How To Set and accomplish your goals in BJJ rapidly

Setting specific goals while practicing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu can help improve your overall performance as an athlete, and this practice can also help in refining your ability to adapt to changes and challenges. When you have specific goals in mind, it creates a roadmap for you to follow to improve your skills and competitive performance. You are also more focused and committed to training, and achieving these goals becomes a powerful motivational technique.

If you want to constantly improve as a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner, it’s not just a matter of setting any goals for yourself. For example, if your goal during rolling rounds is to tap out as many as you can, it will not help you in your BJJ career in the long run. You’ll grasp the essence of grappling and body locks by working smarter, not harder. Also, writing down your goals and your progress in achieving them may take a lot of work, but it is also equally important.

According to studies, you retain more information, improve faster, and are able to achieve a higher success rate with your goals if you document your progress. As an example, Barbie Perry of Elevata BJJ revealed at a conference in Toronto that keeping a journal of her progress helped her achieve her goal a year earlier. So set the right goals, write them down, keep tabs with your progress, and get them done.

To help you set the right goals, here are a few pointers of what types of goals you can set and how to work them out.

Types of Goals in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

Outcome Goals. These are long term goals and help you aim at winning or performing better than someone else. These long term goals can highly motivate you to exert your utmost effort and perseverance to achieve them, but oftentimes these are affected by factors that are not under your control, such as how others perform. Also, the success of these goals are limited to the existence of performance and process goals, so at times it can be very broad.

An example of an outcome goal in jiu-jitsu is winning gold at the BJJ State Championship five years from now.

Performance Goals. These are medium-term goals used to improve your individual performance and aims at specific standards you want to achieve. For example, a baseball player may aim to increase his batting average from .322 to .332, or a runner may set a goal of completing 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in 30 minutes. But bear in mind that since BJJ is a contact sport, there are things in training that you have less or no control of such as the performance of your training partner and his actions.

So it’s important to set realistic and practical performance goals. Performance goals are also used to monitor the success of process goals, and this provides an overview if there is progress towards the desired outcome goal. Setting performance goals and acting on them eventually leads to mastery and can make you feel satisfied with the way you handled you Brazilian Jiu-jitsu match even if you do not win.

Examples of simple performance goals are:

  • Train daily
  • Gain improved aerobic capacity during training
  • Gain faster heart rate recovery between sparring rounds
  • Complete all sparring and situational training required by BJJ coach

But you should also be warned, that in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu some goals are harder to measure:

  • Increase skill proficiency in a particular guard system
  • Increase takedown proficiency and success rate
  • Avoid submission in a 5-minute match
  • Hold Closed Guard for 5 minutes
  • Hold Open guard for 5 minutes against training partner
  • Avoid submissions on opponent’s guard

Setting performance goals and acting on them eventually leads to mastery and can make you feel satisfied with the way you handled you Brazilian Jiu-jitsu match even if you do not win.

Process Goals. These are short term goals in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu that support your performance goals and deal with the techniques or strategies necessary to perform well. You have complete control over these goals, and these are geared towards the achievement of performance goals. Process goals are effective in helping you to focus your attention and aids you in controlling your performance anxiety.

For example, if you want to improve your takedown success rate you may set a goal of being able to launch attack sequences with some variations. If you want to have a higher success rate in submission, you may want to establish your attack combination from a closed guard maneuver. So it’s not effective to have just any goal and do what needs to be done. Now you are aware of the different types of goals and how they are related to each other.

But you don’t want a goal to stay just that - a goal that was never acted upon. As a BJJ practitioner, you may get frustrated when you are not able to achieve any of your goals. But the problem may not be with you. The problem may lie in the goals that you set.

Here are things to remember when setting your goals in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu:

Setting BJJ Goals the SMART Way

An old adage goes like this - work smarter, not harder. True, hard work has its place in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. But there’s a faster way to improve your skills and proficiency and that’s by setting SMART goals. This SMART goals strategy was developed by Duncan Haughney to help you get higher success in achieving your goals.

SPECIFIC. Your goals should be specific and significant to you as a BJJ practitioner. For example, do you want to hold out longer against a more experienced practitioner? Do you want to be the victor in your next competition? Do you want to gain practical experience by spending more time on the mat? Your goals are SMART when these are specific. Be sure to write these down so that it is clear, concise, and you’ll be able to get back to it as a reminder.

MEASURABLE. Being able to see your progress, how you started from nothing and the long way you’ve gone from scratch, brings meaning and motivation into your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practice. What are the indicators that you have reached your goals? Will you get a belt rank promotion? Will you get a gold medal when you succeed? Will you be able to effectively counter a maneuver? Think carefully what the indicator for your success will be, and work hard to achieve it.

ACHIEVABLE. Your goals should be practical and attainable because this would give you the incentive to keep on. It would be wise for you to set small goals along the way that leads to a larger goal. This will help keep you motivated as you see and track your progress. For example, if you want to be promoted to the next Brazilian Jiu-jitsu belt rank, then you should set goals of learning new moves and how to use them efficiently.

REALISTIC. For your goals to be SMART, it should be relevant and results-oriented. This means that you set goals that are reasonably within the reach of your skills and circumstance. It happens at times that you get carried away and put simply too much on your plate. Or you’d want to achieve big goals in BJJ too soon. Focusing on one major goal at a time, working on smaller goals to achieve your bigger goal, and accepting your current limitations, make it easier for you to mentally and physically perform to achieve your SMART goals.

