Developing Grit

There is an unseen, relentless force powering every high-performing athlete – a mindset of determination. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu not only helps an athlete develop this mindset, it demands it. A phrase I picked up from a great friend and mentor perfectly embodies this mindset: “Die going forward.”

This ethos is about much more than simple endurance, and it’s certainly not bravado. It’s about steadfast commitment and a resolute push toward progress, even in the face of adversity. “Die Going Forward” isn’t just about moving forward on the mats or in the gym; it’s about applying this relentless, forward momentum to every aspect of life, against every challenge.


BJJ demands a combination of physical prowess, strategic thinking, and mental fortitude. Victory isn’t only about who is physically superior or tactically more astute; it hinges on who can consistently push forward, maintain their momentum, and remain undeterred when the odds are stacked against them.

Having grit means pushing through the toughest training sessions, staying focused under extreme pressure, and getting back on your feet after a loss. It means embracing the grind, developing mental toughness, and fostering a mindset that prioritizes forward momentum over all else.

BJJ academies provide the perfect laboratory to develop grit and the “Die Going Forward” mindset. Controlling your breathing when exhausted. Finding calm when you’re being crushed or twisted. Becoming comfortable in the uncomfortable. These moments of opportunity on the mats can translate to at least some form of that calm confidence we see in our senior coaches, high-performing athletes, experienced service men and women, and so on.

In Life

The remarkable thing about grit is that it isn’t confined to training or competition. The relentless spirit, the unyielding determination, and the bold courage that push you to keep going on the mats can also help you tackle life’s many challenges.

Whether navigating a demanding career, overcoming personal setbacks, or dealing with the intricacies of everyday life, honoring the “Die Going Forward” mentality can make a significant difference. The mental toughness, determination, and discipline you nurture in your sport can transform into a steadfast work ethic, a resilient mindset, and an unstoppable drive in life.

Staying committed to a diet plan, a rigorous routine, or working towards a long-term goal all call for the same grit, determination, and mindset. The lessons learned through embracing this mentality – the value of relentless pursuit, the power of unyielding determination, and the importance of bouncing back from failures – feed into a broader life philosophy that can help you win your battles outside of sports.

developing grit

We are all wired differently, come from different backgrounds, and are impacted by our unique life experiences. Grit may be innate for some and seem distant for others. If you find yourself in the latter camp, recognize nothing is wrong with this. Everyone can benefit from a focused practice to develop or improve their sense of determination. The following strategies might be helpful as you consider your own path.

1. Set Clear, Challenging Goals: A clear aim can fuel your determination to push forward. Make your goals challenging but attainable. These could be sport-related, such as mastering a complex series of movements, reducing your match time, or increasing your endurance, or they could be personal or professional goals. Remember, the goal isn’t to achieve these targets flawlessly but to commit to trying, learning, and persisting.

2. Embrace the Grind: Understand that the journey is often filled with obstacles, setbacks, and failures. Instead of being disheartened by them, embrace these challenges as essential parts of your journey. They’re opportunities to learn, adapt, and grow. This doesn’t mean you won’t feel the pain or frustration, but “Die Going Forward” means you choose to keep moving despite them.

3. Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Believe in your capacity to improve and evolve. Don’t see your abilities as fixed. Even if a skill doesn’t come naturally, a growth mindset will keep you trying, practicing, and improving. Acknowledge the effort behind success, not just the talent.

4. Prioritize Mental Strength Training: Just as you dedicate time to physical conditioning, invest in building your mental toughness. This could involve techniques like visualization, mindfulness, or cognitive-behavioral approaches to manage stress and boost confidence. Mental resilience is pivotal in maintaining your momentum, especially during challenging times. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

5. Lean on Your Support System: Surround yourself with people who understand and support your journey. This could be your coach, teammates, friends, or family. They can provide the motivation, perspective, and encouragement needed to maintain your “Die Going Forward” mindset when the going gets tough.

I firmly believe that strength isn’t just about physical prowess; it’s about the challenges you can face, the resilience you can build, and the relentless forward momentum you can maintain. Through high-quality coaching and dedicated practice, you’ll find that grit is a natural byproduct of your time on the mats. With intent, you can build a “Die Going Forward” mindset, brick by brick, and come away better prepared to conquer life’s challenges.