groups like quads, glutes, and hamstrings are all key. Key weight-bearing exercises for BJJ work many of these groups.

Squatting is one of the best exercises for anyone who does jiu-jitsu. This exercise works the glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Squats can be done with just bodyweight, or with added weight from dumbbells or kettlebells. Squats have lots of applications in BJJ. Most importantly, they’re great training for getting up.

The second exercise that BJJ practitioners should consider is the split squat. The best way to do this is in a modified version specific to BJJ. Working from a neutral stance slightly leaned forward. The person then steps backwards into a lunge. From there, they add weight. Now, the athlete is basically in a takedown position. This is an exercise that helps build muscle, and also trains the body for a specific BJJ move.

Another area to work for BJJ is the dead bug with resistance bands. This is an exercise for the core. In the standard dead bug, it’s just alternating limbs. For BJJ, add resistance bands to the arm motion. This can help build shoulder strength. Finally, pull-ups are a classic workout for a reason. They build upper body strength and they’re a huge challenge to the system. Pull-ups also have plenty of applications in BJJ, where the pulling motion is very important in a number of moves. Pull-ups often really help people improve their takedowns.



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Helping Your Team Avoid Burnout

Stress and burnout can be significant problems, especially in situations where they are not addressed or dealt with effectively. Finding ways to minimize the impact that emotional strain or exhaustion may be having on their workers and staff is an important responsibility, one that managers and team leaders tend to overlook all too often. When left unchecked, burnout can impede productivity, create a toxic workplace atmosphere or even cause professionals to seek out other job and career opportunities outside of the company.

Treating Workers With Respect

Treating staff and associates as just another cog in the machine can be very detrimental for morale. The stress and pressure of a big project or a looming deadline can make it easy to overlook the human side of things, especially in situations where a group, team or even an entire department fail to meet performance expectations. Speaking with their employees in order to ensure that their needs and concerns are able to be both heard and addressed can go a long way towards reducing burnout.

Creating the Right Workplace Culture

Organizations that place profitability over all other concerns could be doing themselves a disservice in the long run. While there may be little to no short-term benefit towards taking steps to improve the atmosphere and culture of the workplace, the right social environments can often be a significant asset. From attracting top-tier talent to inspiring existing staff and associates to give it their all, a positive workplace culture can benefit almost every aspect of a business’s day-to-day operations.

Work-Life Balance

There is more to life than just work. Recognizing that their employees have lives and interests outside of the office is something that managers do all too infrequently. Jobs and positions that do not allow for a sustainable work-life balance often see higher instances of burnout. Even the most competitive salary and the best benefits may do little to improve morale for workers who have had to sacrifice too many of their personal goals in order fulfill their professional obligations. Adjusting the schedule, relaxing the dress code or encouraging employees to provide ideas and suggestions for how to bring their personal and professional lives into balance can be a very effective way of avoiding burnout within the workplace.



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The Importance of Discipline in Martial Arts

The martial arts bestow far more than physical ability to students; those who choose to study the martial arts become more aware of their inner selves through their bodies. To practice martial arts is to learn how one’s energy moves and affects them from the inside out.

Discipline Is Key

Without discipline, no one can perfect martial arts. Those who are impulsive or impatient will struggle the most during their earliest days of training, but they also stand to gain the most as well.

Learning self-discipline is a lifelong journey for many; some may not ever even realize how little discipline they have until they step into a dojo. Martial arts programs create a sense of balance within one’s self; by learning to focus on the present moment and the body’s energy, students become more aware and in line with their goals.

Timing becomes liberating rather than confining; through martial arts practice, students begin to learn that discipline creates harmony, and the right timing in life is everything.

Benefits Beyond Physical Skill

Martial arts discipline is not limited to physical activity. The practice is transformative and transcendent. Students walk away from programs knowing more about themselves and what they want to achieve. Even if one decides that martial arts is not their passion, they have acquired a greater understanding of themselves and earned the satisfaction of seeing something through to completion.

Martial arts teach responsibility for one’s actions. Being accountable is not easy, and it requires a humble spirit that is not afraid to be honest or vulnerable. Strength does not come from brute force or senseless aggression; retaliation will only lead to more conflict.

Through martial arts training, students begin to recognize the consequences of their actions, and they start to question why things are done and if they are right. All of this is done without confrontation or defiance; it happens within and is demonstrated through action.

Lastly, martial arts teaches respect for others. Listening to an instructor can help people surrender themselves without feeling weak or defenseless. Through martial arts, people learn how to trust, and they begin to see how trust and respect go hand-in-hand.

Martial arts is a chance to grow and transform; those who seek a new way to manage stress, build confidence and develop as a human being will discover that martial arts is an unexpected answer to all of these desires.


