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Finnegan
6/23/2010 6:09pm,
Any advice for a noob on how to avoid gassing? I’ve been doing BJJ for ~4 months now and just started sparring this week (at the GB school I’m at they make you stay in the fundamentals class for the first few months before allowing you to spar in the advanced class) and am gassing depressingly fast. I try to focus on breathing, relaxing, not getting tunnel vision on any particular grip or technique and in the process using too much muscle or spazzing but it always seems to end up going out the window after we change partners a couple times.

I’ve been pretty active my whole life and consider myself slightly above average when it comes to cardio (pretty strong long distance runner and cyclist – but I’m pretty scrawny for my heighth and could stand to hit the weights) so it’s frustrating to gas so quick on the mats. My instinct is to hit the pavement and up my running mileage but that doesn’t seem quite right. I know I should probably lift weights but right now lifting is the last thing I feel like doing since I’m so freaking sore from getting my ass kicked. Suck it up and hit the weights anyway?

No doubt that more time on the mats will help (my coaches say “just keep on coming to class” . . . which I plan on doing) but does anyone have any advice for a noob?

Petter
6/23/2010 6:26pm,
No doubt that more time on the mats will help (my coaches say “just keep on coming to class” . . . which I plan on doing) but does anyone have any advice for a noob?
Sure: …Just keep coming to class.

Seriously, the one thing I keep hearing is that when it comes to endurance, specificity is king. Nothing will build up your BJJ endurance like doing more BJJ. Not only will you be working the right muscles in the right ways, you will also learn the million little tricks no one thinks about or teaches, exactly when to relax and how to pace yourself.

Lifting weights will of course help your strength, and strength is good, but I doubt it will do very much to help your endurance per se, unless physical weakness is a big problem in your regular rolling.

Personally, I maintain that I was born without a cardio, but even I notice that the more BJJ I do, the better I can keep up. In particular, once I started doing classes back to back (hence 2 hours instead of 1), I often felt like death after the second class but soon felt that doing just one was a cakewalk.

Also, if you
just started sparring this week then it’s way too soon to start worrying.

erik the red
6/23/2010 9:26pm,
It sounds like you pretty much have the answers from yourself and your coaches. The increased cardio will come with mat time. From my experience, when people first start rolling "live", no matter how much they think they are focusing on relaxing and breathing, a person is still tensing when they don't need to be; using muscle energy and spending "gas" when it isn't necessary. Learning when to "rest" in the guard while still working to gain position will aid in not expending extraneous energy. Keep doing what you are doing, and it will begin to fall in place.

Uncle Skippy
6/24/2010 12:27am,
Remember it is always easier and takes less energy to move yourself than to move the other person.

If you find yourself pushing/pulling/growling/huffing/puffing, then chances are you are trying to force the other person into a position instead of moving yourself into it. You will kill your cardio that way.

Soldiermedic
6/24/2010 6:12am,
One thing that really helped me out when I was learning grappling was that I didn't realize how much I was holding my breath. I mean a split second here and there really adds up.

Vorpal
6/24/2010 6:42am,
Try talking to yourself while rolling. It sounds stupid (it is kind of stupid really) but it actually does work. Not loud, but just keep a running commentary on what's going on "Ok, here we go...oh..pulling guard?...ok...I gotta posture up and....ok..nice sweep...I gotta get outta here.....ok....ok...that didn't work...ok..hey I'm out.." Your training partner will think you are retarded (maybe you are) but if you've been getting 5 miles a gallon you might feel like you're getting closer to 10 or 12.

Prince Vlad
6/24/2010 8:16am,
You could try throwing some Crossfit training in there twice a week on your days off. I had the same problem as you a while back, I used to get gassed when switching between sparring, grappling and circuit training - a few weeks of Crossfit made a huge difference to my overall cardio and endurance. Worth checking out.

Finnegan
6/24/2010 8:45am,
Thanks for the responses guys. Much appreciated.

