ONE Bantamweight World Champion Bibiano “The Flash” Fernandes’ incredible success at the highest level of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition has given him a unique insight into what it takes to improve in “the gentle art.”
Before he moved into mixed martial arts and became the most dominant titleholder in ONE Championship history, he earned three gold medals as a black belt at the IBJJF World Jiu-Jitsu Championships — the pinnacle of the sport.
Fernandes started from humble beginnings. The Brazilian cleaned the mats at his childhood gym to fund his training, so he did not have anything offered to him on a plate. Instead, he worked hard for every gold medal.
In this week’s #TipTuesday, “The Flash” offers advice on how to improve and excel in BJJ.
#1 Mat Time Is The Most Important Thing
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Tbt de hoje nos leva até o ano de 1996, em Manaus. No dia em que dividi o tatame da academia @caginclube com @wallidjfc e com meus amigos Luciano e Beto. Que saudade. Meus amigos, um grande abraço em vocês e fiquem com Deus. ????????????????????????#amigos #meus #saudades #manaus #caginclube #academia #dia #tatame #grande
It might seem obvious, but in a world where many are on the lookout for a quick fix, “The Flash” immediately proclaims that there is no substitute for good old-fashioned hard work.
Some people will have athletic attributes that help them when they are starting out, but he believes nothing will overcome the hours accumulated on the mat.
“That’s the best tip – just commitment. Be there,” he says. “Find a good school and a good coach, and put your 100 percent into training on the mat. Just train, train, train.”
In his mammoth run at the top of the grappling world, Fernandes won the IBJJF World Championships in the purple belt division in 2001, in the brown belt division in 2002, and in the black belt division in 2003, 2005, and 2006.
Behind that incredible streak was countless hours of drilling and rolling, but also some self-reflection and analysis.
“I had to train all day to be a World Champion — morning, afternoon, and night. Every day except weekends because I had competitions, and that’s why I got very good at jiu-jitsu,” he reveals.
“Know the mistakes you’re making. I never wrote down what [techniques] I did, but I always thought about what I had to do next. Like, if I make a mistake, how could I fix that mistake?”
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#2 Compete As Much As Possible
While you should be thinking about your mistakes in the gym to try to rectify them, Fernandes believes the best catalyst for improvement outside of training is competition.
In the gym, you start to know your training partners’ games and you are not nervous grappling with your close associates. In competition, that all changes, and you are pressured-tested in a whole new way.
“I think you have to spend time on the mat and spend time in competition,” he explains.
“Competition is very interesting because you learn about anxiety, pressure, and the mind, and that’s very important for BJJ because when you compete, you become more confident when you go back to training.
“I think it is important that you can control your mind against the stress, pressure, and anxiety, and also your body and your breathing. In the jiu-jitsu school, you don’t get that, but in competition, you do. Then, you can adjust your technique.
“That’s the only reason I believe tournaments are good for you. You can see the mistakes you make and adjust for the next one.”
#3 Be A Good Training Partner
It is impossible to get to the elite level of a tough combat sport like BJJ without having reliable training partners. However, to make sure people want to stay on the mats with you, you must be a good training partner to them.
That means losing your ego, having some empathy, and keeping your in-club rivalries competitive, yet friendly.
“There are a lot of ways to be a good training partner and do drills together, but the main thing is trying not to hurt your friend because you need him here tomorrow,” the Brazilian explains.
“If you get a good position, be careful. Don’t try to break your friend’s arm, and if you are choking him, then slow down the choke. Don’t try to bully him. He is your partner, it is very simple. If you understand that, then it is easy for you both.”
However, it’s not only about being on the offensive side. You must also lose your ego when you’re on the defensive side because, if you don’t, an injury could occur.
“Sometimes you don’t like to tap, but you have to improve yourself,” Fernandes adds. “If you get caught in an armlock, to be a good training partner, you have to tap before something happens.”