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  • Writer's pictureJess D

Making Your BJJ Game Like Your Dinner Plate

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

Just like your dinner plate, your BJJ game has different parts that come together to make you successful on your BJJ journey.

January always gets everyone thinking about working out and being healthy for the new year (and we all know how that turns out after the first two weeks). In addition to my normal training and workout routine, I’ve recently been cooking at home and thinking about how to fuel my body for bjj including making sure my plate is filled with lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, all that good stuff.

All this meal prep and clean eating got me thinking about the holidays and how my plate usually looks during holiday meals. Then because I’m weird and my brain goes in weird places, I started thinking about what makes up an actual healthy meal plate, which then made me think about bjj (I am still trying to figure out how my mind got there but it did so don’t judge me).

Sometimes, preparing your dinner plate is like making the perfect bjj game: you got to have the right ratio of stuff that is tasty to stuff that is good for you. You also want to make the overall experience fun and something of a recipe that you’ll want to return to with different varieties.

All this is mind (and as my stomach rumbles), here is how I think making your bjj game is the same as making your dinner plate.

Main Dish

For the main dish, I’m always thinking about those holiday center spread proteins like Turkey, Pernil, Ham, Duck, fish, ham, tofurkey (if you’re vegetarian or adventurous), etc. whatever you’re into and whatever your holiday tradition is. These are the foods that catches your eye and that you tend to gravitate towards first. These are the items that if you don’t cook them right or if you add in the wrong spices and flavoring, the whole meal is ruined. If you eat any of these foods ill-prepared or raw, then you’re going to get sick. In jiu-jitsu, these are the main parts of your game.

I thought of it in two different ways: 1. Your fundamentals aka the things you need to understand and properly do bjj and 2. The main things that you’re good at in BJJ. To understand the game that is Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you need to have the fundamentals down. “You can’t build a good house if you don’t have a strong foundation” – Some martial arts sensei somewhere. So, the fundamentals are the most important part of your game. These are the things you perfect and rep out no matter what level you are at on your bjj journey. These can go from basic movements like hip escapes and bridging to basic jiu-jitsu techniques like passing, arm bars, triangles etc. etc.

When it comes to things you’re good at jiu-jitsu, these are the things you fall back on in order to make your game great or help you “win” (you can read this in a competition way or in whatever way you want). This might include a submission you’re really good at or like having a great top game where you can connect all your techniques seamlessly.

Favorite Side Dishes

These things are all the stuff you’re going for next after that main dish touches your plate: Baked Mac n Cheese, Yams, greens, salad, rice, potatoes, (insert your favorite carb here). These sides complement your main food in a way that your pallet understands. In fact, you might go for seconds with these foods, and they make you feel full and satisfied.

In bjj, these are the techniques that go together with those main fundamentals you do and maybe help solidify and connect portions of your game together. For example, using a specific guard pass that leads you into a secure side control or specific entry for a technique that will lead you into a proper, more secure submission. This portion of the meal goes together well and maybe you have a specific taste that someone else doesn’t have.

You just know what you like. Maybe others like it too but you have your way of putting it together (aka maybe you don’t like your mac n cheese touching your greens, but your cousin doesn’t mind for example) Of course, someone can put you on to a great combination, like your jiu-jitsu coach or a friend but you make it your own.

Mystery Sides/ Sides to Try

Sometimes someone brings in something for you to try that you aren’t familiar with, or you mix some weird concoction together and think it might be good. It might look weird and definitely not part of your usual line up. You’re unsure if you’re going to like it but it’s there so hey, why not try it? Sometimes it tastes amazing, and you put more of it on your plate. Sometimes it’s gross and you never want to try it again.

In BJJ terms, these are the techniques that you learn in class that may be outside of your game but when you go to practice it with a partner, you realize that it’s simple to do or it compliments your bjj game well. On the other hand, it might look simple when the coach shows it to the class but then when you go to try it, you completely mess it up, or your body doesn’t stretch that way, or you’re not as explosive or strong to try that move. It’s okay to decide that it’s not right for you. Maybe the cook might be offended for a little bit, but if you at least tried it, they can’t be too mad.

For white belts, your whole game might feel like this especially when you’re new and coming into the bjj world. This is completely fine. As you go through your jiu-jitsu journey, you’ll discover that you don’t have to be good at everything and some techniques will be just right for you. Even as a purple belt, I go to class and think to myself, “geez, this technique sucks!” which might not be true for another person who might think that same technique unlocked a whole new world for them. I’m sure other upper belts go through the same things and go pick the right techniques that match their “bjj toolbox”. If you go to class and give it your best try, it’s all good.


For me, this is my most favorite part. I love pies, cobblers, cookies, and ice cream so I’m always ready for dessert even when I’m full. It’s a great way to end a meal and for the most part, you can’t really go wrong with desserts. In terms of your bjj game, I equate dessert to super fancy submissions. After going through the other parts of your game and working hard to get to that submission you set up for, it always feels nice to land that extra fancy submission. If there is something that you specialize in and you’re able to get it every single time of course that is really awesome.

But, as you know, too much of something good can be bad. Of course, we know the dangers of eating too many sweets. When it comes to doing too much of the same kind of submission, it leaves you vulnerable in many ways: you just focusing on that one submission and neglecting other parts of your game, other areas of your game opening up when going for that submission, or your opponents and training partners getting used to that move and shutting it down before it can even start.

Extras: sauces and dressing

I hope that you cook or the people in your life cook with spices and flavors. But even then, sometimes you do need some extra spices, sauce and dressing to go with your meal. Unless you’re like me who doesn’t really like salad dressing on their salad (I already told you I’m weird you can stop judging me now), you do like something that brings out all the flavors of your meal. When it comes to jiu-jitsu, I consider these as the supplements to your BJJ game. This is including but not limited to the physical aspects of stretching and flexibility with yoga, strength training maybe with weight training and body weight exercises, and cardio with running, swimming, or Zumba (if you’re me). The non-physical aspects include watching videos, visualization, writing notes, etc. These are just anything that adds life and “flavor” to your bjj.

The Pefect Combo for your BJJ Game Plate

For a full game and jiu-jitsu experience you need to have a full plate of things to consume and benefit from. You wouldn’t just want a plate of a main course, constantly eat desserts, or drink salad dressing if you want to get the full nutritional value of your food. This is the same in BJJ; just one element of jiu-jitsu would be really boring and not beneficial to your full game, and you wouldn’t develop. Bringing all the elements together make a full and delicious meal that leaves you fully satisfied.

After writing this, I’m going to get something to eat. So, tell me, what is your favorite meal and which part of your game do you feel you focus the most on?

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