How to approach an open mat for BJJ

How to approach an open mat for BJJ

Here at Team Casarez BJJ in Cary, NC, we have a few open mats every week, and that provides time for a student to work on what they have learned, try out some new stuff, or get some sparring with teammates. I have been training at Team Casarez Brazilan Jiu-Jitsu in Cary for a few years now and anytime there is a new student that shows up to an open mat, they will normally just come out and ask “what am I supposed to do?” For this reason, I think that each practitioner will have an opinion on what they do during an open mat session, but this game plan is great for anyone that is wondering how to approach an open mat for bjj.

Have a Plan

Showing up and not having anything in mind is not a bad thing if you are a seasoned student, but this can waste time if you don’t have a focus. A basic plan would be:

  • Work on what you learned that week while it is still fresh in your head and other students are also in that mindset.
  • Focus on your weaker side for passing or submissions.
  • Pre-game a flow or sequence to practice.
  • Write down a set of techniques you have been struggling with.
  • Review your BJJ journal and pick a favorite.

Don’t Always Just Roll

There is no doubt that one of the best parts of doing jiu-jitsu in the first place is the rolling or sparring aspect. A benefit of using an open mat for more than that though is that you have time to work on the things that you don’t have time during the normal class and most of all at your own pace. For example, if you have a hard time getting out of side control you can literally take 10 min, 20 min, or even an hour to work on getting out of it with numerous different people. Also, things like stretching and body awareness are essential to upping your BJJ game so why not do it then.

Ask Others to Drill with You

Drilling or repetitions of movements really turn learning into muscle memory. Finding fun and enjoyable drills that you can do with a partner can make an open mat one of the best learning experiences. An example would be to take 3 armbars you can do from the close guard and get 5 minutes in drilling the technique and also having the other person escape each one. The drill then becomes a fluid memory in your mind and body allowing it to be executed flawlessly when needed.

Don’t be Scared to Ask Higher Belts to Review a Move

We line up in class from highest to lowest and sometimes due to the nature of class, we do not get that time to work with the more seasoned people we train with. There is a difference between a brown belt teaching you a basic move and a blue belt. When you have been doing a move for years, there is probably some tips and tricks to accomplish it with ease. This is not to say that someone with a lower rank does not know the move; just asking higher belts to work with you on something is perfect for an open mat.

Conclusion

I hope that this idea of how to best approach an open mat helps people get the most out of those opportunities. Here at Team Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Cary, NC, we make sure that all the people we train with are equipped with the best knowledge for their BJJ journey. Posts like this and others, such as, what to focus on as a white belt, food choices to help BJJ, and others are written to just assist in knowing what to expect from this beautiful gentle art. We offer adult BJJ, Kids BJJ, and even a tots BJJ program so no matter the size of the family, we are equipped to handle it all.

What To Focus On As A New White Belt In BJJ

What To Focus On As A New White Belt In BJJ

When you first start training Brazilian jiu-jitsu, the excitement is almost unbearable, but there are a few things to focus on as a new white belt In BJJ. Here at Casarez Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a Lucas Lepri Affiliate, in Cary, NC we have students of all kinds come and start the journey into the gentle art. Each person has their own journey, but I wanted to write about some of the things that I personally have found to be helpful as reminders even to myself. 

The Mission Is Not Always Submission

When you learn a new move and then go and try it and wonder why it does not work, normally this comes down to placement, leverage, and also applied force at the right moment. The problem is when you are new to BJJ; it just comes across as it just is not working. To avoid this, simply realizing that getting into a position can be just as effective as actually pulling off the desired submission. Eventually, with the right technique and body placement, you will start seeing these submissions starting to land more and more. Your partners will also appreciate the tactics you are using to position yourself just right before you spring into that triangle or armbar because that can be when injuries happen.

Drill More and Roll Less on Your Off Time

As a new white belt, all you want to do is get your sparring in. Those opportunities to do so on an open mat, for example, could be better spent on drilling the new techniques you have been learning or even asking higher ranking belts questions you may have about techniques. A simple guard break to a pass may seem boring or something you do in class, but doing that 1000 times over the course of a few months creates a guard breaking passing machine of a BJJ practitioner.

