BJJ Mental Models

BJJ Mental Models
Explore the conceptual side of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Black belt brothers Steve & Matt Kwan discuss the mental models, or universal principles, behind the gentle art.

80: Surface Area & Blading
Jul 6 • 70 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss the concept of surface area, and why it’s important to expose as little of your body’s surface area as possible. This strategy is sometimes referred to by the Danaher Death Squad as blading.When you’re on top,…
79: Online Education, feat. Rory van Vliet
Jun 29 • 86 min
This week Steve is joined by Rory van Vliet, an Island Top Team black belt under Rob Biernacki, to discuss online education. Rory is the co-instructor of the BJJ Concepts online academy, the operator behind the RVV BJJ YouTube channel, and the creator…
78: Motivation
Jun 22 • 65 min
This week, Steve and Matt discuss how to get motivated and stay motivated. It’s easy to lose that fire inside and become exhausted through the rigors and routine of everyday life. Every now and then, you need to draw from different sources to become…
77: The Ethics of Law Enforcement, feat. Sergeant Major Seb Lavoie
Jun 15 • 95 min
It’s our honor and privilege to be joined this week by Sergeant Major Seb Lavoie. In addition to a lifetime of experience in the martial arts, Seb is a 19-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and previously served in the Canadian…
76: Fear of Time
Jun 8 • 49 min
Fear of time, or chronophobia, is a cause of constant anxiety and stress for many of us. It’s the persistent fear that you’re just not doing enough. This week, Steve and Matt discuss strategies for combating the fear of time.Ways to combat the fear of…
75: Submission as Position
Jun 1 • 51 min
Submissions aren’t just fight-ending techniques; they’re tools to advance the position even if the submission fails. This week, Steve and Matt discuss how to use submissions as a way to advance position.Mental models discussed in this…
74: Position Series: Mount
May 25 • 60 min
This week, Steve and Matt talk about the mount: an old-school, demoralizing, and devastating position.The mount has three sub-positions:low mount, where you lie on top of uke;high mount, where you bring your knees into uke’s armpits and posture…
73: Stress Management
May 18 • 59 min
This week Steve and Matt talk about stress. Stress is a fact of life, and it can be a tool for growth if used properly.Some techniques for managing stress:ExercisingEating wellSleepingControlled breathingMindfulnessChallenging yourself regularlyMaking…
72: Technique Chaining
May 11 • 57 min
As we’ve learned from Street Fighter, combos are important. A single technique in isolation is not as effective as a series of chained attacks.There are two ways you can chain attacks together: in a sequence, or in parallel.Mental models discussed in…
71: Controlled Breathing
May 4 • 52 min
This week, Steve and Matt cover a commonly requested topic: controlling your breathing. It’s a great technique for energy regulation, overcoming fear, and improving general well-being.Mental models discussed in this episode:Controlled…
70: Staying Loose
Apr 27 • 58 min
Learning to stay loose is one of the quickest ways to improve your Jiu-Jitsu. This week, Steve and Matt explain the importance of staying loose, how to develop awareness of when you’re too tense, and when it’s appropriate to use tension.Why you should…
69: Position Series: North-South
Apr 20 • 54 min
What better topic for episode #69 than north-south? Let’s talk about the barbecue position.Mental models discussed in this episode:Theory of Alignment…
68: Entrepreneurship
Apr 13 • 75 min
In crisis, there is opportunity. Let’s talk about entrepreneurship, and why this global pandemic may be the opportunity you need to start your business.Mental models discussed in this episode:Return on…
67: Gratitude
Apr 6 • 63 min
As Matt says, you need to learn to be happy for other people. Let’s talk about how a mindset of gratitude destroys the ego and improves your learning.Mental models discussed in this episode:Abundance…
66: The BJJ Mental Models Virtual Academy
Apr 1 • 29 min
We’ve got a special announcement for you: BJJ Mental Models is proud to announce we are launching the world’s first fully virtual online Jiu-Jitsu academy! Achieve black belt excellence in the comfort of your own home.IMPORTANT: BJJ Mental Models needs…
65: Adversity
Mar 30 • 80 min
Sometimes we choose adversity, and sometimes adversity chooses us. Steve and Matt talk about the best mindset for times of crisis. As a community, we’ll get through this one together.Mental models discussed in this episode:Growth from…
64: Head Position
Mar 23 • 54 min
IMPORTANT: BJJ Mental Models needs your help.In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the future for Steve and Matt is uncertain. Our gyms are closed, our income is impacted, and we need your help in order to continue providing free content. We’ve started a…
We need your help.
