As difficult as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is, it can also be extremely addictive. It’s not unusual for students who join us at Gracie Botany to quickly fall in love with the martial art.
The inclination to progress as quickly as possible leads to a common question: is it possible to practice BJJ at home? Can you self-teach martial arts?
The answer? Kind of – but not really.
You can definitely learn a lot by studying Jiu-Jitsu at home. For practitioners eager to get better quickly, or competitors serious about winning gold, there are a few ways to practice BJJ on your own that will sharpen your game.
But nothing will replace time on the mats in the academy. There are three vital parts of improving Jiu-Jitsu. First is learning new techniques from your coach. Second is refining those techniques by drilling them with a partner. And third is rolling with a fully resisting training partner.
None of those three activities can be done completely alone.
Can I teach myself martial arts?
No, you can’t. As we’ll discuss, it’s certainly possible to augment training with learning at home. But it’s not possible to teach yourself foundational BJJ skills in isolation. To learn legitimate techniques, you need a training partner.
The importance of practical training is reflected in the way Jiu-Jitsu classes are setup. At Gracie Botany, our academy in the eastern suburbs, each class ends with 15-20 minutes of rolling. That often means grappling against someone resisting you at full strength, someone actively trying to subdue and submit you.
This is one of the essential ways in which BJJ separates itself from most other martial arts. Through rolling, you learn what techniques work for you and which don’t. It’s how you strengthen your skills in a way that can make you confident that your martial arts learnings can be applied against someone in the real world, not just a training dummy. The phrase iron sharpens iron very much applies.
You can’t replicate that environment at home alone.
How you can practice BJJ at home
If you’re new to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you should be doing as much of your practice as possible at your academy. The more you can be taught directly by a coach or experienced training partners, the better.
But that’s not to say you can’t improve and sharpen your game from home.
For starters, YouTube is a fantastic resource. There are many expert black belts who demonstrate techniques for free on YouTube, which is an effective way to hone in on the finer details of techniques.
But there are a few things you should be aware of. A lot of techniques shown on YouTube – and many shown on TikTok and Instagram – are more style than substance. It’s easier to get views showing off a short, flashy move than it is to get views on a long, detail-heavy video. But flashy moves are often difficult or impossible to apply.
YouTube learning is better done once you have a decent amount of training under your belt, so you’re better able to discern what could realistically work versus what is just for show. But even still, Jiu-Jitsu mats are nothing if not laboratories. It’s perfectly legitimate to get ideas from YouTube and experiment to see if they work at your academy. If you’re unsure, bring them to your coach.
Then there’s drilling. While most specific techniques require a training partner to drill, there are some movements you can do alone. Hip escapes, bridges, Granby rolls are among the obvious ones. If you’re keen to drill at home, ask your coach about specific movements you can try.
And finally, there’s reviewing video. If you have video of yourself rolling from class or from competition, it can be highly valuable to look it over to diagnose areas for improvement. Similarly, you can watch high-level BJJ competition and see how professionals compete.
Seeing how world-class BJJ practitioners apply techniques you know can alert you to new possibilities. Simply seeing how they move can reinforce how things are meant to be done.
But as valuable as YouTube videos, drilling and competition review can be, nothing comes close to training in class with your coach and partners.
If you’re interested in trying out Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes, come into Gracie Botany for a free trial class.