Keep a Journal

You may not see that brown belt in class writing down the moves that everyone is going over, but that does not mean there was a time when he or she was doing so. As a white belt you are learning new information every class and chances are you are forgetting minor details of fundamental moves. You can check our blog post out on the benefits of a journal here.  For me personally, when I am at open mat and not wanting to roll hard, I ask fellow teammates if they would not mind going over some positions or submissions I am having problems with. 

Develop a Routine for Training and Lifestyle

At first, you may want to train every day as hard as you can and be right back the next day. The biggest problem with that is at first you may not be ready for the toll on the body or the massive amount of information. Creating a plan or routine can really ensure you are getting the most out of your BJJ training especially if you stick to it. Many factors come along with good training such as sleep,diet, hygiene, rest, and focus. Even if you are just doing it for fun, incorporating the following will ensure you are ready to roll, pun intended. 

It’s Not a Sprint Enjoy the Belt

The white belt is a special time in the BJJ journey as it is the time you get to really fall in love with the sport and martial art as a whole. This is when you start to build lifelong friendships with training partners. Find out what types of positions you feel comfortable in and learn from those mistakes. I am always excited when a new person is trying BJJ for the first time but even more when they put the GI and belt on and see that look on their face. I am not a coach or professor, just another student, but the vibe and energy are real on the mats. I hope these tips help a new white belt enjoy the journey as much as I have so far.

Food Choices and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Performance

Food choices and brazilian jiu jitsu cary nc

Food plays a big role in our everyday life, but food can also help your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu performance on the mats. No matter your diet choices from vegan, vegetarian, paleo, and others there are some simple guidelines that can assist in keeping you running clean and helping the strain we put on our bodies during training. Now just because you eat right does not mean you do not need to still do drilling or that you will become the hulk come competition time, but what you can expect is faster recovery time and more importantly longevity in the sport. Take these tips and know that food choices and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu performance can go hand in hand.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When you are sick or have an injury, the key to the healing process is stopping the inflammation, and food can either assist or cause inflammation. This does not mean if you overextend your arm during training, dinner that night will fix it. What it does mean though is that by avoiding foods that provide no benefit and cause inflammation can make an injury stay around longer than anticipated.

Inflammatory Foods To Avoid

  • Sugar
  • Alcohol
  • High amounts of Gluten
  • MSG
  • Fried Foods

Anti Inflammatory Foods

  • Tomatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards
  • Nuts like almonds and walnuts
  • Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines
  • Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and organges

This is just an overview of some foods to avoid and others to incorporate into your diet to help with the inflammation process that happens in our bodies when we are fighting an injury, infection, and even a cold.

Fuel For The Mats

When we are training there is one main thing to consider energy to be on the mats and keep it safe when you get tired. With that said, hydration, protein, and a low sugar based foods can assist with just that.

Hydration:

  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumber
  • Canelope

Protein:

  • Lean meats
  • Chickpeas
  • Beans (beware of bloating)
  • Nuts

Taking this into account can give you the needed energy for a good training. There is nothing like the most delicious Acai bowl to munch on post workout, or having a handful of blueberries in some oats, but the foods you want to watch out for are the same ones everyone should and that is processed sugar in sweets. Other than that, you are fueled up and good to go on the mats.

How Much To Eat?

This all comes down to how much you are training and what for. If you are getting ready for a competition and are around the right weight then feed your body with all the needed good food to keep you healthy, training hard, and maintaining. If you are overweight watch the carb intake, stay hydrated and stick to lean meats and other proteins to safely drop weight. The part to remember is know how much you are burning so nothing is being deprived of nutrients because that is when injury, sickness, and burnout happen. We have recommended in the past of keeping a BJJ journal, but adding in what you are eating on training days is also a great idea as well.

Final Thoughts:

The basis of this post is to shed light on how a good diet and food choices can help your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training for both adults and children. Here at Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Cary, NC, we strive to keep all the students informed and safe on and off the mats. Taking the time to share this knowledge is not coming from a licensed dietitian but more of an approach that many of the competitors and even everyday students of The Gentle Art at our academy take to stay healthy and training. Offering Kids BJJ and Adult BJJ means that with all the athletic training going on here, we want to keep students performing at the best ability.