Mar 19 • 10 min
IMPORTANT: BJJ Mental Models needs your help.In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the future for Steve and Matt is uncertain. Our gyms are closed, our income is impacted, and we need your help in order to continue providing free content. We’ve started a…
63: Cults, feat. Rob Biernacki - Part 2
Mar 16 • 94 min
This week, Rob is back to help Steve and Matt discuss the tactics used by cult-like organizations. We discuss why these are dangerous, common objections from cult members, and tactics to combat cult-like behaviour in your organization.For more on the…
62: Cults, feat. Rob Biernacki - Part 1
Mar 9 • 73 min
This week, Steve and Matt are once again joined by Rob Biernacki to discuss a topic very near and dear to us: cults and the tactics they use. Cults have a long and storied history within the martial arts. This episode gives you the tools you need to…
61: Creating Opportunities
Mar 2 • 79 min
This week, Steve and Matt teach you how to be ALPHA.Mental models discussed in this episode:Dictate the Pace Angles with…
60: Identifying Opportunities
Feb 24 • 61 min
This week, Steve and Matt talk about how to identify and exploit opportunities.Mental models discussed in this episode:Core Mechanics Dictate…
59: Passivity
Feb 17 • 72 min
This week, Steve and Matt talk about passivity. I mean, if it’s okay with you. If not, we can talk about something else.Mental models discussed in this episode:Growth from Discomfort of Least…
58: The Gracies
Feb 10 • 51 min
It’s history lesson time! This week Steve and Matt dive into the hemarkable story of the first family of Jiu-Jitsu.Need more BJJ Mental Models?Get tips, tricks, and breakthrough insights from our mailing list:…
57: Direct vs. Proxy Control
Feb 3 • 62 min
To grab a dude, or to grab a dude by his clothing? This week, Steve and Matt discuss direct versus proxy control.
56: Promotions
Jan 27 • 67 min
This week, Steve and Matt explain why you don’t deserve that blue belt.
55: Passing Guard
Jan 20 • 69 min
How have we not covered this topic yet? In this week’s episode, Steve and Matt discuss the principles behind guard passing.
54: The Modern Competitive Landscape, feat. Oliver Taza
Jan 13 • 62 min
Oliver Taza is back! Matt and Oliver discuss Oliver’s performance at No Gi Worlds, gym ownership, tournament strategy, and today’s competitors.
53: Being Bad at Jiu-Jitsu
Jan 6 • 59 min
This week’s episode is for those of us who aren’t natural Jiu-Jitsu prodigies.
52: Uke’s Responsibilities
Dec 30, 2019 • 62 min
Uke is a Japanese word meaning the person who receives a technique. A good uke can amplify the effectiveness of your drilling. This week, Steve and Matt discuss how to be a good uke.
51: Succeeding with Ethics, feat. Rob Biernacki
Dec 23, 2019 • 116 min
You don’t need to compromise your ethics to build a successful gym. Rob Biernacki, head coach of Island Top Team and, shares his insights on how to build an ethical Jiu-Jitsu business.Need more BJJ Mental Models?Get tips, tricks, and…
50: Alignment 2.0, feat. Rob Biernacki
Dec 16, 2019 • 103 min
It all begins again. For our 50th episode, Steve and Matt revisit the topic of our very first episode: the alignment framework. But this time around, we’ve invited Rob Biernacki - the innovator of the concept - to explain alignment.Mental models…
49: Types of Guard
Dec 9, 2019 • 54 min
Modern Jiu-Jitsu has dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of guard…and that number is only going to grow as we continue to innovate. This week Steve and Matt discuss how you can group guards into categories to more easily understand…
48: Stress and Recovery
Dec 2, 2019 • 65 min
We’ve always said growth comes from pushing yourself…but giving yourself time to recover is just as important. This week, Steve and Matt teach how to grow physically and mentally by using a combination of stress and recovery.Mental models discussed…
47: Systems
Nov 25, 2019 • 61 min
This week, Steve and Matt discuss systems thinking for Jiu-Jitsu. Organizing ideas into systems is one of the best ways to truly understand any difficult discipline.
46: Frugality
Nov 18, 2019 • 62 min
When you get greedy, you make mistakes…and if you want to win, avoiding mistakes is key. This week Steve and Matt discuss frugality as a strategy for Jiu-Jitsu.
45: Committed Techniques
Nov 11, 2019 • 78 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss how some techniques require a greater level of commitment than others. We discuss commitment both as a strategy and a method for preventing injury.
44: Rulesets
Nov 4, 2019 • 61 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss rulesets in Jiu-Jitsu. We talk about specific examples such as IBJJF and ADCC, as well as strategies for optimizing your gameplan under a specific ruleset.
