Endurance for Jiu Jitsu

We, the writers of Jiu Jitsu Times, write as a way to give back to the community. We share our frank observations and opinions, those of us who are confident in our understanding of some areas of the gentle art share on those areas. I like it when our readers send in questions about issues that they have, it gives me a chance to give something back to a specific person in need. If you ever have a question that you want to see discussed, reach out to me at Facebook.com/emilfischerbjj.

We recently received the following question from one of our readers:

“I gas out and get exhausted really fast when I spar. What can I do?”

I’ll share a bit about my experience with this issue and some things I’ve done to remedy it.

For starters, gassing out and getting exhausted really fast can be the result of a few different possible issues:

  1. Nerves. Maybe you’re too nervous when you roll and it causes you to prematurely get tired
  2. Fitness/health. If you have a bad diet, or bad sleep patterns, or are just generally in bad shape, your ability to keep up with training partners and competition will not be good. Any exertion will affect you more than it affects others.
  3. You aren’t using good technique. I’ve heard it said that the better your technique is the less tired you’ll get when you roll. This is a double edged sword as some practitioners can’t even use BJJ to stay in shape anymore because it has become too effortless. I’m kidding…

Fitness and health are not going to be issues that I can really help you with, I do what I do to stay healthy, I try to have good sleep hygiene and to sleep a lot, and I eat relatively clean and am a vegetarian and sometimes I do cardio. If you need help with your fitness and health you should consult a personal trainer or a doctor.

Nerves are a result of being mentally unprepared to roll. Try breathing exercises before rolling. Find training partners that you trust and are comfortable with and try rolling slowly and deliberately. There are particularly spazzy guys that I’ve rolled with who gas out very quickly because it’s as though they’re fighting themselves. Just relax, remember jiu jitsu is about technique, mental calmness and determination and physical prowess. Technique is the most important thing, but trusting your technique will give it extra potency and will also slow your process of getting tired.

A surefire way to get tired when rolling is to try to force your techniques to work. If the technique requires you to strain yourself you’re probably doing it wrong (or should pick another technique.) Also very often you’re trying to make things happen that aren’t ready to happen. For example: if you try to force someone to let you scissor sweep them and they are sitting back on their heels you’re making a mistake and will likely tire yourself out. Instead, transition to an appropriate technique, in the above example I would switch to a sit-up sweep.

Jiu Jitsu is about finding the path of least resistance. If you are getting tired when rolling you are failing at this. Try learning to chain techniques together, learn when a technique will be and will not be effective and learn which techniques to alternate when your technique of choice won’t work.

If you are getting tired when you roll you are very likely failing at important aspects of the game. Roll with people who are better than you and ask them to assess your game. Is there anywhere you aren’t getting tired? Or are you exerting yourself from everywhere and every position is exhausting? I deliberately try to tire people out when I roll with them by finding ways to make them exert themselves in every position, even ones that are inferior for me. Are your training partners making you tired? Or are you making yourself tired?

Address the physical aspect, if you are in bad shape, eating or sleeping poorly you will get tired when you roll. Once that has been dealt with, learn to calm down when you roll, make sure you are breathing, and focusing on the techniques. Don’t be scared of your training partners as fear is exhausting. Once you’ve calmed yourself down, start to analyze your techniques and figure out where those are working for you and where they are failing you.

These are just a couple of ways I’ve found to address exhaustion during training. Do any of you, our other readers have any suggestions for your fellow community members? As always, if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to me or the other writers on this site.


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