Safety Tips On The BJJ Mats

Safety Tips On The BJJ Mats

Here we are going to provide some basic safety tips on the BJJ mats to keep you and your team safe. These are all observations of things that have happened or have been avoided. We already deal with everyday soreness and creaks from the body due to the just basic training, so there is no reason to get hurt from things that are avoidable. The professors and instructors can only do so much, so we also as students hold responsibility of keeping ourselfs and others around us safe if possible.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a beautiful gentle art, but if not taken seriously, there are some dangers involved that can, for the most part, be avoided with proper knowledge and precaution. During times of drilling, sparring, throws, and more, you always have to be aware of your surroundings. An example of this would be if you are doing any type of throws or takedowns, be cautious of where you are landing and where others are landing. By simply moving or having everyone face the same direction this can help avoid injury.  Another situation is during a roll to be courteous and cautious of others rolling around you and where you are in terms of mat space. Awareness is the biggest part of safety on the mats, and by not adhering to it simply means you are inviting injuries.


General Rules of Precaution on the Mats


  • Don’t just continue to roll to see if others move.
  • Respect higher belts and take initiative to move if you see they are about to enter your space.
  • Speak up to  your teammates if you see something about to happen.
  • If you are with a lower belt, remind them of technique over strength.
  • Notice your placement if you are getting close to the edge of the mat and just reset.
  • Properly fall and base during rolls to prevent injury.

Be A Good Teammate on the Mats

Showing up to class and being ready to roll is great and a big part of BJJ, but also being a good student of the art means to help your fellow teammates out during rolling when times are right. Always keep an eye out for yourself and the people around you. This means that if you see an aggressive roll going on around you, move or if you are resting, buffer the people rolling to prevent them from rolling into others if needed. Also, the intensity is different for everyone, and you do not know if someone is healing from an injury, has a past injury, or is just at a low level of energy for the day. A pre-roll talk of how hard you want to go is not a bad idea if you feel the need, especially if it is a new student or someone you have not rolled with. Last and for everyone who trains is control of your movements. For example, if you are trying a new move out and during live rolling it involves explosiveness or something that may catch someone off guard do it but do it with control. Slow and steady wins the race but also keeps people safe when practicing BJJ.

Mindful Concepts For BJJ Training

These are just some concepts that I have seen that keep people safe while doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at Casarez BJJ in Cary, NC. I personally have decided to adopt these tactics while rolling to keep myself safe and others. I would say it is common knowledge for many who have been doing this for a while, but anyone new to the sport must realize each gym is different. The biggest takeaway from this post is simply being mindful of your space while on the mats. Having both kids bjj and adult bjj classes that serve the Triangle area of Raleigh, Durham, and Cary, keeping students training and safety is our goal here.

Tips To Stay On The Mats During Cold Season

Tips To Stay On The Mats During Cold Season

It is that time of year where you start hearing coughing and sneezing everywhere and everyone is getting their best defense up to not get sick. The cold season can start as early as October and last up to March which is a good portion of the year. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, hygiene is always important but even more so during this time. Keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer on you, not going out in the cold after training all sweaty, and even considering upping your amount of vitamin C intake.

When To Stay OFF The Mats

Although missing out on training is never fun and something that many would rather not do, it is vital that if you are feeling some common cold symptoms to stay clear from the gym. Some things to look out for is runny nose, coughing, being over drowsy, nasal or head pressure, and of course a high temperature. Returning to the mats too quickly is not a good idea as you may still be contagious, but even worse you may amplify the cold into lasting longer. As general rule give yourself 48 hours after you are feeling normal to come back on the mats. Last if you take cold medicine that does not mean you are cured from getting others sick, so if you take some Dayquil or Robitussin and feel better that is not the key sign to get your gear and hit the mats.

Staying Healthy As a Team

It is a team effort to keep the sickness off the mats, and that means if you seeing someone who may be looking under the weather, sneezing, coughing, don’t be scared to simply ask if they are feeling alright and if not then to skip class. Also for any instructors, it is important to casually mention during this season to remind students that if they are sick to stay at home and rest up. With the topic of rest as a whole, we hear let your body heal, and when you are not feeling 100% a good night’s rest and healthy foods can really make a difference in fighting off the dreaded cold. Another thing that happens when you are coming down with a cold is lack of energy which can lead to injuries which no one wants.