43: Sport vs. Self-Defense
Oct 28, 2019 • 66 min
This week Steve and Matt weigh in on the age-old debate between sport and self-defense BJJ.
42: Oliver Taza
Oct 21, 2019 • 78 min
This week we were privileged to speak to Oliver Taza from the Danaher Death Squad. Oliver shares his thoughts on competing at the highest levels, PEDs, and training with the Danaher Death Squad.
41: Crushing Smaller People
Oct 14, 2019 • 61 min
You’d be surprised how often we’re asked to cover this topic. Well, we’re finally going to do it. This week Steve and Matt discuss how to shut down a much smaller opponent.
40: Inversion
Oct 7, 2019 • 74 min
As the great mathematician Carl Jacobi said, “invert, always invert.” This week Steve and Matt discuss inversion, not just as a strategy for Jiu-Jitsu but also as a strategy for breaking out of your thought patterns.
39: Inside Channel Control
Sep 30, 2019 • 65 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss inside channel control, also known as inside position. It’s a tremendously powerful mental model, especially if your strategy involves leglocks or getting underneath your opponent.
38: Jiu-Jitsu as Therapy - Part 2
Sep 23, 2019 • 74 min
Steve and Matt continue sharing your stories on Jiu-Jitsu and mental health. This week we share some very raw and personal stories about depression, PTSD, coping with loss, and suicidal thoughts. This episode does get heavy at times. We thank our…
37: Jiu-Jitsu as Therapy - Part 1
Sep 16, 2019 • 56 min
How much benefit does Jiu-Jitsu really have for your mental health? We all know exercise is beneficial, but is there something special about Jiu-Jitsu? Matt and I decided to find out. In Part 1, we discuss confidence, addiction, and expert advice.
36: De-escalation
Sep 9, 2019 • 73 min
Jiu-Jitsu isn’t about fighting; it’s about making your opponent stop fighting. In this week’s episode we discuss strategies for de-escalation, both in Jiu-Jitsu and in real life.
35: Respect your Opponent
Sep 2, 2019 • 59 min
Respect your opponent, always. This week Steve and Matt discuss the different types of respect and why it’s important.
34: Funneling
Aug 26, 2019 • 59 min
Funneling, as coined by Nelson Puentes from Inverted Gear, is the strategy of forcing your opponent into areas where you are comfortable and experienced. It’s key to high-level gameplanning.
33: Idea Communism vs Idea Capitalism
Aug 19, 2019 • 64 min
Don’t worry, this one’s not about politics! Today we discuss the pros and cons of Robert K. Merton’s idea communism philosophy. The core question answered in this episode is: when should you share your ideas freely, and when should you use them for profit?
32: Body Tethering
Aug 12, 2019 • 54 min
Be an anchor, not a tetherball. This week Steve and Matt discuss when you should and shouldn’t tether your body to your opponent.
31: Predictable Responses
Aug 5, 2019 • 58 min
Action creates reaction. This week Steve and Matt discuss predictable responses, a mental model that helps you understand what your opponent is likely to do and decrease your reaction time.
30: Double Trouble
Jul 29, 2019 • 59 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss double trouble, a mental model popularized by John Danaher.
29: Elbow-Knee Connection
Jul 22, 2019 • 68 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss the elbow-knee connection: a shockingly simple concept that, when applied intelligently, can improve your game in a variety of ways.
28: Kuzushi
Jul 15, 2019 • 61 min
This week Steve and Matt discuss kuzushi, the Japanese art of balance breaking.
27: Instructor Series: The Dark Side of Jiu-Jitsu
Jul 8, 2019 • 73 min
In the final episode of our instructor series, Steve & Matt shed light on the ugly side of Jiu-Jitsu and the instructors’ responsibilities to create a healthy training environment. Topics include issues with your students, gym drama, cult mentality, and…
26: Instructor Series: Business Relationships & Networking
Jul 1, 2019 • 76 min
Steve and Matt discuss the business relationships and networking activities critical to running a successful gym. Topics include skill swapping, building logistics, the competitive landscape, neighbouring businesses, privates, seminars, workshops, open…
25: Instructor Series: Maintaining and Growing your Gym
Jun 24, 2019 • 76 min
Once you’ve opened your gym, how do maintain and grow your membership base? Steve and Matt discuss lead generation, advertising, merchandising, social media, websites, designing your schedule, and retaining students.
24: Instructor Series: Opening a Gym
Jun 17, 2019 • 71 min
In the second episode of the instructor series, Steve and Matt discuss Matt’s experience opening a gym. They cover what’s involved in making the decision, the qualifications required, targeting your customers, hidden costs, the path to profitability, and…
23: Instructor Series: Coaching
Jun 10, 2019 • 71 min
Today’s topic is coaching, and we’re going to discuss: going from practitioner to coach, teaching class, one-on-one instruction, coaching children, coaching tournaments, and teaching seminars.
