Jocko Willink isn’t just a Navy Seal, author, and popular podcast host. He also happens to be a BJJ black belt under the legendary Dean Lister. In other words, if Willink gives you advice about fighting, you should listen. On episode 125 of the Jocko Podcast, Jocko and his cohost, Echo Charles, also a BJJ black belt, discussed how to improve at BJJ after receiving a question on that topic from a fan of the show.
Tip #1: Learn How to Set Up Moves
Jocko’s first piece of advice for improving at BJJ is to learn how to set up moves. Interestingly, as Jocko explained, the setups for BJJ techniques are often other BJJ techniques. On this topic, Jocko said:
“What’s interesting about BJJ is that the setups for moves are actually other moves. And you actually have to attempt the other move legitimately in order for it to work as a setup. So, if you’re mounted on someone, and you want to arm lock somebody, don’t grab their arm. That’s the telegraph. What you do is you go for the choke. And you don’t just fake go for the choke, you go for the choke.”
According to Jocko, you can apply this principle to conceptual things as you progress in BJJ:
“As you progress in Jiu-Jitsu, you’re able to start attacking other things. For instance, you can attack someone’s balance as a setup. You can attack their base. You can attack their posture as a setup. You can attack their arm position. [As you get] better you get at BJJ, you can attack some conceptual things.”
Tip #2: Commit to Your Moves to Force Your Opponent to React
Jocko used a military analogy to illustrate his point regarding attacking moves with full force in order to force an opponent to react:
“[The principle of setting up moves with other moves] applies not only to BJJ, but they apply to the battlefield, and they apply to business. Because if you fake a frontal assault to expose an enemy’s flank, but you don’t put enough firepower in the frontal assault, then the enemy doesn’t have to react to it. So, they keep their position secure. Then when you flank them, their flank is still defended. So, it’s the same exact thing. You have to commit enough to make the person react.”
Tip #3: Focus on Fundamentals
During his conversation with Jocko, Echo Charles suggested that anyone who wants to improve at BJJ should focus on fundamentals. On this point, Charles said:
“I think what’s more important [than setting up moves in the early stages of learning BJJ is to] learn the moves. Learn how to do an arm lock. Learn where your hips should be and shouldn’t be. Learn what makes an arm lock a good arm lock and what makes an armlock a bad arm lock. Some guys can do an arm lock, but it’s super easy to escape because they didn’t have [certain] details right.”
In this clip from Jocko Podcast episode 125, Jocko Willink and Echo Charles discuss how to get better at BJJ:
Who is Echo Charles?
Echo Charles is the cohost of the Jocko Podcast. Charles has been part of the show since its inception in December 2015. Charles grew up in Kauai, Hawaii, where he played football for the University of Hawaii. He is a health and fitness enthusiast and supplements his BJJ training by lifting weights. In 2019, Dean Lister and Jocko Willink awarded Charles his BJJ black belt.