How your immune system works after a workout

When you are training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you are pushing your cardio to the limits even if you are not going full blast. There have been studies that show when you workout hard your immunity can break down just a little bit, and that is why getting a shower in after a workout is so important. This goes for your gear too as we are in the germ season it is a good idea to get those GI or NOGI items in the washer immediately, clean your mouth guard on a regular basis, avoid touching your eyes or mouth during class. Not a bad idea to spray down your gym bag from time to time with some disinfectant. Things that keep your immunity strong is a healthy balanced diet with plenty of fluids, so if your diet is not the greatest now is the time to makes sure you are eating that full food pyramid.

Cleanliness Of The Gym Is Key

The first rule of any place practicing BJJ is to keep your shoes off the mats and your bare feet on the mats. There are bacteria from people’s shoes that can be tracked on the mat and cause a whole world of hurt. If you are responsible for cleaning the mats at the end of class put a little extra elbow grease or at least cleaner out there to get the funk. Last and just a good overall idea if there is sanitizer to use after or before class, it might not be a bad idea to give a squirt, and let it do the work.

At Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu located in Cary NC, we take pride in both our students and gym. I hope the above information will keep you on the mats and not in the bed with a box of tissues. Feel free to stop by for a free week of Adult BJJ or Kids BJJ. We also offer Capoeira classes as well.

Preparing for a BJJ Competition

Preparing for a BJJ CompetitionWhat is important when preparing for a bjj competition? So many of us, once we start on this beautiful journey of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, is often asked: “are you going to compete?” That is a choice that some make and others decide to pass on. There are some fantastic competitions that are available for both Adult and Kids, even divisions for older generations of the sport as well. The goal is to find out how to properly prepare and be ready for a challenging day on the mat.

Diet and Food Choices

This is just based on generally known knowledge and will for sure help those who are getting ready. It is important to keep a healthy diet when training in general and should already be established.

Foods to Eat:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruit in moderation
  • Clean protein (chicken, fish, meat, chickpeas, peas)
  • Nuts
  • Clean grains and even pasta in moderation
  • Water and more water

Foods to Avoid:

  • Soda
  • Desserts
  • Fried foods
  • High sodium (canned beans, soups, etc)

The food is the fuel for your body and when you are getting ready for competition, it is not only about making weight but keeping you healthy through the rough preparation period while practicing. The foods to avoid is really about keeping inflammation down in your body and providing as many nutrients as possible if you are going to have to cut weight, keeping carbs low is also a good choice.

Level of Intensity

Your mindset and training will change when you know you are getting ready for a competition.

1st phase:

The first phase is all about the number of rolls you are getting in. This will provide you time to work your game, get used to many different styles of opponents, and build your stamina up.

2nd phase:

The second phase the intensity is going to rise with the amount of energy in each roll being almost at competition level, and most schools will have a set time for this “competition training,” so all that is in class know what to expect.

3rd phase:

About a week out or a little more, it goes down to a much more relaxed approached with a lot of drilling and some light flow rolling to keep your muscles awake and memory sharp with what you have been working on.

What to bring to the competition

Just like when you are packing your bag for class, it is important that on game day you are extra prepared.

  • Water
  • Protein or energy bar
  • Change of clothes
  • Small medical kit
  • Mouthpiece
  • Tape
  • Comfortable shoes (you may be standing a while)
  • Sandals optional but cannot hurt

Final Tips

Some final tips are when you are preparing for a bjj competition. You are breaking your body down, so make sure to give yourself time to heal. A nice ice bath and cold showers can assist with this, and also getting enough sleep are super important to allow your joints, muscles, and overall body to heal. Some people may think starting to lift weights is a good idea. If you do not do it already, don’t start three weeks beforehand, but if you do, then keep the same regime you have and even amp it up in phase one. This is just a little advice from some, and I am sure there are many more pointers from those who dedicate their time in competition. At Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, we have many students that compete, but all will tell you it is the entire team of students that drive the competitors to the podium. Last and I would say the most important thing to remeber is to have FUN!