Finnegan
8/13/2010 11:21am,
I’m bored at work on a quiet Friday morning so incoming wall of text. You’ve been warned.

Well at this point I'm more or less able to keep up in sparring (from a conditioning standpoint) and am loving classes more every day.

Last night I rolled with 3 different blues and a purple. . . . it was a very humbling evening as I usually am paired up with at least one fellow white belt (which has apparently been giving me a false sense of competence).

At any rate, the only one that didn't "completely" manhandle me was a female blue that I outweighed by probably 30-40 lbs. I got tapped 3 times by the other two blues and the purple kept me in butterfly guard the whole time which was pretty much the most humbling of all because I couldn't do JACK ****. At the very end of the roll he swept me . . . not because he was taking advantage of a mistake but what felt more like whimsy. it was more like . . . "ok, I'm bored with butterfly guard, time to do something else now" and that he could have swept/reversed any time he damn well felt like it. Even though he didn't go for a tap, his ability to COMPLETELY control the roll opened my eyes as to how much I really suck. I almost wish he HAD gone for the tap.

As I was driving home afterwards, reflecting on mistakes or things I could have done differently and checking for any new aches and pains (ribs, neck and back more sore then yesterday? Nope? About the same? Excellent. Check. Mat-burn on right elbow ripped open again? Nope? Almost healed? Excellent. Check. Anything new? Nope? Excellent. Check.) I realized that after each tap and at the end of each ass beating I had a huge grin on my face and was enjoying myself despite the pain and humiliation. I hate to use the word 'glee' but its probably appropriate. . . . becuase getting repeatedly triangled and owned in general is . . . fun?

Which lead me to the conclusion that there's something not quite right about people that train 9at least in the beggining). Perhaps even a little crazy. Not "normal". How else do you explain people who willingly endure pain and humiliation week in and week out?

So I guess my first question: is there a point where the pain goes away or is it something that is always there that must be managed to some degree? Is there a point where you don’t notice the bruising, mat burn, sore muscles and occasional bloody lip? Since I started sparring I have been slowly increasing the number of hours that I train each week. Until last week I had sustained 7-8 hours/week for a couple consecutive weeks. Last week my neck was wicked sore (not from any particular instance but I think from the cumulative effects of training) so I took it easy and only trained 2 hours to let my neck rest. This week I will train 6 hours and am thinking (hoping) 5-6 hours/week will be my happy medium for a while because I really don’t want to cut back anymore.

Anyone else experienced diminishing returns in their training? If so, how many hours a week is too much and what is your “happy medium”?

PointyShinyBurn
8/13/2010 11:31am,
To the OP:
A lot of what people think is 'cardio' in BJJ is actually technique, as you keep going to class you'll find your technique will improve, allowing you to use less energy and massively improve your apparent cardio. Hitting the pavement more probably won't make a lot of difference, the amount of energy you're using right now is likely too much by a multiple, not a fraction.

Prince Vlad
8/13/2010 11:57am,
I would consider myself all round fit and strong, I've been lifting weights for almost 20 years and training crossfit and various MA for most of my life. I recently took up combined BJJ/Judo classes at a hardcore MMA club and I was shocked at how I went from being what I thought was very fit guy to bumbling noob gasping for breath in the corner.
Breathing has to be a big factor, it's very hard to breath regularly when you are trying to wrestle a 20 stone Eastern European guy off your chest while also trying not to get submitted. Breathing in weight training isn't normally a problem as the worst you will get from high endurance training is having to lift when you are breathing hard - this is very different to using explosive strength and continued push pull movements when you are fighting. Last night I had a blue belt kneel on my chest with his full weight as he pulled my head forward and eventually rolled to an arm bar - but for the entire time he was on top of me I couldn't breath and I couldn't tap because my arms were tied up.
Not sure if this is something that anyone can teach you but rather something you have to work out for your own body based on it's current level of fitness etc. Still trying to get my head around it but the guys in the club all say that it gets easier the more you train so that's what I'm going to do.

