If you are a little older, it’s likely that you have kept a journal or a diary at some point. This is an excellent practice in itself, even in the digital age, but today we will talk about a specific type of journal used for Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Many successful grapplers have used this method to progress faster, and you can do it too.
By keeping a BJJ journal, you can make consistent progress and avoid plateaus. Writing things down in a structured and purposeful manner helps you plan your sessions, set short- and long-term goals, and always train with a specific purpose in mind. Keeping notes also ensures you remember important bits and pieces and can be an excellent way to reflect on your training progress and experiences.
Trust me, if that sounds like too much benefit for a single notebook, it isn’t. If you are someone who benefits from a structural approach to everything and hasn’t had a BJJ journal until now, starting one will be a true revelation.
Over the last few years, I have started journaling once every few days to self-reflect and reevaluate my thoughts and moods later. Sometimes it’s random thoughts.
Other times, it’s a meditation on a specific subject. I’ve also logged my strength training on and off for years to keep track of progress.
But only recently have I started to keep a BJJ journal, and let me tell you, it does help immensely. Here is a scenario that will sound familiar to you.
You try the move in class, everything clicks, you feel like you’ve got it, and it feels nearly impossible to forget the little details. But we all have so much on our minds that weeks, let alone months later when you try to recall the knowledge, you hit a stone wall in your mind.
I have felt this so many times. It also happens in camp: I pick up a cool new drill or technique from the instructor and want to try it out the next time in the gym.
But the next time I get to decide what to do, it happens a month later, and I find only spider webs and flies in my brain and no sign of the drill.
This is where the journal comes in to save the day. Once you put in the information, it will always be there to return to and use without remembering everything.
Since we were kids, we’ve been taught writing things down is the best way to learn because it requires focusing on a specific thing and embedding it in the brain more efficiently.
I firmly believe this is true, and as a complex topic with a vast amount of information and experiences spanning over the years, recording your BJJ knowledge and experience systematically can be an indispensable helping hand in making quicker progress.
There are three main options for making a journal. Buy a dedicated, ready-to-use BJJ journal on Amazon or another store; use a regular notebook or journal and make it BJJ-specific, or use a dedicated app.
For me, the best option is to make a journal specific to your needs and personality and use a good old pen and paper, so I will start with my suggestions on how to do it before getting into the commercial options.
How To Make A BJJ Journal
A journal is personal, and everyone can have a slightly different approach or need. But if you need help figuring out where to start, are looking for an idea, or want to know some of the most important aspects of journaling for jiu-jitsu, the following points are for you.
In my opinion, goal setting is perhaps the most important part of keeping a BJJ journal. Setting goals has been overused recently, but it is a crucial concept that can lead to much faster results.
The most common way of setting goals for BJJ and in all other areas, in general, is by dividing the goals into time periods. Some people begin with long-term goals, which is okay, but life is too unpredictable, and things rarely go according to plan.
So, I prefer to focus first on the monthly and weekly goals because consistency in them will lead to progress in the long-term goals.
Timed goals require you to write down what you want to achieve and work on at the beginning of the period and follow through with focus and intention.
Your weekly goals should align with the monthly ones, and the daily goals should follow the weekly ones.
Daily Goals and Specific Training
Daily goals help with what Gordon Ryan calls specific training. This is not a novel principle in any way, but it is a fundamental one if you want fast progress.
Specific training means going into each session with a specific goal and something to work on.
For example, trying to finish three guillotines during rolling or focusing on escaping side control from X and Y heavier training partners you know you have trouble dealing with.
At the end of the session, you go back to the journal and check off the boxes when you’ve accomplished the goal. This way, each session becomes a game.
Completing assignments and quests feels very rewarding, and winning these minigames will make training even more fun.
Weekly and Monthly Goals
The concept of specific training goes beyond a single session, as chances are you won’t master a technique or concept in a day.
So, a weekly or monthly goal may be to focus on the guillotine for an entire month, including watching instructional videos, asking your coach specific questions, and emphasizing the choke in every roll.
Longer-term goals, like monthly or quarterly ones, may and should include more than one thing you will be working on.
A good idea may be to work on a position, a transition, and a submission. This could be the guillotine we’ve already mentioned, improving bottom-half guard sweeps and having a solid top mount.
