Building Mental Toughness with Professor Tom DeBlass

In this video exclusive for Jiu Jitsu Times, Professor Tom DeBlass reacts and expands on a video recently put out by Judo Olympian and Renzo Gracie Black Belt Travis Stevens regarding the topic of “mental toughness” and how it can be developed during training sessions.  Check out Travis’ video here:  Travis Stevens on Mental Toughness.  


Key Points:

Train Mindfully  We have all been there.  Exhausted with a larger, faster, stronger or all of the above, opponent coming at us like a freight train.  One of our mind’s key responsibilities is to protect us from stress as much as it can.  Oftentimes in these periods of extreme exhaustion, we go into a kind of auto-pilot and just try to survive.  To build mental toughness, it is important to understand this tendency and to challenge it as much as we can and to be present or mindful in the experiences.  By not just coasting through the session and trying to survive, we force our minds to look at the scenario and better understand our mistakes and successes so that we can build on them.  By doing this over and over, just like any drill, we become better and staying in the moment and being able to objectively look at our BJJ from this newly developed birds eye perspective.

Wanna Play a Game?  One must stop looking at training as a situation where you are looking to “win” or potentially “lose.”  Instead, by looking at your training as a type of “play” where it’s okay to take risks and try new ideas, without fear of being dominated positionally or even submitted.  As soon as we start thinking of our training in terms of wins or losses, we begin to stiffen up.  We begin to fear the loss and therefore take far fewer risks, trying new positions or attack sequences for fear that our opponent will escape and put us in bad spots.  By looking at your training as a game with each of your training partners, you open up more opportunities to get valuable insight or feedback even if the partner is far less or far more skilled than you.  If you think only in terms of wins and losses, you limit the take aways that can be applied to future development and competition.

Strategically Placing Your Technique Against Your Opponents  Whether it is training in your home academy or even a competition, Jiu Jitsu boils down to this simple idea.  Your goal is to strategically utilize your technique to nullify your opponent’s technique and dominate them positionally and ideally submit them.  So start by thinking, how do I stop them from doing what they want to do?  That’s half the battle right there and when combined with a game plan that is organic and allows for the unpredictable elements of rolling, while also incorporating things you’ve learned through being more mindful, it will provide you with great results.

Jiu Jitsu Never Ends  Training is not over when you leave the mats.  There are so many opportunities to think about, reflect, and strategize about what has happened and what can be done to improve on techniques or eliminate mistakes.  Be obsessed and find ways to work on your BJJ when you’re not at BJJ.

The Hammer and the Nail  Though it feels like most days, we’re probably the nail in this cliche, it can be argued that being the nail provides the most opportunity for learning.  By not avoiding the tougher training partners, the higher belts, or your Professor, you consistently will put yourself in bad spots.  Without those constant challenges and tests of your mettle, your BJJ will stagnate and your game will be limited.  Do not go home and dwell on getting tapped 1000 times in class, thinking that you’re terrible and will never get better at Jiu Jitsu.  Instead, look at those 1000 taps as gifts that provide you a wealth of information so that you will come back better and maybe next class, it will be only 999.

Train hard, be kind, and embrace Jiu Jitsu.

Check out Professor DeBlass on Facebook here:  Follow Tom DeBlass on Facebook

Check out Professor DeBlass’ Academy here:  Ocean County BJJ

This year, Professor DeBlass will be serving as Event Coordinator for the ADCC North American Trials to be held in November in New Jersey.  Follow the ADCC North American page here:  ADCC North American



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