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.


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.

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.


  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumber
  • Canelope


  • 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.

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.