22: Size Discrepancies
Jun 3, 2019 • 70 min
As the old saying goes, “the bigger they are, the harder they cross-face you from side control.” This week Steve and Matt discuss the perils of fighting larger opponents.
21: Surviving Bad Positions
May 27, 2019 • 66 min
As the saying goes, if you don’t lose you’ll eventually win. This week’s episode discusses strategies for surviving bad positions like side control, knee on belly, mount, and back mount.
20: Longevity
May 20, 2019 • 60 min
They call it your Jiu-Jitsu journey for a reason. Steve and Matt explain how to stay healthy and motivated for decades.
19: Injuries & Setbacks
May 13, 2019 • 67 min
Setbacks in your Jiu-Jitsu journey are inevitable. This week Steve and Matt discuss the strategies and mental models for dealing with setbacks, including injuries and life changes.
18: Guard Series: Retention Phase
May 6, 2019 • 67 min
In the final episode of our three-part guard series, Matt and Steve discuss the retention phase, where grapplers make their final attempts to prevent a guard pass.
17: Guard Series: Maintenance Phase
Apr 29, 2019 • 70 min
In the second episode of our three-part guard series, Matt and Steve discuss the maintenance phase, where both grapplers attempt to secure a passing or submission opportunity.
16: Guard Series: Engagement Phase
Apr 22, 2019 • 68 min
Introducing the first in a three-part series on the guard! This week Steve and Matt discuss the engagement phase, where first contact is made and the grip battle is fought.
15: Force Vectors & Leading Edges
Apr 15, 2019 • 68 min
Steve and Matt discuss Force Vectors and Leading Edges. These mental models are critical to maintaining your guard once you’ve lost the grip fight, or engagement phase.
14: Joe Peters v Marcus Soares
Apr 8, 2019 • 39 min
Steve & Matt discuss Joe Peters’ upcoming lawsuit against Marcus Soares. Joe is suing Marcus due to injuries sustained competing in his tournament. The results of this lawsuit could have broad ramifications to future Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.
13: Some corrections…
Apr 1, 2019 • 40 min
We’ve learned a lot since episode one. Steve and Matt issue some very important corrections to prior episodes. Listen and learn, this episode is 100% TRUTH.
12: The Art of Learning
Mar 25, 2019 • 72 min
Steve & Matt do a deep dive into Josh Waitzkin’s book, the Art of Learning.
11: Mindset
Mar 18, 2019 • 71 min
Regardless of your goals, managing mindset is one of the most important aspects of the mental game. Steve & Matt discuss what makes a healthy mindset.
10: Overcoming Plateaus
Mar 11, 2019 • 68 min
We all hit plateaus eventually. Steve & Matt discuss mental models for breaking through them.
9: Retaining Knowledge
Mar 4, 2019 • 61 min
How do you remember all the information you receive during your training? Steve & Matt explore techniques and mental models for retaining knowledge.
8: Rapid Learning
Feb 25, 2019 • 76 min
Steve & Matt explore techniques to increase learning efficiency.
7: Mindfulness
Feb 18, 2019 • 68 min
Steve & Matt discuss the importance of mindfulness and self-awareness. One of the quickest ways to make a rapid improvement to your game is to develop awareness of your mind and body.
6: Gym Culture & Etiquette
Feb 11, 2019 • 66 min
Steve & Matt discuss best practices for gym culture, etiquette, and how to be a positive ambassador in the BJJ community.
5: Finishing Mechanics
Feb 4, 2019 • 70 min
Steve & Matt explain how to effectively finish submissions.
4: Dominant Angles
Jan 28, 2019 • 66 min
Steve & Matt discuss the importance of dominant angles in Jiu-Jitsu, both for advancing position and shutting down your opponent.
3: Anatomic Hierarchy, Grips
Jan 21, 2019 • 69 min
Steve & Matt discuss Jiu-Jitsu mental models involving the human body. A great discussion on how to use your body as a weapon while preventing your opponent from doing the same.
2: Core Mechanics
Jan 14, 2019 • 62 min
Steve and Matt explore the three core mechanics of Jiu-Jitsu: Frames, Levers, and Wedges. All techniques in Jiu-Jitsu can be defined in terms of these mechanics.
1: Alignment
Jan 8, 2019 • 68 min
This is our first episode! Matt and Steve dig into Alignment, the unified theory of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as described by Rob Biernacki from Island Top Team.