Setting Personal Training Goals

Have a purpose for your training (and your life) so that you can know where you are going and how to get there. Always know what your reason is for training. What is driving you? Know your bigger mission and set goals to achieve it. Without a purpose, we are directionless. Without goals we will eventually wander off, become lost, and make no progress.

In this season, I would like to encourage you to reflect on your reason for training and to set goals. Think of three specific and measurable things you would like to accomplish. I and the other Coaches are available upon request to help you work through this. Our goal is to offer each of you support in improving your Jiu Jitsu game and growing personally. Use the academy as a platform for your own development.

Mat-Specific Goals:

Below are examples and thoughts on some mat-specific goals you could set for yourself in this next season.

  • Develop your own game. Begin by first focusing on learning the positions being taught in class and following the curriculum (a goal in and of itself). Then, focus on linking positions. Identify a position you would like to improve on and work on transitioning to and from it from a position you are already strong in. For example: if the Coach is working the mount position and you are very good at the back, try to link this new mount position with taking the back (which you are already strong in). This will enable you to widen your repertoire and strengthen your ability to play the game.
  • Improve your game. Confining your training to just the official class time would be limiting the potential of your Jiu Jitsu. Spend time gaining feedback from not just your Coaches but also your training partners on what is and is not working on your game. They are great resources. Take a few minutes before or after class to talk with each other. Ask things like: “How did you feel about that last position I tried?”
  • Train consistently. Consistency is key. It is the foundation for us to reach the other training goals. Try to commit to the amount of days per week you have determined to train. Set a specific schedule of how often you would realistically like to train and if possible, which days you will be training. It is irrelevant how often you are training, whether it is 5 days a week, two days a week or one day every other week. I recommend setting a schedule of which days you train. It will help you to stay on track.
  • Promotion. The goal to earn a strip or belt is excellent. It is a materialization of our work. However, promotion should not be the end goal. The goal behind the belt or stripe should be growing in your understanding of the art of Jiu Jitsu. If the goal is limited to just the belt it becomes a trap. The belt becomes a “thing” to achieve while not representing growth. This particular goal of promotion, when it represents growth to the student, should be measured by the ability to understand what is being taught by the instructor: insights into why the technique works and why your execution of that technique did or did not work when implemented. In understanding the art of Jiu Jitsu, a student should be able to explain in words to someone how and why a technique works.
  • Competition. Challenge yourself by training for and competing in a competition

Speak with your Coach on the side to gain feedback on what you can specifically work on with your game in connection with your goals. What are the things you would like to add into your game personally?


Lifestyle goals:

As we repeatedly say: it is not about Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu has the ability to change lives. Allow your training to spark ideas and look at things from a different angle. Begin brainstorming areas for adjustments and to come up with a strategy on how to build upon your successes and achieve your goals.

  • Develop friendships. Enjoy the supportive community the academy offers and develop friendships. This is best developed before and after class. Whenever possible arrive 20 minutes before class and stay 20 minutes after class to connect with others. For those who are shy or have social anxiety, the academy is a safe place to interact with new people and to develop confidence. Make a point to talk with teammates whom you do not know yet and keep up with the connections you already have. Remember:  iron sharpens iron.
  • Take risks. If you have a tendency to play it safe in life or have anxiety in taking risks, use your training to allow you to practice taking trying new positions during rolling. This approach will allow you to progressing in your training and is also a great way of overcoming fear of success or failure.
  • Improve physical conditioning. If we are doing the 30 jumping jacks, 20 squats, 10 pushups in 5 minutes try to go a little faster, get a little lower. Improve on what you have been able to do in the past to increase your endurance and strength.
  • Lose weight. Weight loss is great goal. Though simply stating: “I want to lose weight” is not enough. Having a target weight or identifying the amount of pounds to lose by a specific date is a measurable and time-bound goal. This will allow you to aim toward something concrete and know when it has been accomplished. Then, once the weight has been achieved, this goal will evolve to become the goal and journey of living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle should include eating well and getting an adequate amount of rest. The mindset of a healthy lifestyle combats the discouragement we may be faced with when, for example we go on vacation for two weeks and re-gained the weight we worked so hard to lose.
  • Strengthen your relationship with family and friends by practicing Jiu Jitsu as a shared hobby. Training with spouse, children and friends have proven invaluable for many in our BJJ family.