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How Do Leaders Shape Company Culture

Good leaders don’t simply expect the atmosphere at work to always be positive, they make strides to ensure that it is an ongoing reality. The culture of the workplace is an important thing for any leader to observe and attempt to steer in a positive direction. Here are just a few ways to do that:

By Being Observant

Always know what is going on in the organization. Observe employee interactions. Try to gauge how well everyone works together and pinpoint problem areas. Work closely with managers and supervisors and invite feedback, especially about problems in employee relations.

Whenever possible, address workplace issues quietly and swiftly. Never sit on a problem between co-workers. This leads to polarization and kills collaboration. Your employees don’t have to like each-other, but they must be able to work together.

By Being the Example

Good leaders give their subordinates good things to emulate. Always be the example of how to behave and interact in the workplace. Everyone on the team needs to be confident that your expectations are being met and that you understand what is being asked of them.

The easiest way to do this is to let your work as a leader reflect both the quality of work produced and the environment in which it is produced. Do that and people will want to follow your example.

By Promoting the Right People

Be fair and objective when deciding who is going to advance. Don’t let it be a popularity contest or else that is where the workplace culture will gravitate. Always interview every qualified applicant.

Give every employee an equal shot at success. It is an easy way to help maintain good rapport among the ranks. No one likes the boss’s pets so don’t accumulate any. Promote the people who deserve it, not just the ones with whom you want to work a little closer.

By Understanding Their Influence
Whether intentioned or not, leaders always shape the company culture. The only question that remains is this: what kind of culture are you shaping? If it isn’t the one you want, it might just be time to step back and assess how to make the changes necessary to get it there.


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Training Tips for Martial Artists

Any sport takes a significant amount of practice and motivation to master. In the world of Martial Arts, training comes in both a physical and mental form, and each is equally important. There are various forms and difficulty levels of martial arts, essentially making it one of the most versatile sports for one to consider. From traditional Karate to combative MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), martial artists take years to master their craft. Here are a few solid training tips for anyone looking to excel in martial arts:

Stay Disciplined 

Discipline is one of the most critical components of training for and mastering any form of martial arts. In fact, the value and rules of discipline are one of the first skills instructors teach martial art students. Success in any type of martial arts comes from a strict training routine. Learning combinations and forms, the use of martial arts weapons, and keeping yourself in top physical condition can be daunting for those who aren’t prepared. Discipline and respect for the martial art you’re practicing is the first step in mastering your craft. 

Improve Your Mindset 

Your general mindset is crucial in martial arts training. Combative sports can be overwhelming at times, and in the world of martial arts, combat between opponents is extremely common. Keeping a calm and positive mindset is essential when practicing self-defense or sparring techniques with other students and opponents. You want to make sure you remain calm and relaxed at all times to avoid frustration and any physical confrontation outside of the dojo or sparring ring. This will not only help you in maintaining a positive mindset during a match but will also help you conserve energy and execute more fluid movements. 

Practice Regularly 

Practice makes perfect! Generally, in most forms of martial arts, students go through different stages that signify their level of expertise. In traditional Karate, levels of expertise are represented by the color of the belt the student possesses (i.e., black belts signify a high level or master of the art). Practice movements, forms, sparring to increase your level of expertise, or master the martial art your focusing on. 

Follow Your SenseiYour Sensei is a master martial arts. They have spent years practicing and perfecting their craft and are there to guide you through your journey. Confidently follow your Sensei’s lead in the dojo. Know that they are there to help you improve and further your skills as a martial artist.



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What Makes a Successful Leader?

As we’ve previously stated, employees are an essential part of a company’s foundation and so are their leaders. An organization’s leaders have various responsibilities that fill their daily agendas. A successful leader does much more than “manage” a team of people, however. Leaders know their team well and work with them to reach goals and further develop within the company. What are some of the qualities and behaviors of a successful and effective leader?

Communicates Effectively

Successful leaders are strong communicators, and they understand how important communication is between colleagues. A leader within an organization has to communicate in various ways from in-person meetings, to e-mail or over the phone. Effective leaders know that all employees perceive messages and interactions differently. Knowing how to communicate with their team will make efforts to reach goals more cohesive and attainable. According to Forbes contributor, Deep Patel, “Communication is built on a steady flow of verbal and nonverbal exchanges of ideas and information, so work on being approachable and involving people from different levels.”

Provides Clear Visions & Goals

Effective communication is a large part of a leader’s ability to provide their team with clear visions and goals. It’s not uncommon for employees to feel confused about what their team or company’s goals are. A lack of understanding can significantly decrease productivity as employees are often unsure about how to prioritize their work based on company and team goals. 