What To Bring To Train BJJ and Practical Hygiene For The Mats

In this blog, we are going to breakdown what to bring to train BJJ with some main items to have once you start training brazilian jiu-jitsu. Many people may not be able to afford a whole set up once you get the GI and other main accessories, but some of these items below will make training more enjoyable.


What to bring to train BJJ

The Bag –

It’s important to have a place to keep all your stuff even if you are training at a gym across the street from your house. Having an optimal bag is a place that holds your GI, change of clothes, small medical kit, a towel, and if needed possibly some basic shower staples. I like to just use a small backpack personally, but there are many people who prefer a full on duffel that holds more. I think this all depends on how often or how far you travel to train.

Flip Flops or Sandals –

Many people may not consider this, but you need to keep the mats clean from the germs, and there is nothing like trying to get on and off the mats for a restroom break, to go grab a drink, or even to get your mouthpiece and tape before rolling.

Small Medical Kit –

Most training facilities will have a basic first aid, but it is always nice to have your own supply.

  1. A few band-aids
  2. Alcohol wipes
  3. Sports tape
  4. Fingernail clippers (Keeping your nails trimmed prevents injuries to your partners)
  5. Hand sanitizer

This will take care of any minor cuts which can happen all the time from finger and toe nails, mat burns, and more. It is always a good idea to get these types of wounds cleaned and covered quick.

Change of clothes and towel –

This would depend on your driving distance for most people but the truth is that we have germs all over us once we are done training and they are not your own. Having a basic t-shirt and shorts will do just fine to change and hop in the ride and get home to shower up. There is nothing like a person who takes up BJJ and just rides home without changing, it becomes noticeable for all who ride in your car trust me. Also, keeping a small towel to wipe down with keeps sweat out of your eyes and can be used as a cooling tool by putting water on it and placing around your neck if you feel overheated.

Water bottle –

First, you should always bring some water with you, and if you go through it on a fast pace it is nice to have something to fill up.


When asking yourself “what to bring to train BJJ?”, these are some of the main items that I think will help the everyday brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner be prepared on the mats. This would be for both adult brazilian jiu-jitsu and kids brazilian jiu-jitsu as well. Having the items above on-hand can do wonders when the items are needed. This also helps with hygiene and just keeping cuts clean, clothes dry, and clean feet on the mat. Not all bacteria is bad which is true, but there are too many risks with not being clean while training BJJ. Stay tuned to the Casarez Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu blog for more tips and articles. We provide a variety of classes in Cary at  329 North Harrison Avenue – Unit D Cary, NC 27513 and invite all to come try a week out for free. We have Adult BJJ, Kids BJJ, and Capoeria classes, so do not hesitate and give us a call or contact us today.

Why A BJJ Journal Can Help

BJJ Journal Casarez BJJ Cary NC
As we are starting off in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it is very easy to get lost in all the techniques being shown, but being able to retain that information will help you elevate your game and help your training partners.

Options for a BJJ Journal

  • Cloud document like Google drive can be of great assistance as you will have access wherever you go for easy viewing during open mats.
  • A simple notebook from the store, and this is one of my favorites as you can decorate it with stickers, sayings, or even goals.
  • Note cards are an option as well, but you can lose these easily, so I would not 100% recommend these, but they are great for reviewing. For example, 3 guard passes on a card and then 3 escapes on another.

The thought of wanting to get this benefit out there for BJJ practitioners is when you are brand new to the sport technique and repetition is what makes the difference. The problem is missing a simple step can make that technique not work creating frustration.

A Tool For Learning On and Off The Mats

Think of it as a tool of the trade, not a task that you have to do. The best time for me to write this down is right after class while everything is still fresh in my head. Also, if you are a more advanced student this may not seem as important, but I still would recommend it just as a refresher at times when you are working on a new strategy. Having a book of your path through this beautiful journey is also a keepsake that you can cherish for years. Just think you make that long road to black belt and look back at some of your journals and see when you were writing the first time you learned how to do an armbar drill or a Kimura.

At Casarez BJJ, we always strive to find the best way of helping people on their journey of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We are located in Cary, NC and invite all out to try a free week of our Adult BJJ or Kids BJJ classes.