Our reasons for training can evolve and change over time. Taking a previous example, your goal can start as weight loss. Then, once the desired weight is achieved, the goal can evolve to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Or, our reason for training can remain consistent over our entire Jiu-Jitsu journey (i.e. to grow in our conceptual knowledge of the art of Jiu Jitsu). Either is acceptable. The point is to know your reason for training at any given moment. It will enrich your training and help to ensure you reach and even surpass the bar you have set for yourself.


Three Key Components to Achieving Goals

In addition to the goals being S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused and time-bound) below are three critical components for achieving training goals:

Accountability. Going beyond goal setting, as teammates we are to hold one another accountable to each other’s stated goals. Check in on each other periodically to ask how they are progressing. Offer encouragement, provide feedback, or help to identify anything that may be inhibiting from reaching the goal.

Responsible for own journey. No other teammate or Instructor can make you achieve your training goals. We each must be motivated to learn and progress or we will remain stagnant. We will use every tool we have to teach and coach world-class Jiu Jitsu and create an atmosphere conducive to learning the art, but at the end of the day, we each are responsibility for our own journey.

Power of momentum. Achieving small wins builds confidence that creates a momentum that spurs better performance. It is this momentum that helps to change our perspective: gaining assurance in our  abilities, optimism about the future, positive perspective on ourselves and others, anticipation of future wins, etc. Set yourself up to gain momentum that will inspire, motivate and energize you.

Why It’s Not About Jiu Jitsu

We constantly say at Team Passos that it is not about Jiu Jitsu. By no means are we minimizing the art; exactly the opposite. The art of Jiu Jitsu is so beautiful and useful that it transcends the mat to allow us to improve as a person outside of the four walls of the academy.

I am super passionate about Jiu Jitsu. I have dedicated myself to the art for close to 20 years. I study daily and am always trying to improve my own game. But what I have gained through Jiu Jitsu has had a greater impact on my life outside of the mat than just the art itself. What I have learned is that Jiu Jitsu is a tool that helps us to better understand ourselves, adapt to life’s circumstances, and relate to others. Through training we become aware of our emotions and learn how we react in different and ever-changing situations. It teaches us new and more effective ways of dealing with challenges as well as connecting with others. Jiu-Jitsu can bring us to the end of ourselves in that it challenges us to push past our comfort zones, fears and doubts to where we reach new limits mentally, physically and emotionally.

The art of Jiu Jitsu will put us in vulnerable positions. And often the way that we respond to pressure on the mat is a reflection of how we react under pressure outside of the mat. Training Jiu Jitsu instills a mental fortitude and problem solving that not only exponentially improves our performance during rolls but also in the workplace, at home with our family and any in other relationship. I truly believe that Jiu Jitsu is one of the most effective tools to spur us to grow, to overcome barriers, and achieve breakthrough physically, mentally and emotionally.

The ability to apply the skills and concepts that we are working on in class outside of the academy is key element to maximize your learning the art of Jiu Jitsu and will allow you to enjoy class even more.  To master the art itself a student obviously must work hard and put in the training hours on the mat. However, the beauty about the sport is that you do not need to train Jiu Jitsu full-time to be able to gain skills that can be applied off the mat. Any student training consistently, even if it is just once or twice a week will be able to make the connection and apply the tools they have learned in class to outside of the academy.