Encourages Collaboration

Collaboration between team members and their leaders is an integral part of the relationship-building process. Employees all possess a diverse range of different strengths and capabilities. Encouraging collaborative efforts is a great way to foster innovation and creativity while working towards reaching set goals with various skills. 

Knows Their Team 

Leaders should know the members of their team on both a personal and professional level. Take an interest in their lives outside of work and learn about their strengths and weaknesses. Learning about employees will help a leader develop ways to inspire and motivate them.
“Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of every individual to effectively manage the outcome of a team is imperative for success. Leaders have a great vision and use the resources at hand to solve problems. They take risks and make hard decisions, knowing they could sometimes be wrong. Those are the most important qualities of a real leader that work similarly in our professional and personal lives.” Alex Gerasimov



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Everyday Champions: Creating Leaders Through Competitive Sports

We’ve previously discussed how martial arts can aid in the fight for entrepreneurial success, but there are endless ways to apply the principles you learn in martial arts, and sports in general, to other aspects of life. One of the most obvious connections lies in sports’ ability to teach leadership qualities that follow participants into their respective careers.


“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” — Warren Bennis

To be a leader, you must have the ability to speak and listen effectively. Just as important, though, is the ability to understand non-verbal methods of communication. In sports, and especially in BJJ, communication is key to developing a strategy and implementing it. Watching the opponent closely can also help you to understand what their next move may be and how you can counter it. In business, communication keeps a team strong by providing a space for efficiency, innovation, and progress. Leaders understand how essential communication is to success and will make sure that the communication within their team is strong.


“In fair weather prepare for foul.” — Thomas Fuller

Sports teams have whiteboards to outline a game plan and so do most businesses. To develop a game plan in sports, a team must understand their own strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of their opponents. Research is necessary to understand the best course of action. However, on the field and in the office, small emergencies arise that throw the original plan out the window. A leader must be able to quickly evaluate the situation and issue a new strategy. Competitive sports teach how to create a last minute contingency plan when things go wrong, making leaders at work more effective for being able to think on their feet.  


“To succeed one must be creative and persistent.” — John H. Johnson

Someone becomes a leader for many reasons, but a large part of it is the fact that they work very hard. In sports, a leader is often the person who logs the most hours of practice, doesn’t give up when the odds are stacked against them, and works to help their teammates become stronger players. To advance in a sport, those qualities must be demonstrated. To not give up and keep grinding is just as important in business.


“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” — Ralph Nader

In business, a group of people is always smarter than one person standing alone. In sports, while there may be players who are stronger than others, how that team works together is what gets the win. Effective teamwork is all about delegation and recognizing what someone does most successfully and trusting them to do it. In sports, players are delegated to certain positions based on their skills. The same can be said for business. A good leader recognizes individual strengths and delegates tasks to the most qualified and capable person. Sports teaches players how to recognize the strengths in others.

Don’t forget that you don’t always have to be top dog to be a great leader. Captains in competitive sports are usually good leaders, but they are also in their positions based on seniority. A leader is someone who works as hard as they can and inspires others to do the same. A team’s new recruit or the office intern can be a leader with the right set of qualities and work ethic.

This post was originally published on on March 14, 2019.

Combating Entitlement Through Martial Arts

Giving up is easy. It requires little effort and puts a stop to the frustration and pain that comes along with trying something new. It’s normal to want something to be easy, given the level of self-doubt and self-consciousness that often accompanies getting out of your comfort zone.

But let’s face it. Giving up feels terrible. Taking the easy way out feels, well, easy—and therefore can make us feel like we haven’t accomplished anything, like we’re a failure.

One of the reasons I suggest starting martial arts at a young age is for this very reason. If we teach our children the benefits of self-discipline and perseverance at a young age, we squash any desire for them to want to take the easy way out later in life. Without self-discipline, as we age we start to develop defense mechanisms that keep us from feeling things like frustration and self-doubt.

What causes this lack of motivation?

At Gracie Barra schools, we train our staff to identify risk factors in our students. Why might students feel unmotivated or disconnected in our school? In many cases, students fail to realize the level of self-discipline that is involved in learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which leads them to become frustrated with their perceived lack of progress.

The power of the mind:

At its core, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is about the mind. It’s about strategy, analysis of situations, outsmarting your opponent, and, most of all, self-discipline. The intensity of BJJ requires a ton of practice and even more moments of “failure.” After all, mistakes are often our best teachers. If you’re serious about learning BJJ, you need to learn humility and accept the fact that it takes time, practice, and patience to get good.

