Caio Terra on Drilling for White and Blue Belts

Caio Terra on Drilling for White and Blue Belts

Dan Faggella is No Gi Pan Am Champion, BJJ School Owner, and writer for
Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine, MMA Sports Mag, and others. He
interviews the best lightweight BJJ world champions and shares his insights

I was lucky enough to be able to interview Caio Terra – one of my personal heroes in
the world of lightweight BJJ. Some of his advice almost seemed counter-intuitive, but
I figured every last bit was worth saving – ESPECIALLY any of his insights on training
and skill development (my favorite topics).

Drilling to Your Skill Level

One of the first questions I asked Caio was: “What are your general thoughts on drilling
for BJJ – as in – how much should someone drill compared to roll, and do you think most
BJJ players drill enough?”

His immediate response was: “…Well… what belt level are we talking about?”

I thought that was a very interesting way to respond, but Caio followed up with the
following insights:

First, Caio pointed out that building the WRONG habits early is a recipe for failure, and
that even a very good blue belt will usually learn by the time he is a brown belt that the
move he was doing so well with at blue belt was actually wrong in some fundamental
ways. Caio is very particular about learning from someone who is a true expert at the
technique you are aiming to learn so that you don’t miss the important details.

In addition, Caio is big on feedback for newer grapplers. White and blue belts – he says
– should have someone who is experienced to watch a lot of their drilling to point out
details and make adjustments.

Tinker Drilling

He advocates a kind of “tinker drilling” for all belt levels (but particularly for newer
grapplers who don’t have an expert immediately available), where you experiment with
a technique slowly, feeling out the detials of the setup and finish, paying attention to
your body movements and the nuances that are making the technique work.

It is useful to exercise this was with grapplers of various skill levels and body types
in order to get a better feel for the positions. Caio believes that this kind of technical
“exploring” is required before the hard work of “muscle memorizing” should be done – so
that errors are ironed out technically.

No Concrete “Right” and “Wrong” in Jiu Jitsu

I told Caio about the drilling strategies of other grappling school – such as what I’ve
heard of the Mendes Bros gym (where everyone drills techniques non-stop for 10
minutes at a clip without talking). Even with the opinions stated, he mentioned that
just like DOING BJJ, LEARNING BJJ is also flexible, and multiple approaches can be

I imagine he was agreeable with the Mendes philosophy because (a) they’re very good,
and (b) if the Mendes Bros are there to help with your technique, you can probably bet
that your drilling is being done correctly.

Either way, the conversation opened a new door to insights on drilling (particularly
tinkering) that for many grapplers should prove useful!

Food for BJJ thought, as always,

Daniel Faggella
Lightweight BJJ Analyst at:

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