The reason we say that it is not about Jiu Jitsu is because its benefits (emotionally, mentally and physically) are not confined to just the mat. To try to limit it to just Jiu Jitsu not only thwarts the potential of the art but also our own potential. Ultimately it is not about Jiu Jitsu. It is about living a life transformed and impacting others’ lives through the art of Jiu Jitsu. That is what Jiu Jitsu has done and continues to do in my life. And I want nothing less for all of my students.

– Professor Tony Passos

Concept-Based Versus Technique-Based Mindset

Understanding concepts in Jiu Jitsu is just as important, if not more important than learning strictly techniques. In the art of Jiu Jitsu, it is difficult to make just one technique or a single attack work. Instead, it is your constant attacks adapted and varied to the game that will eventually wear down your opponent and have them fall behind in their defense and counter-attacks. The ability to adapt your approach is based on your ability to understand the concepts of Jiu Jitsu. This conceptual understanding provides a solid foundation to build techniques upon. From there it is then a matter of time that you will be able to apply the technique and submit your opponent.

Think of a technique as a tool. With a technique-based mindset, you will focus on implementing single attacks, individual tools. Using one tool to try to apply and make work, and if it does not, use another and then another hoping to submit. All the while not being able to get ahead in the match or strategizing for your opponent to fall in your game. It is difficult to become creative simply based on tools.  But when you learn the concepts you learn the art – the essence of Jiu Jitsu; where you can apply the tools to create the art.  By grasping the concepts you can adapt and apply more attacks. You can develop your own game and learn how to tailor techniques to your own body and ability. This will enable you to be able to more effectively improvise and respond to bad situations.

By no means am I minimizing techniques. Instead, I am emphasizing the concept of position that will allow you to implement the submission/technique. A conceptual understanding of Jiu Jitsu is demonstrated when a student is able to flow from one technique to another. To be able to accomplish this, they must have a thorough understanding of the position they are in.

Another way to illustrate a technique versus concept-based approach is say you have a gun… a friendly NERF gun. The techniques are the bullet darts. A technique-based approach would have you load one bullet and then shoot, then load one again, and shoot, and so on. However, a concept-based understanding allows you to load all bullets at once and shoot one after another without hesitation for a faster, more efficient attack. This approach does not allow your opponent the space to counter attack and enables you to stay ahead of the game.

In developing your conceptual understanding it is important that you do not neglect maintaining or improving a position by rushing to apply a technique. Take time to understand a position, not just on how to improve the position or find submissions from it, but to understand how to keep that position. When rushing to apply the technique your opponent can wait for you to attempt to execute. Then when you make the move you give space to the opponent where he has an opportunity to escape.  The better you can keep a particular position, the harder your opponent will have to fight to escape from the position and the less effort it will take you to keep that position. When your opponent must work harder to escape a position, he will eventually expose himself to a vulnerability that will allow you to apply your technique. For example, when you are able to keep your opponent in the closed guard effectively and they fight to escape, the opportunity for implementing an arm bar will be more likely to present itself.

To illustrate further, suppose I get on the mount. From that position there are several techniques I can try to implement to finish the match. The arm bar may work. But if I cannot maintain and generate a good pressure from the mount, my opponent will wait for me to move to the arm bar and it will be much easier for him to escape. However, if I am able to develop a good mount control and heavy pressure control from the mount my opponent has no option of waiting for me to go to the arm bar to then try to escape due to the uncomfortable pressure. Because he is feeling the pressure from the mount he is forced to engage in trying to escape which will give me openings to apply a technique which could be the arm bar, or americana, or cross choke. The point here is to be strong in the position (i.e. the mount) and then have several tools on hand to be able to apply the technique or submission when the opportunity presents itself.

This is the approach we take with our classes at Team Passos. The format of our curriculum is developed as a system that begins with a position where we reinforce the understanding of that position. We then demonstrate three or four techniques from that position. Each of the techniques are connected to one another so as to allow the student the ability to adapt and transition as the game changes while ultimately gaining a better understanding of the art of Jiu Jitsu.

