The Importance of Confidence in Jiu Jitsu

The more I roll and compete, the more I realize that perfect knowledge and execution are far less important than confidence in my technique and ability to perform them in a live setting.  Is confidence the x-factor that we should all seek when we roll?  To what degree does confidence determine the outcome of competitions?

I remember my first tournament.  Simply put, my opponent and I kind of froze.  I circled awkwardly until we both kind of flopped to the ground and then I held on for dear life, winning by a point or two or an advantage.  As time progressed, I learned that if I do something with conviction, even if in hindsight I may realize it was a poor choice, its chances of granting me victory go up exponentially.

As I became more confident I started winning more and more matches.  There have been times when mid-match I realized I made a mistake, and if I focused on trying to undo the mistake I would invariably lose the match.  However, if I run with the mistake sometimes I can find a way to create a scramble, thus evoking a reaction that leads to me winning.

Confidence must be gained through rolling as you plan on competing and then sticking with that plan when you compete.  You need back-up plans and your back-up plans need back-up plans, and even then you may wind up being surprised by an opponent.  Developing confidence is one of the most difficult yet rewarding and important aspects of jiu-jitsu, and any other sport for that matter.

It kind of reminds me of the game “Frogger.”  In Frogger, you are moving a frog across an expanse and there are various moving characters that serve as obstacles that will take the frog out. You must move across quickly and avoid those obstacles.  If you hesitate, you’ll get hit by a log, an alligator, or something else.  Similarly in a jiu-jitsu competition, once you start moving you mustn’t stop until you reach a safe position (or until you win by submission.)

Arrogance and confidence are not the same thing. You can be very confident but still very humble.  Confidence is knowing your own abilities and knowing how to tap into those abilities.  Arrogance is thinking that you have abilities that you do not have.  Always remember to have a realistic understanding of what you can do.  That understanding can actually lead to more victory than arrogance would allow you.

As an example I recently had a match against a very tough purple belt.  During this match, we both scored some points; I wound up in his guard, up by two points in the last couple of minutes.  I wanted to submit him, but I realized that my chances of winning the match if I created a scramble would go down significantly. The match was for a cash prize so I decided to do my best to stabilize the position and play it safe.  An arrogant me would have dove in for the submission, possibly winning but probably losing. Instead, the confident me held the position and won the match on points.  This definitely didn’t stroke my ego like winning by submission would have, but it was still a win.

Are you confident in your jiu-jitsu?  If not, what needs to happen to make you confident?  If you are confident, what words of wisdom do you have for people who are not confident?


  1. 1. In training, roll with someone that is in par skill level with you or a slight bit higher. I think having challenging rolls over rolls that you’re gonna dominate or rolls you’re getting dominated is the best way to get better.
    2. Be part of a competitive team that is involved in competition. Even if it means switching gyms. Gym owners may have been pissed that AoJ took everyone but hey, the students are doing what’s best for themselves.
    3. Compete in smaller tournaments and go out with the purpose of testing your confidence and do not worry about the results. It also helps because it’s smaller and there are only like 2-3 matches going on and everyone is for sure watching you. Shout out to Russ Muira for putting on those Subfighter Tournaments. They really helped me and a group of my training partners have a good mindset moving forward with competition.
    4. This may seem counter-intuitive but don’t go for results but go and be grateful that you get a chance to fight competitors that are going to take it to you. In a normal gym setting, you’re not always gonna fight someone that’s par with you in skill and weight and this is definitely the time to enjoy that.
    5. This one is just me but, intermittent fasting does it for me. I compete fasted with only a cup of coffee and I feel phenomenal. I perform a lot better with more focus when I’m 8-10 hrs fasted before my fight.


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