Underground Blog Guest piece by Dan "Micro" Faggella
On the surface, there's already a lot in common between Andre Galvao and Fredson Paixao. First, they're both Brazilian, and they're both multi-time world champions. Good enough? Not quite.
Having had the pleasure of interviewing both of these great athletes, I can say that in their approaches to training and becoming a champion, their methodologies have a lot of cross-over. In this article, I'll aim to cover some of the major similarities that these amazing champions use – which might be adopted by any BJJ athlete looking to take his or her game to the next level.
Saving the Sabbath
Though both fighters are known to train ferociously, both Galvao and Paixao told me over the phone that they deliberately take Sundays off the rest, the heal up, and to spend time with family and do more calm activities (both mentioned reading).
This attitude is not uncommon in other domains of performance (such as the professional world), but there are some athletes who might still be of the belief that training all day every day is the ideal. From a psychological and physiological standpoint there is certainly a breaking point for any of us, and getting in the habit of taking a full day off (especially when you train at the volume and intensity of these athletes) can be a good beginning for integrating the element of recovery.
Admiration for Judo
Galvao and Paixao also expressed to me how much they admire and see value in the training approaches of the sport of Judo. The emphasis is much more and drilling and a consistent kind of smoothing out of technique – in addition to a much higher intensity kind of explosive fighting on the feet.
Paixao emphasized drilling, and that he uses this Judo mentality to drill literally every area and position of his game on a regular basis. Though he may pick one major “project,” he always ensures that he's getting in good reps from all positions.
Andre put a lot of emphasis on the idea of intensity and aggressiveness, believing that Judo naturally tends to breed more of this mentality than Jiu Jitsu, and that BJJ players could learn a lot from the grueling training and competition pace of Judo.
Finding Challenge in Practice
Both fighters also like to find and build challenges for themselves in the training room. Likely being the best pound-for-pound grapplers at nearly any gym they walk into, they have to structure training to be difficult and personally challenging.
Paixao often begins sequences of live matches in inferior positions and bottom positions with his students and training partners, forcing him to push the pace physically and also use more energy to get on top and out of bad situations.
Andre performs similar experiments with himself, including short “sprint fighting” rounds where he focuses 100% on submission for 90 seconds with short 30-second breaks in between rounds.
Undoubtedly there's a lot that we can learn from these legends of BJJ competition (if you get a chance to train or speak with either of them in person I would recommend taking advantage of the opportunity!). Hopefully with a few of their common insights you'll be able to keep these simple building blocks as a part of your own skill development game-plan.
Daniel Faggella runs the Black Diamond Mixed Martial Arts academy where he teaches Brazilian Jiu Jitsu classes in Rhode Island. He has written for Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine (UK), MMA Sports Mag and many more. Holding a Masters degree in Positive Psychology from UPENN, he also writes extensively on sport psychology and skill development at his main website: ScienceofSkill.com.