Discipline on and off the mat:

If you can overcome your desire to quit, BJJ can teach you the kind of self-discipline that helps you excel in every aspect of your life. All forms of martial arts have set rules that cannot be broken. If they are, there are varying consequences from being sent home to being banned from the school. Society, schools, industries, and employers also have set rules with a similar approach to consequences. Martial arts shows you how important it is for you—and those around you—to follow the rules. Here are a few more ways discipline from BJJ follows you home:

  • Preparation is key to success in martial arts. To be prepared, students are encouraged to be early to class and matches so that they can get into the right mindset and be ready for what’s to come. This kind of discipline is extremely helpful when it comes to school and work as well. The early bird gets the worm, right?
  • “Dress for the job you want.” In BJJ, students must be well groomed, not only to look more professional, but for the safety of others. Long nails and improper hygiene are a risk to other students and could cause serious injuries or infections. Taking the time to groom and look polished makes you appear more professional and approachable in all aspects of your life off the mat, too.
  • Respect and kindness are key aspects of many martial art disciplines. Bullying and disrespect is not tolerated on or off the mat. Martial arts, especially BJJ, is well known for creating lasting friendships and relationships due to the nature of the sport. As such, learning to show kindness and respect to superiors at work or competitors is a quality that goes far on the path to success.

There’s absolutely no shame in trying martial arts and deciding it’s not for you. The point here is that just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth it or an excuse for you to quit. Everything great in life takes work. Success takes failure, trial and error, and a lot of hitting rock bottom before you ever make it to the top. If you stick with it, BJJ and martial arts can show you what you can accomplish when you just stay disciplined and put your mind to something.

This article was originally published on on March 13, 2019.

Why Every Woman Should Train Jiu-Jitsu and Self-Defense

Who is is stronger, men or women?

The most obvious and common answer is men.

The more precise answer is it depends.

One of the most powerful ideas I have learned in martial arts is that strength is relative. As great grand Master Helio Gracie, one of the founders of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, once said: “Jiu-Jitsu is the triumph of human intelligence over brute force”.

It is true that with no prior training, men are on average stronger than women. However, when women are properly trained in self-defense they can effectively manipulate the fight to become stronger than men.

I have been teaching self-defense for women for over 10 years now. It is always an amazing experience. It usually only takes one or two classes for them to realize how powerful they are.

Once their eyes are opened to the possibility of being able to protect themselves against a much bigger and stronger attacker, something really special happens. Their body language and facial expression changes from lacking confidence and/or skepticism to standing up with their shoulders back. They become confident they can indeed learn what it takes to protect themselves.

Women grow up being told a lie. From an early age culture teaches them to believe they can’t do this or that because they are women. They are slowly and sadly convinced they are inherently inadequate for certain things, including, for the most part, self-protection.

This is brutal, but it goes unnoticed.

When I watch a little girl walking into my Jiu-Jitsu academy in her dancing shoes to watch her little brother’s class, I always take the time to have a conversation with the parents to why she is not training. Their response is always similar:

“Well, she loves to dance! Fighting is not really her thing. We want our son to learn self-defense so he can stand up for himself and his sister”.

Well-intending parents always want the best for their children. We do the best we can to make them understand that their daughters need to develop fighting skills as much as, or even more than, their sons.


Because they are more vulnerable. Because again, all conditions being equal they are physically weaker than man. They are facing a culture that insists on telling them they are inadequate for certain things because they are women and that’s is simply not true.

Moreover, the statistics for violence of men against women are outrageous.

  • On average, more than 1 in 3 women in the U.S. report experiencing rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Worldwide, reports estimate that nearly 35% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.
  • 1 in 5 female college students are victimized while living on or nearby a college campus.

Empowering women to stand up for themselves should be a priority of every parent, every college, and, in my opinion, an important element ingrained in our public and private education system.

I honestly believe every women should be well trained in self-defense. That would lead to more change than most proposed changes in legislation in the ongoing battle for gender equality.

I am the father to two daughters and a husband to a lovely wife. These three women are the three most important people in my life. I have seen Jiu-Jitsu do wonders for them. The realization that they are much stronger than they think immediately affects their confidence to deal with battles on and off the mats. It empowers them to stand up with their shoulders back ready to chase their dreams and overcome challenges that come their way.

It also empowers them to define clear boundaries, as they know the transgression of those boundaries can lead to verbal, mental, and physical abuse. They are not supposed to put up with the violation of their rights and integrity under any circumstances.

Martial arts for women is not just a new trend. It should not be embraced or promoted just because it is fun or helps women get in shape and develop a strong body. It should be embraced and promoted because it empowers women to stand up for themselves, define clear boundaries, and establish a shift in power that is beneficial for women, men, and society as a whole.

This article was originally published on on February 19, 2019.