Totowa MMA: A look inside NJ United Mixed Martial Arts Academy

“Getting good” at jiu-jitsu: The unglamorous truth!

I started my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training in 2003, the same year that Quentin Tarantino’s movie Kill Bill came out. I was a lot younger then. Martial arts action movies and fighting video games held way more motivational influence over me than they do now. I saw them mainly as entertainment, but now and then, I’d learn something deeper from them. And one important takeaway I got from Kill Bill 2 was this simple, basic, irreplaceable truth:

If you want to “get good” at BJJ, you’ve GOT to do the warm-up drills when class begins!

You are reading this blog to learn the mysteries of jiu-jitsu, not linguistics! Fortunately, there’s no mystical secret to learning them. Anyone can do it. Show up on time to class, an repeat the essential movements and drills your instructor teaches. Then do that again, and again and again.

Here, NJU students repeat shrimping motions during warm-ups. Shrimping is vital for your core strength, hip-movement, and your ability to regain your guard if someone passes it.

I’ll never forget the drilling montage in Kill Bill 2, when untested protagonist Beatrix travels to an ancient-looking temple to train with Pai Mei, a calloused and old-school martial arts master. Through a long but entertaining training montage, Pai Mei subjects Beatrix to a grueling session after session of technique-repetition. In true Hollywood speed-montage fashion, Beatrix’s Kung Fu gradually improves. Later in the movie, she’s placed in a precarious situation where her only hope for escape is her oft-repeated training and muscle-memory.

In the long term scope of training, I learned three things from this:

#1. There is no replacement for regular, repeated, basic technique. In other words, you CANNOT get good at BJJ if you skip warm-ups and muscle-memory building sessions. When I teach a jiu-jitsu class, the students who come in late are always the most puzzled. That’s because the warm-ups prepare your body and mind for the movements that will be used again and again in learning technique. And without that, you will be puzzled regardless of what color your belt is!

#2. The BJJ grind is definitely NOT as easy as a Hollywood training / drilling montage! There is no video editing technique that you can use to make the warm-ups go faster. There’s no cinematic quick-fix that will enable you to accomplish a month’s worth of repetitions and improvements in 20 seconds-worth of time. This is a “secret” that is open to everyone, yet surprisingly (maybe willingly?) overlooked by many.

#3. BJJ is a labor of love. Technique is sometimes hard to learn, but you do not need to be extra strong, flexible, or talented to excel. You do not need a special gi, DVD series, or podcast. You simply need to trust your instructor and repeat movements and techniques (via warm-ups and drills) to condition your mind to react quickly and automatically.

Come train at NJ United Mixed Martial Arts and take advantage of our 7-day free trial offer! Whether you’re an aspiring competitor or casual student, you will benefit from training in our friendly, professional, and ego-free environment. Call us at 973-638-1570 to schedule your first class, and visit us on the web at for more info.

JJ Mike

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