Get Your BJJ Mind Right with Tom DeBlass
Tom DeBlass is easily one of the most sought after BJJ and grappling instructors on the planet. With a seminar schedule that has him booked around the world for the next few years, a home academy, Ocean County BJJ, which is quickly approaching nearly 400 students, and an ever-growing affiliate network of Tom DeBlass Jiu Jitsu Association schools, it's easy to think that this guy has way more than 24 hours in the day!
As if these activities don't keep him busy enough, let's not forget that Tom is an active husband and father of two young children and also spends time giving back to his community by being a member of his local school board.
DeBlass' competitive pedigree and resume also stands out in today's world of competitive grappling. He has been a three time ADCC North American Trials Winner and veteran of both the UFC and Bellator fighting promotions in mixed martial arts. Today, he still competes regularly in top promotions like Fight To Win Pro.
In addition, he has been instrumental in producing and mentoring some of the best competitors in combat sports. His own black belt, Garry Tonon has recently started what will prove to be a stellar mixed martial arts career if he even gets close to matching his impact on submission grappling. Tom has also been instrumental in the deveopment of Gordon Ryan and Nicky Ryan, as a training partner and mentor.
Tom has also shared and produced some of the best-selling instructional content here at BJJ Fanatics. With his first set, the top selling "Half Domination" he shared all of the secrets and lessons he's developed from honing his favorite position, half guard since he was a blue belt nearly 15 years ago. He followed up this instructional with his "12 Weeks to Ripped" series which was instrumental in literally thousands of pounds being lost by folks who took advantage of Tom's simple and easy to follow diet and conditioning advice.
Next there was his "Submission Escapes" series, which offered the simplest and easiest ways to escape pretty much any bad spot you can find yourself stuck in as a BJJ practitioner. And most recently, Tom put the gi on for his "High Tech BJJ in the Gi" series. You can take the DeBlass out of the Gi, but you can never take the Gi out of his heart. He has always professed his love for Gi jiu jitsu and it shows in this series.
But what truly sets Tom DeBlass apart as a martial arts instructor, competitor and teacher is his ability to motivate his students and fans with his thoughts on mindset. Tom has recognized that the mind is one of the most important aspects of the development of BJJ students. Building a strong mindset and working through the seemingly endless challenges that striving for the coveted BJJ black belt can put in front of us, is something that Tom recognizes and makes a priority to help people persevere.
As a coach and teacher, Tom brings his formal background as a educator to the forefront when he suggests that BJJ practitioners should work to train their minds as much, if not more than they train their bodies. Without strong mindsets, all of the technique in the world will be less effective.
In the video below, Tom DeBlass provides an intimate discussion of the question that students often ask, namely, "What am I doing wrong?" While one of the most broad questions an instructor can take on, DeBlass in this short video provides the guidance that will help students keep going towards their goals.
In the next video, DeBlass answers the question "How do I get better at BJJ?" This is a thought every BJJ practitioner has had not just once, but probably on most days that they train. Sit back and listen to Tom's advice. We will break down the advice after the videos.
What Am I Doing Wrong?
Let's get this one out of the way right away. "What am I doing wrong?" is a lingering question that is easy to let fester in your BJJ training. The old saying that sometimes you're the hammer and sometimes you're the nail should be slightly edited to "In BJJ, most days you're the nail. Period."
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a complex martial art. You are not only using your body in ways that at first seem counter-intuitive, but you are also working against another person who is trying to frustrate and stop every move you make with the mission to choke or break your limbs. The bottom line, for DeBlass is that very rarely are you doing anything "wrong" per se. Do you make mistakes? Yes. Most likely if you're human. But doesn't everyone?
For Tom DeBlass, we too easily forget the roll that our minds play in our lives. Just as we spend countless hours drilling our techniques to make them flawless, we need to be working on our mindset. And how do we do this? The first step is to believe in what you are doing? When executing a technique, you must believe in that technique for it ever to be successful. The same goes for our training and even for our lives.
As someone who has seen first hand the negative aspects of life like family members who have been addicted to drugs, to close friends and peers who have been murdered, and also catastrophic injuries, DeBlass has persevered by believing first and foremost that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to and so can you. If you are willing to pay the price, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.
Don't Forget the Power of Your Mind
We spend a great deal of time working drills, attending countless classes, and training BJJ, but how much do we recognize and respect the power of our minds. For DeBlass, there are times when you have to ignore your mind and push through. In many ways, our minds work to protect us from danger and pain. This can hamper our development in many ways. How many times have you been pushing through an exercise and been at the point of fatigue where you can't even imagine doing another rep, yet you do. Our minds tell us we're ready to be done, well before our bodies do.
In the same way, if you're working to pass a challenging guard and you let yourself think for a moment that you're never going to pass this person's guard, then you probably won't. The old saying, coined by Henry Ford is extremely true in this case, in that whether you think you can or think you can't, you are probably right.
You Know More Than You Realize
Self doubt and negative thinking can have you believing that you know a lot less than you actually do. Just because you are currently facing a relatively small challenge in your BJJ development, doesn't mean that you don't know a lot of jiu jitsu. The road is long and hard to get to black belt. DeBlass is found of saying that he's finally beginning to feel that he knows jiu jitsu, after being a black belt for nearly a decade! So calm down and enjoy the ride. You know much more than you give yourself credit for.
Jiu Jitsu Irony
Often times when training, martial artists, namely BJJ practitioners will talk about not thinking, just reacting when executing moves. The irony is that often times we're left with nothing but our thoughts when our technique is seemingly failing us.
For DeBlass, there's a time and place for everything. When someone's aggressively trying to pass your guard or when you're stuck in back mount and they are trying to choke the life out of you, it's definitely not the time to be thinking about all of the various things we should be doing. Instead we need to be reacting at that time.
Save the Bulk of Your Thinking for After Training
The best time to reflect is after class, or after a training session. This is the time to look back on what was good, what was bad, and what you can fix. At the end of the day, you can only control one person and that's you. Mistakes must be addressed and you must get back to the training mats after a tough session or competition. This is the only way you will improve. So while the action is happening, give your mind a break and then afterwards take a look at what can be improved.
Everyday life is full of stress and challenges. Whether we are students, work full time, have families or some other lifestyle that keeps us busy, many people recognize BJJ as a great stress reliever. For the average practitioner, DeBlass would advise that you should take a deep breath and relax. Enjoy the journey. Keep showing up as much as you can and have fun when you're on the mats. Be a positive presence at your gym or academy and help others whenever you can.
Special note: If you have aspirations to be a competitor, Tom would have some very special advice for you that we will save for another article. Haha.
At the end of the day, BJJ is practiced across the world by people of all ages, sexes, and backgrounds. Not all of them are training and striving to be the top 1% of athletes and step on the stages of ADCC or some other high level promotion, but that doesn't mean we can't follow in the footsteps of an athlete and teacher like Tom DeBlass and improve our lives with the lessons that BJJ teaches and for DeBlass, this involves building a stronger, more positive and effective mindset.