John Danaher on the difference between physical stamina and BJJ endurance

John Danaher is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, being also regarded as one of the best grappling coaches in the world. Praised by some of the top figures in combat sports (including mixed martial arts guru Greg Jackson and jiu jitsu legend Vinícius Draculino) for his knowledge and teaching capabilities, Danaher is known for his work with athletes such as George Saint Pierre, Garry Tonon and Eddie Cummings, to name a few (from BJJ Heroes). In this article John Danaher discusses the difference between physical stamina and BJJ endurance, or in another words technical efficiency and pace control:

The great problem of endurance: When I watch beginners train together the single most common method of defeat is fatigue. Beginners typically lack the skills required to gain a victory through the purity of their technique and thus usually one of them is worn down to a state where they cannot maintain resistance and they succumb. The problem usually gets better with time, but remains to some degree throughout our jiu jitsu lives. Everyone has to confront and overcome this problem if they wish to remain in the sport. The problem is, most people attack the problem in the wrong way. The overwhelming majority of students deal with the problem by trying to bring about changes in their bodies – they make efforts to make themselves stronger and fitter. This is good and desirable and yes – it definitely helps to some degree. However, WHATEVER ENDURANCE IMPROVEMENTS YOU MAKE FROM STRENGTH AND FITNESS INCREASES ARE MINUSCULE COMPARED WITH THOSE THAT COME FROM INCREASED MECHANICAL EFFICIENCY IN TECHNIQUE AND PACE CONTROL DURING A MATCH. It will take a lot of time and training to increase your maximum bench press by just 10% – but that increase will be barely perceptible to your opponent in sparring. However, small improvements in the placement of lever and fulcrum as you apply technique throughout a match will be immediately felt by an opponent as increased force and by you as energy saving – if this is combined with pace control you will find dramatic improvements in grappling endurance without any significant changes in your physiology. Please be clear: I am not trying to argue that strength and fitness are irrelevant and unimportant – they definitely are (were they not the shameful proliferation of steroid use in our sport would never have arisen). What I am saying is that the more important element of grappling endurance by far is technical efficiency and pace control. If you want dramatic improvements – don’t look to change your body, rather, look to change your technical insight and pace control. Here, Gordon Ryan shows superb pace control and technical efficiency in a marathon victory against the great Keenan Cornelius.