BJJ may be the best grappling martial art and one of the better self-defense systems out there, but it still covers only half of what fighting is. The other half, which is striking, is separate from sports BJJ. If you want to become a well-rounded martial artist, you may wonder how to split your time between training BJJ and striking.
Before effectively splitting the time between grappling and striking, you need to know your priorities and how much striking you need according to them. Then you can make a training plan based on these priorities, your fitness level, and your available time.
Striking and grappling are inevitable in real fighting. Still, they have different levels of importance in different circumstances and under different rules. So you must first consider all the details before making an effective time split between the two.
If you want to be a complete martial artist or have well-backed confidence, you can handle yourself in most self-defense situations, you need some skills in striking and grappling.
Combat sports implement strict rules to make competitions safer and to highlight specific areas. This creates specialization and mastery of certain skills at a level that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
This is why BJJ players have the best ground submissions, and boxers have the best punches. But this is not how actual fighting works. It has strikes, close-range fighting, and ground fighting.
The Gracie family and early BJJ pioneers understood this very well. They created a martial art capable of beating opponents of all sizes and skills. The best way to negate size disadvantages is to drag the fight to the ground, where leverage and technique reign supreme over size and strength, at least when the skills are not equal.
But getting the fight to the ground is not always easy, so traditional Brazilian jiu-jitsu includes some strikes that help close the distance. All ground positions are considered for possible incoming strikes.
But this is no longer the case in modern BJJ, which has turned away from its roots and has become a highly competitive and complex grappling-only system, following in the footsteps of karate and judo, which also increased safety or attractiveness at the cost of effectiveness.
Some BJJ academies, mainly Gracie family-run ones, still practice their old ways. Some form of striking is included in the curriculum to prepare you for self-defense. But if you are at a regular sports BJJ school and want to venture into MMA or feel more confident by having more skill, you must incorporate some striking training alongside the BJJ.
How To Split The Time Between BJJ And Striking
Set Your Goals
Your goals and priorities are the most important things to consider before dividing your time between BJJ and striking. Depending on what use you plan for your punches and kicks, you will have a different schedule because time is the most significant factor limiting training.
If you want to be able to throw a few basic strikes to get in grappling range and know how to defend against common street fighting attacks, you won’t need to spend too much time striking. One session per week should be enough, preferably doing jiu-jitsu and striking simultaneously to get a feel for how the two mix together in a somewhat realistic setting.
My guess is most people reading this on a dedicated BJJ site belong to the first group.
Then, if MMA is your goal, you will have to split the time more carefully between the two disciplines. Even the best BJJ specialists in MMA still learn decent striking because MMA fighters are challenging to take down and submit. They need to incorporate striking into their BJJ.
The specific demands of mixed martial arts, including the gloves, cage, and attire, have created a different fighting style. If this is your goal, your BJJ training and striking should preferably be done according to that.
Have a clear mind about how good you want to be at striking and what you will likely use it for, then move to the next point.
Create A Schedule
Creating and following a schedule is the best way to be accountable to yourself and make consistent progress. But making a schedule will depend on a few things, the primary being what classes you have available nearby.
If your BJJ academy has self-defense-oriented classes and this is your goal, it’s a no-brainer. Attend those as much as you like, and if you don’t compete in BJJ, I would advise making the self-defense classes your primary ones.
Many gyms offer classes in different combat sports, commonly BJJ, Muay Thai, or kickboxing. If this is the case, you can attend the striking class once or twice a week but still maintain your focus on BJJ.
If you have MMA classes at a suitable place and time, they offer a great mix of the two. You can still be a grappling specialist in an MMA setting, just like so many fighters have.
Know Your Limits
We’ve all had the drive to train as hard as we can all the time. While this seems like a good path to mastery at first, in reality, it isn’t. Overtraining can have the opposite effects, both physically and mentally. Especially if you are starting in a new discipline, the physical demands are different.
They will take a bigger toll on your body, even if you are in good shape. Just ask a great striker who can box for 12 rounds to grapple for just 5 minutes, and you will see him gas out. The same thing goes the other way around, so practicing new skills creates more fatigue initially.
It can be challenging to control what training is done each day. Still, there is a set schedule for the different sessions, and you can plan your training to have alternating intensities. For example, a day of hard sparring in your Muay Thai class should be followed by a day of light technical drills in BJJ, and vice versa. Avoid going hard for two days in a row for better recovery.
If you incorporate some strength and conditioning training on top of your martial arts training, having the proper training schedule is the only way to progress without overfatiguing and sustaining the least amount of injuries.
Mixing Your Martial Arts
Training grappling and striking separately is all well and good, but if you want to be a well-rounded fighter, you need to mix them. The main reason MMA became so popular in such a short time was it introduced a more realistic approach to fighting than any other combat sport.
The beauty of it is that striking and grappling work together. Punches and kicks are used to set up takedowns and then on the ground to move an opponent into a position susceptible to submission. Alternatively, the threat of submission or takedown makes the opponent wary and lowers his guard for powerful striking attacks.
This is why it’s good to train BJJ and striking simultaneously. Both aspects change when the other is present. Sports BJJ may be amazing, but many guards and positions are dangerous when the opponent can punch, elbow, and kick you. Taking Muay Thai classes separately from BJJ will teach you how to strike but not how to do both together.
This is why I believe self-defense BJJ classes, combat jiu-jitsu, and MMA offer the best combination of striking and grappling and deserve your time the most outside of BJJ, of course.
Splitting your training time between BJJ and striking will depend most on what you want to achieve. You can train them separately to improve different fighting areas and specific skills, but mixing both is the best option for a well-rounded skill set you can use for self-defense, street fights, or even MMA.