Let’s face it, we’ve all encountered a student who takes up running or biking to improve their “cardio” for Jiu Jitsu. Clearly they seek an improvement in their Jiu Jitsu performance and understandably so as Jiu Jitsu has intense physical requirements from strength, power, flexibility to endurance.
While there are some benefits to raising one’s activity levels, there may be some uninvited consequences on the part of the athlete such as producing overuse mechanisms “runners knee” and over training which can take away from your ultimate goal of being a Jiu Jitsu monster.
We know that training tired oftentimes does not lead to an improvement in performance or progress but oftentimes results in the opposite, even injury. Let’s shift our focus to two bigger issues, the role of specificity and the importance of improving technically and mechanically.
Many instructors, like myself have likely experienced the scenario where an incredibly fit and powerful person who lifts, does cardio, sprints, etc. have been near crippled from the fatigue brought on by sparring with a skilled opponent. I’m sure I speak for many others when I say NO AMOUNT OF CARDIO WILL REPLACE AN ABSENCE OF TECHNICAL ABILITIES AND TIMING. This is an area the beginner student is usually lacking but I will say again that no amount of cardio will make up for technical deficiencies.
The other topic, while closely related, is that running fails to provide the specificity that is required for grappling. Improving V02 max will definitely have benefits for a skilled fighter but not in the way one would expect. If your goal is to one day become a high level grappler, you will find that much of their sport specific conditioning is developed through their sport of Jiu Jitsu, Judo or Wrestling.
What one must come to acknowledge is that the sports themselves, like boxing for example offer a great deal of sport conditioning by themselves and trying to improve strength and cardio outside of your skills is a strategy reserved for the advanced practitioner looking to gain an advantage over the competition, not for the beginner. For those looking to build their stamina, I suggest placing all of your focus into becoming technically sound, specifically from the positions that give you difficulty and watch your “cardio” begin to improve.