If you can’t make it in to train more than once or twice a week, but still want to improve, there is hope for you.  If you live a long way away from a qualified brown or black belt and can only train with high level instruction every so often, you can still make progress.  You have to put in the hours, though, and you have to be willing to make sacrifices.  Here are five ways you can sharpen your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or grappling game during the time you can’t make it to the gym.

1.  Solo Drills
You need a partner to do jiu jitsu!  Or do you?  Well, there are plenty of basic movements you can work on (and some not so basic) by yourself, provided you have a little space to do the drills.  Easy examples of functional BJJ drills you probably already do at the gym include standing up in base, shrimping, “boot scooting”, penetration/drop step, coming forward to sit up, and even light breakfalls.  Don’t limit yourself to these common drills, though- you can do dozens of other movements that you use in various techniques by simply breaking the technique down into its movements.  The possibilities are endless!  Andre Galvao has an excellent book that is sure to give you lots of ideas.  The book is appropriately titled “Drill to Win.”

2.  Reading
Speaking of books,  there are hundreds of good resources out there for jiu jitsu students of all levels, from white to black belt.  Pick something that focuses on the fundamentals of BJJ (don’t be tempted to learn overly advanced stuff right now just because it looks cool), but don’t be afraid to take a look at where your grappling journey can take you.

3.  Watch video
This one can be a little tricky.  There’s a lot of good video out there, but there are also a lot of things that you can watch and then try at the gym without really getting the main concept behind the techniques.  Even more so than with reading, be sure to focus on more fundamental stuff with video.  Revolution BJJ has a Youtube page worth subscribing to (in our not-so-humble opinion), and if you’re a member of the gym, you have access to dozens of fundamental instructional videos at http://revolutioncoach.info/.  Finally, don’t forget to consider watching highlight videos of individual competitors, both in BJJ and in MMA.  You can frequently see techniques you have already learned in class in action!

4.  Start a training journal
One of our coaches, Russ Helm,  recently wrote a great article about taking notes.  This is something that you can easily do when you’re done training, whether at the gym before you leave (while your memory is fresh), or once you get home, when you have a comfortable environment to look back on your day’s training.

5.  Work on your cardio
Rolling is the best way to prepare for more rolling, period.  However, you might not be able to get in to the gym and roll as often as you like.  Good ways to work on your cardio without being able to roll with a partner would include upping the intensity of the solo drilling (making a game of it where you challenge yourself do to a certain number of a drill in less time than before), swimming, running, or basic calisthenics like pushups or crunches.  While these are not ideal as compared to actual grappling, they’re far better than doing nothing if you have stretches of several days without training!

No matter what your circumstances, if you are willing to put in the time, you can improve your jiu jitsu.  Make the time to do these things and your jiu jitsu is bound to improve, even when you’re not on the mats!