The purpose of teaching in this format is to show the student that a single move, though it can work, is more difficult to be effective because their opponent is focused on defending that attack. Teaching from this systematic concept-based approach, that includes three to four attacks, will improve the student’s chances to not only control their opponent but also to succeed in the attacks.

-Professor Tony Passos

Guto Campos Seminar 9/2

We welcome back BJJ World Champion Gustavo “Guto” Campos on September 2nd. Guto is a co-founder of Atos Jiu Jitsu and holds an impressive competition record, having medaled at the highest-level competitions. Join us as he shares his beautiful Jiu Jitsu and training insights.

Seminar will take place at Team Passos Affiliate, Infinite Fighting Concepts: 17 Muddy Branch Rd, Gaithersburg, Maryland 20878

Seminar cost is $85. Please sign-up and pre-paid at your respective academies. Note, payment/registration at the door on the day of the seminar will not be accepted.

Immediately following the seminar we will hang out and enjoy a potluck barbecue. Please bring a dish or drink to share.

Gi Drive for Atos PE


Here is a video of the Gi donation from our students in the US to the students at Atos Pernambuco in Brazil.

The month leading up to this seminar Team Passos students in the U.S .donated gis to surprise our bothers and sisters in Northeast Brazil. Our students donated a total of 62 gis, two belts, and two pairs of shoes. These were received with gratitude and tears. Thank you so everyone who participated in blessing some very special people.

And a huge shout out to our sponsor ONDA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for donating several of their Recife Limited Edition kimonos. It’s amazing to see the love circle back around to the city that inspired this line.

How to Succeed in Jiu Jitsu

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve seen students struggle with in Jiu Jitsu is to completely engage the learning process through applying a new technique being taught once they are in an a bad position during a roll. Often, when students begin to feel uncomfortable, they consequently stop trying to implement the new techniques the Instructor is teaching in class. Instead, they immediately resort to doing only what they are already familiar with at the expense of progressing in their learning. However, to succeed in Jiu Jitsu, we must be open to learning new skills while continually pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

When we are presented with a new concept or technique, the question we must ask ourselves is: “Am I willing to not perform at the highest in this specific training in order to add new tools to my game?” Being willing to apply what the Instructor is teaching is a sign that we are open to learning which will improve our Jiu Jitsu. The longer a student continues to do the same things they already know during a roll without trying anything new, especially while other students continue to learn and progress, he/she digs a deeper and deeper hole that is hard to come out of later. When this happens we are usually dealing with pride. Sticking with familiarity is not limited to the mat. It is something that we as humans are challenged with in every area of our life.

We cannot overcome and progress by limiting ourselves to doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results. If we are not willing to get out of our comfort zones in order to learn something new then we will find that what had been working during rolls will no longer yield results. Eventually our training partners catch on and catch up. While we were busy sticking only with the same techniques, our teammates were developing a tremendous amount of skill through implementing the new tools being taught in class. The consequence is that, even if our dedication and passion to Jiu Jitsu is high, we will stagnate and our frustration will grow.

In my experience as a Professor, when a student falls behind his peers from failing to embrace the learning process and frustration consequently ensues is when that student often quits training Jiu Jitsu. By focusing more on what they already know rather than building on it with new skills these students eventually find themselves so low that they do not see a way to get out of the hole they dug and Jiu Jitsu is no longer fun for them. The problem was never the technique being taught, the ability to learn Jiu Jitsu or that it is not fun. The problem is pride. The result from quitting when it gets tough rather than learning is that the student takes their pride with them wherever they go.

Starting your Jiu Jitsu journey can be especially tough when you have limited understanding of the positions and so cannot yet implement or defend from them. But, just like anything else, if you keep studying and practicing it you will improve. Eventually the technique or skill that you were not so great at will become just as good if not better than the ones you already know. At the end of the day we must incorporate into our dedication and love for training Jiu Jitsu with our willingness to learn different skills on the mat. This is how you progress and succeed in Jiu Jitsu and in life.

