The Nail Answers

Ask the Nail

“The secret of this sport is, while you’re the nail, hang in there, let them hit you, until the day you become the hammer, then you smash them back!”

-Renzo Gracie

This quote talks about what I love about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. BJJ is hard, but that is why we do it because it is hard. If you are always being the hammer you are becoming weak because nobody is pushing you to get better. Every time I don’t feel like training I tell myself that I need to get on the mat, because nobody is going to be a better nail than me.

This is our first edition of the Inside BJJ Ask the Nail column. Some of the Insiders have written in with questions. If you have a question or if you have something to share or if you just want to let us know how training is going feel free to ask questions viaemail or Twitter.and we will answer. Your question may even be answered by one of the many blackbelts that Inside BJJ interviews every month and appear in an Ask the Nail column.

On to the questions,
The Nail

I wanted to start out by saying this is a great idea and thanks. I’m looking for a few tips for a beginner. I wrestled in high school but that was ten years ago also tired to start bjj a few times before but time, traveling, and money were issues then. Now that I’ve been training for a year with a few breaks here and there I’m noticed something that’s holding me back a will even more if not taken care of. The problem I have while rolling is that if I’m on the bottom in side control or the mount even knee on belly I panic a little and think that I can’t breathe. I don’t spasm but I think I can’t breathe so I can’t focus on what I should be doing. I’ve been trying to slowly work on those positions to get more comfortable there, like I said I wrestled so just being on my back took some getting used to. I was just wondering if you had any tips or advice for my situation also cardio tips besides rolling would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks again,

Hi Eric,
This is a problem that is a lot more common than people think. I know a purple belt who has this problem and once tapped in a tournament because he was freaking out and couldn’t breathe. The bad thing about this problem is that the worse it gets the more you freak out and the heavier and more frantic your breathing becomes and things continue to spiral downhill. The good thing is you recognized the problem and can work on it.

First, when you are in bottom positions try to make a frame with your arms. This frame will lift a little bit of the weight off your chest and allow you to breathe better by giving you some more room. Also, try to turn on your side a little bit. This can help absorb the weight and relieve some of the pressure. Second, really try to focus on your breathing, breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth in a calm fashion, when you make a big movement, like a bridge, you can exhale like a boxer does when he punches. Controlling your breathing will help keep you mentally strong. When you are thinking about how much you can’t breathe you start to freak out mentally. When you think about controlling your breathing you can remain calm because you are focusing on something positive. In wrestling, if all that ran through your head was “Don’t get double legged.” you would probably get double legged. If you were thinking, “When he shoots, sprawl.” then you would be ready for the double leg. Positive thinking will help you stay mentally strong. Lastly, find a training partner and ask him to hold you down in bad positions but not to submit you. This will let work on your breathing. After you can do this, try to work on it without telling your partner. If he submits you, no big deal, tell yourself that you won because you didn’t freak out and maintained your breathing the whole time. Even though you got submitted you still improved an aspect of your game.

After becoming an expert at this, you will still end up on bottom against a bigger person and feel that weight crushing down on you. When that happens, just remember to breath calmly and make your frame. Don’t focus on how bad the position is or how heavy he is. Focus on what you need to do to get out. Once you solve this problem you will be able to think clearly in bad positions and improve other areas of your game as well.

The Nail

Hi, I want to start training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but I am about 40 pds overweight and I am wondering if I should get in shape first or if I should start training now. Is training going to help me get in shape or do I need to be in shape before I start so I don’t get my butt kicked? My friend does P90X, should I do something like that to get in shape first?


Hi Adam,
Don’t wait to start training. If you wait you will never start training because stuff will keep coming up and there will always be an excuse not to start. Yes, you will lose weight when you start training. Every school has people who lost a ton of weight just by starting BJJ.

Yes, you will get your butt kicked when you start training, everyone does. You would not expect to start playing basketball for the first time ever and be a three point shooting, dunking machine on your first day. When I started training I didn’t get my first submission for three months. Also, many schools won’t let students roll live until they get a certain number of stripes. This means that before you start rolling against live training partners you will have a minimum level of skill to help you out. If your new school does not do that then just remember that it is just practice. If you were on a basketball team you wouldn’t be trying to one up all your teammates on the first day. BJJ is the same way, you are all training to get better and improve. Save the one-up-man-ship for when you’ve had a few competitions under your belt. Go sign up, you’ll get your butt kicked, you’ll get in shape, and eventually you will stop being the nail and have a chance to be the hammer.

The Nail

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