Training Adaptation in Jiu Jitsu

The Theory Of Training Adaptation In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

By: Joe Mullings

The theories of “Adaptation” put forth by Tudor Bompa and the applications for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu training and conditioning offer some very interesting points. As he presented in “Theory and Methodology of Training” Bompa had developed a training system referred to as Periodization. The objective of this system focus being to develop a high level athlete by varying training stresses (cycles) throughout their “training year” rather than just maintaining a constant level or type of training stress.

Competitive Jiu Jitsu is a sport that allows the athlete to plan around specific dates of a competition. Whether it is the Mundials, Pan Ams, NAGA, Grapplers Quest or whatever the competition. That is a critical point in designing training programs by reverse engineering a timeline backward from the day of competition to incorporate variations in training stimulus.

Success against an opponent in Jiu Jitsu can often depend on the speed and precision of technique execution. Reading and reacting to the stimulus of an opponent’s movement can often dictate the outcome of a match. If an athlete is aware and capable of responding to these stimuli rapidly, he or she can prevent the opponent from gaining and advantage. Successful athletes need to have excellent sensory perception and the ability to respond to a stimulus with a pre-programmed response in a contest where circumstances are constantly changing. Training needs to address the physiological and psychological components of this stimulus – response encounter.

Jiu Jitsu, or any Combat Sport, requires absolute strength and addition to the development of relative strength or sport specific strength as determined by the event the athlete is training for. In developing the optimum training program, attention must be paid to building power, muscular endurance, detailed movement, identifying stimuli (triggers) and rehearsing a pre-programmed reaction.

Jiu Jitsu requires the body to work in harmony and coordinate complicated movements for a specific outcome and as such the athlete should adapt their body in order to accommodate the desired outcome of the movement. In a game of inches and degrees of movement, training adaptation happens best when the transformation occurs when athletes systematically repeat the same exercise. The greater the degree of adaptation by the athlete, the better they will perform – being careful to repeat the exercise / movement correctly so as to not reinforce an incorrect, or sub-optimal, response. The old adage “practice makes perfect” is absolutely eclipsed by the more accurate adage “perfect practice makes perfect.”

Physiological changes that will occur in the body are a direct result of the training demands. As athletes train, they should adapt to the effort / work stimulus. Intensity, volume and frequency of the training are all factors that impact adaptation. This physical training is only valuable if it is intense enough to force the body to adapt to the stress of the effort. If the stress is not challenging enough to the athlete, no adaptation will occur. If the stress is too much, injuries may occur. Careful monitoring of this balance through a variety of means and observations is essential to determining the optimal training stimulus balance.


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