TIMELY. Time is essential for your SMART goals because it will differentiate your goals from your dreams and wishes. How much time you should give yourself to reach your goals in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu depends on the what kind of goals you have set. It’s not realistic to aim for the championship by the end of the month if you have just started in Jiu-jitsu. Likewise, you cannot expect to take on and succeed against a long-time and advanced practitioner if you only have a single technique at your disposal.

When your deadline is up, evaluate if you were able to accomplish your goal. If not, then take the time to sit down and think why you were not able to reach your goal. Also, plan out what will help you increase the odds of reaching your BJJ goal in the future. Now aside from setting SMART BJJ goals, documenting your progress is important as well. When you write down your goals, you prepare your mind and body for what you want to achieve.

You may well face challenges along the way, and frustrations may get to you. But a goal written solidly on paper will serve as a reminder of what you are working hard for and why you do it.With well-documented progress, you are able to see what went wrong when you failed to reach a certain goal. Of course, when you know what went wrong, it will be easier for you to avoid doing that kind of mistake for the second time. Then you’ll be able to use the information to plan out a better strategy so that you’ll crush that goal on your second try.

For example, you have a timetable to get promoted to the next BJJ belt rank. But then that goal was a total failure. If you documented your progress on achieving your goal, it would be easier to identify areas of opportunities, as opposed to non-documented progress. Were you lacking in technique? Were you able to spend enough time with a training buddy, or do you need to gain more experience on the mat? A well-documented progress in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is equally important as a SMART goal.

But what Brazilian Jiu-jitsu SMART goals can you set?

Setting Goals For Your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu

  • Get your belt upgrade to blue, purple, brown, or black. Setting big goals will push you to exceed your current skills and limitations. The mind conditioning of reaching the next belt level can motivate you to persevere through challenges, and stick to your program. You’ll also aim to be more proficient in using Jiu-jitsu techniques, resulting in an expanded Brazilian Jiu-jitsu skillset.

  • Set to train 2 to 3 times per week at a minimum. Make a commitment with yourself, and also with your training partners, to do training in a set number of times every week. Be consistent and firm with your schedule. Being able to keep your commitment to Jiu-jitsu training contributes to your self-esteem and promotes positive feelings.
  • Improve specific areas of your BJJ skill set and proficiency. For example, performing drills and specific training in positions that you’d like to master is one of those smaller goals that lead to your achieving your larger goals. In time, those short drilling sessions will add up to reveal significant progress in your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu game.

  • Enter a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournament. A major tournament is one of the few things that can push you to up your performance. You’ll find yourself with increased motivation to prepare for your match, and this will take you out of your comfort zone, face the things that you are afraid of, and be the best possible version of yourself. You’ll be working with your team to push yourselves to the limit and show your very best when your tournament day comes.

  • Get back on track. If you have put aside BJJ training due to work, school, or family reasons, this is the best time to set a goal of going back to the mats on a regular basis. This will help get the ball rolling, and before you know it you’re back from where you’ve left off. If you're recovering from injury, returning to your last level of performance and conditioning can be a major goal to set.

Additionally, here are simple, everyday Brazilian Jiu-jitsu goals that you can try.

Set your mood and expectations. Before you step inside the academy, visualize in your mind what you’d want to accomplish. Take a few minutes to reflect on what small goals you’d want to achieve today. This is where your documentation comes in handy because you can go back to your listed goals anywhere and anytime you want. So, bring your journal or planner anywhere you go and take it out whenever you want to jot down something in your mind.

Don’t rush changing into your gi, start chatting, or hang out with fellow practitioners without going through your specific Brazilian Jiu-jitsu goals for that day. When you’re done reviewing your goals, get an idea of what it looks like to accomplish each one. For example, do you plan to spend 30 minutes with a training partner? You can write this information during or after training or in between rolling when you take your breaks.

Improve Your Physical Condition. When you’ve been doing Jiu-jitsu for a while, you often tend to forget how physically demanding Brazilian Jiu-jitsu can be. At the very least, you are taking on body weights similar to or even heavier than yours. This area is often overlooked and is a great place to start for new students, especially doing a complete warm-up can be beneficial in the long run.

There are many physical goals you can pick from:

  • Perform rolling every other round when sparring.
  • Decide on how many rounds you want to do, in a row or total and stick to that number.
  • Strengthen your base so you don’t get swept easily
  • Identify a physical component of your game and improve it.
  • Think carefully your strengths and weaknesses in Jiu-jitsu and you’ll realize that the potential to set goals for your physical improvement are endless.

Improve Your Jiu-jitsu Techniques. Even if you are already an experienced student, there is always something that you can work on. Choose one or two techniques from various positions and try them during rolling. Some of the best Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners stick with the same techniques over a long period of time. You can also try this approach and practice your techniques until you decide it’s not for your game or you have worked them enough and move on to practice other techniques.

As an example, you may choose to work on your knee slide pass for your open guard, work your triangles for your closed guard bottom, and improve your Kimura attacks for your side control top.

Practice What You Just Learned. Practicing what you just learned works well for all kinds of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners, be it new or experienced. Most BJJ classes focus on one or two techniques at a time, but you may still feel like you have no idea what to do during rolling. Having a goal of practicing what you just learned will help reinforce what you just learned. Make certain to attempt the techniques you learned in class and gain its practical application during rolling.

If you can successfully deliver the technique in a class full of people who know what to expect from you, then your mastery and timing will improve.


To the untrained eyes, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu may appear to be random and spontaneous movements. But BJJ practitioners know very well that those movements are calculated and developed for many years. The best players were not given the right to be champions at birth, they worked hard, and smart, to get them to the point where their game looks effortless. No matter where you are now in your Brazilian Jiu-jitsu journey, this holds true: set a goal for your training and document your progress and you will be ahead those from who didn’t have a journal or planner.