Continually adding technical ability and conceptual knowledge is crucial to the learning and enjoying the art off Jiu Jitsu. Through my own training experience, where I am faced with the challenge of constantly learning new skills on the mat, Jiu Jitsu has given me the tools to not only improve my own game but also the confidence to apply the same principles in all the areas of my life.  And this is what I desire for each of my students.

– Professor Tony Passos

Teaching Methodology: 3-Step Instruction

Every detail of our programs and classes are strategically designed to maximize our students learning the art of Jiu Jitsu.

In this video, Professor Tony explains explains briefly how he structures the academy’s curriculum: Instruction is broken down in each class where it thens builds upon concepts and techniques in order to facilitate a progressive understanding of the art while increasing the student’s ability to effectively apply it on the mat.

Why I Don’t Teach Escapes

One of the first questions I receive from students who have not been training for a long time or who do not yet understand Jiu Jitsu is: “how do I escape from this position?” To them, my answer is: “there is no escape.” My response is usually not well received. The student asks: “what do you mean there is no escape?” I simply say: “just don’t get in that position.” I do not teach escapes to my newer students and here is why.

If, for example, that student gets caught in the arm lock from the mount, he/she will be looking for an escape because they have never done the arm lock themselves nor ever been caught in the arm lock. Those students do not understand the power of the arm lock but rather focus their on to get out of an uncomfortable position.

Until that student reps the arm bar a thousand times, he/she will never learn how to escape. I could show the student how to escape in the beginning but that escape will not work. The reason being is that if the student does not understand the application of the arm bar, the he/she will never understand how to escape. Therefore, I refuse to initially teach escapes.

Instead, I can show you how to protect yourself and where to be careful.  To escape, I believe that the best way to learn is to be on the offense. By understand how to attack from the mount and learning all the variables then the student can reverse engineer for the defense.

Look, the better I become at escaping from the mount, the less I will fight for someone else to get the mount on me. If I am good at escaping from the mount, it will not be a big deal to me. That is, until I roll with someone who is good on the mount. So, to fix and avoid the problem from the root, we should be trying our best to not let our opponent pass our guard and mount.

By practicing specific drills that give the student the opportunity to stay in a given position from the mount, side body, and back in order to learn how to protect themselves, to control their breathing, and think through the position. This allows the student to collect more data, learn from the experience and gain a better understanding of how to apply during the roll. We first must gain the applicable feeling of going through the motions before we can receive the instructional information.

The biggest difference between those students who stay in the position longer (ex: back control) versus those who rush to get the submission (ex: choke) is that when I begin teaching chokes, the students who have stayed longer in those uncomfortable positions already understand back control. They have collected the most data on how to control their opponent – they already have the pieces to put together when we progress to learn the technique.  When we go to drill the choke, those students are more advanced and better equipped which results in them tapping most of the other students in class.

When we are faced with hardship, often our natural reaction is to try to fix the problem by escaping from what is uncomfortable. My objective on the mat is to encourage my students to remain in the challenging position and learn rather than rush out through an escape or attack. Our discomfort is one of the best tools to grow. Rather than focusing on a problem and how to most quickly or easily escape from it, we are forced to find a solution. And, in the process we are strengthened, made more competent and gain more skills.

– Professor Tony Passos

White Belt and New Student Orientation

Have you recently begun your BJJ journey? Would you like to learn the ropes and gain insights as it relates to the mat?

Join us Saturday morning of June 10th where we will go over a few positions, drills, and concepts that will help you to understand the art of Jiu Jitsu. Further, we will work with you to identify your training goals and come up with a game plan to achieve your personal objectives on and off the mat.

This will be a great opportunity to meet with the Team Passos coaching and management team, ask any questions you may have, and learn more about the mat culture.

Who is this workshop for?

White belts and students who have recently joined our BJJ family.
Anyone who would like to learn more about what it is like to train at Team Passos.