Improving Your Timing In Jiu-Jitsu

Photo by: guardeiros bjj

There’s a notion we always hear about in Jiu Jitsu: Timing.  Timing is what makes slow smooth and smooth fast.  Timing is essential to mastery of BJJ (as well as most other things in life).  So what does timing actually mean?

For starters, to learn how to time things properly, you must have appropriate reaction speed with which to respond to another person’s movement.  That reaction should be second nature.  For example: if someone’s in your guard and they put their hand on the mat you should be primed and ready to attack as soon as their hand touches the mat, if you don’t your chances of success will greatly decrease.

Timing can be attained through live rolling as well as drilling.  My coach, Pablo Angel Castro III has drills that he refers to as “Recovery Drills”.  Basically what we do is we chain moves together in various sequences, and the goal is to react to the changes of physical positioning.  A good example of this is when one partner goes to side control; the person on bottom should try to place a knee in the way before the partner on top is able to settle.  In doing this the person on bottom develops an automatic reaction to a loss of position thus making obtaining side control on them much more difficult.

I’ve personally found that learning timing through rolling is best done when rolling with someone a bit slower and less athletic than me.  I let that person play their offense and my defense is in my anticipation of their movement.  By doing this I prime my timing and once I am able to effectively counter my slower training partners’ movements, I try my hand at doing the same thing against guys that are equal or faster/more athletic than me.

One crucial element to remember with timing is that there is no way to “teach” or
“learn” timing in one easy step.  It is something that we learn over time to the point that it becomes ingrained in us.

Ideally, the better your timing gets the more effortless your movements should be as when you do something, it is at the moment at which the very lowest amount of effort is required.  This can be a frustrating experience but every moment you spend rolling or drilling improves your timing.

Timing is also a big reason to avoid relying on strength during training.  Relying on physical strength ultimately negatively affects timing as it eliminates the need to anticipate the other person’s movements, and that ability to anticipate is really the key to successfully applying BJJ techniques.



Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio ( and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo ( NottaRookie, YM ( discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap ( discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards ( discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. I’ve been training for 2.5 years and it’s finally starting to sink in how important timing is. This article was really helpful for me, thanks!


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