Long Term Goals
Long-term goals are much less specific than others and can be disrupted by many factors. But they are worth having nonetheless.
A long-term goal can span a year or five. For example, my yearly goal is to participate in three competitions over the next 12 months, and I will try to achieve this by adjusting my shorter-term goals in line with the long ones.
Five years from now is a stretch, but having something to work for in the long run is still worth it. The goal may be to win a title, reach a certain belt level, or start teaching classes.
Frequently reviewing all your goals will give you structure, leading to results infinitely faster than just training day to day with no focus or intention whatsoever.
Writing down where you struggle is the perfect way to determine what to work on in your specific training.
Everyone has weak spots, and as a white and blue belt, every position is a weak point. When making short-term goals, working hard on at least one problem area is a good idea.
By highlighting where you have trouble, you can also do problem-solving. When you sit down and think over the situation, you may devise a solution.
BJJ is a highly strategic game, and game plans are crucial for competition. The journal is the perfect place to write down your game plan if you have a tournament soon. You can use a flow chart or a simple drawing.
A game plan includes reactions to the most common scenarios. A match always starts on the feet, so write down what you do—try to do a takedown, pull guard, or wait to sprawl.
From there, write down your preferred action depending on the result of the previous one. For example, If you land on guard, you try to advance to side control, then do a kimura.
Device a complete gameplan alone or preferably with your instructor, write it down and then try it a few times during rolling.
Don’t Write Detailed Technique Explanations
Everyone may not welcome this advice, but I believe there is no point in detailing techniques like, “my left-hand goes on his hips, and my right elbow is high.”
First of all, writing a complete breakdown of a technique is more complex than you might think it is, and secondly, in time, some details stop being relevant, a new way to do the move has been found, and so on.
In addition, there are books written by elite instructors and tons of video instructionals that will show you each technique in perfect detail. So there is no point in wasting time writing down technical details; this is not what a personal BJJ journal is for.
But if you like doing it or can draw well, don’t let me stop you from doing things your way. Furthermore, it may be worth it to write down when a certain technique works, in what situation it was successful for you, and so on.
Writing down your competition experience is something you should absolutely do, even if you don’t keep a full journal. Detail how you felt the whole week. We can never get rid of pre-competition nerves, but they can also be tamed.
Find out and write down why you were nervous—is it because you haven’t trained enough, is it because the opponent looks intimidating, is the atmosphere bad, or maybe you had a poor diet?
Keeping yourself honest about your tournament experience will make it much easier to avoid pitfalls the next time and help you build a resilient competition mindset.
Drills And Exercises
People also like to log how many drills they do and track repetitions in a BJJ journal. I am not a fan of this because it takes too much time, but it keeps you accountable and can be a good way to track progress and keep you honest about how much work you are putting in.
Learning from experienced and successful practitioners at a seminar is a great experience, but retaining the wealth of knowledge given to you in a few days is impossible.
This is why it’s a great idea to write down the most important pieces of it in your journal and come back to them whenever you want.
If you find making a detailed journal too much of a hassle but still want to keep one, there are some excellent options on Amazon. They offer slightly different approaches and are specifically made for BJJ and will help you reap the benefits of journaling immediately.
I recommend the options with blank pages included, as you may have things you want to write down outside the specific journal’s sections.
Jiu-Jitsu Training Journal: Study Guide With Prompts
Jiu-Jitsu Training Journal: Planner-Style Notebook
Another option is to for some of the dedicated BJJ journaling apps. There you can log in very detailed information, which is then quickly turned into nice sheets, tables, and graphs.
I prefer the tangible feel of a pen and paper, but some younger grapplers will likely feel better logging everything on their phones.
BJJ Journal Summary
Keeping a BJJ journal is not something you cannot do without, and plenty of elite competitors, instructors, and practitioners never did it.
Still, some have used journalling and keeping written records of their BJJ journey to great effect. For someone who likes structure and order in their life, it truly is a magical pill.
Here is a summary of the most important aspects to include while keeping a BJJ journal that will help you become better faster:
- Set goals and make yourself accountable for them. By having short-term goals, you will always be able to do specific training
- Analyze your weaknesses and strong sides and plan training to better the former and reinforce the latter
- Write down competition experiences and analyze your mindset
- Keep a drilling log and know exactly how much work you have done