Mo_Fo
8/13/2010 12:15pm,
This is a great thread. Allegedly I am to receive my third strip in the next couple of weeks (all of my professors have been dropping subtle hints such as asking me if I'm up for the advanced sparing and techniques classes) and I am looking forward to rolling. Like you, I am also training at a Gracie Barra dojo.

There have been a few nuggets of gold on this thread. Regarding Vorpal and the talking to yourself, that’s funny because I do that all the time when learning and practicing new techniques. I often talk to myself out loud (quietly) and just about everybody I’ve trained with has come to expect that when working with me, lol. I just think it really helps me, it’s almost like I’m coaching myself through the moves.

Soldiemedic25, you are dead on regarding the small instances where I catch myself holding my breath before (wrongly) trying to muscle somebody because my technique is still immature.

Uncle Skippy, you dropped one of those “ahh-ha” moments on me when I read your post. I never even thought about this: “Remember it is always easier and takes less energy to move yourself than to move the other person.” Great comment and one that I will keep in mind.

I love training. I am currently getting into the dojo for an hour each day Monday through Thursday and then Saturday as well. I love it. I live for each “ahh-ha” moment in training.

Again, great post Finnegan I hope you continue this thread as your training progresses.

WhiteShark
8/13/2010 12:25pm,
I would normally just say RELAX! and then /thread but I've had a pretty different experience than most people during grappling and I think a lot of it comes from a long background in swimming. The breathing discipline I developed in swimming has allowed me to pretty much always breath consistently no matter what activity I am doing.

I never really gassed the way a lot of white belts do and now that I can relax and roll I seem to be able to roll at a competitive level for an extremely long time even when compared with guys I know are at a similar skill level and in better shape. So if a pool is available and you know how to swim maybe jump on in there.

Finnegan
8/13/2010 12:35pm,
I would normally just say RELAX! and then /thread but I've had a pretty different experience than most people during grappling and I think a lot of it comes from a long background in swimming. The breathing discipline I developed in swimming has allowed me to pretty much always breath consistently no matter what activity I am doing.

I never really gassed the way a lot of white belts do and now that I can relax and roll I seem to be able to roll at a competitive level for an extremely long time even when compared with guys I know are at a similar skill level and in better shape. So if a pool is available and you know how to swim maybe jump on in there.

Haha, I swam at a competitive level as a kid which led to an easy transition into running and cycling as an adult. All of my life, in every sport I've so much as dabbled in I have had above average lung capacity which is part of the reason I made the OP to begin with.

For me it's definately not a lack of lung capacity which lead/leads to my initial and ongoing gassing. Remembering to breath? Lol, thats another story.


Uncle Skippy, you dropped one of those “ahh-ha” moments on me when I read your post. I never even thought about this: “Remember it is always easier and takes less energy to move yourself than to move the other person.” Great comment and one that I will keep in mind Yeah this was a big lightbulb moment for me as well. Whenever I find myself using to much strength I try to think about this. Sometimes it even works!!!

Res Judicata
8/13/2010 1:16pm,
Some of it is adrenaline management, which goes with the "relax" theme. My cardio is below average but I'm rarely out of breath in BJJ, unless someone's sitting on my diaphragm.

BJJ is just not really that cardio intensive. (Judo is another story, though). You can always tell the new guys -- going too hard, breath like a furnace, clinging on for dear life. Chill.

Poo-Jitsu
8/13/2010 3:38pm,
Anyone else experienced diminishing returns in their training? If so, how many hours a week is too much and what is your “happy medium”?

Because I am old and trying to balance another sport with jits, I find that I can't spar more than 3 times a week. I make up for it by drilling more. That's like 5 or 6 hours of jits a week. Paltry, but it works for me.

As for the "bumps and bruises" issue - it all depends on who comes to train that day. Somedays it's all noobs and I leave without really feeling like I trained at all. Other days the tough guys show up and I leave limping.