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Introduction to Long Term Athletic Development in BJJ

Updated: Mar 4

BJJ training room with a range of age groups training together


The concept of Long-Term Athletic Development (LTAD) is revolutionizing how we approach sports training and athlete development. In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), LTAD offers a framework that aligns perfectly with the martial art's philosophy of continuous learning and improvement. Here we explore the importance of LTAD in BJJ and how practitioners can apply these principles throughout their journey in the sport.

Understanding Long Term Athletic Development in BJJ

Long-Term Athletic Development is a holistic approach focused on providing athletes with a developmentally appropriate pathway throughout their sports career. LTAD emphasizes the importance of age-appropriate training, skill development, physical literacy, and psychological growth. In BJJ, this translates to a structured progression that respects the physical and mental stages of each practitioner, ensuring they develop the skills, strength, and resilience necessary for long-term success and enjoyment in the sport.

Stages of Long-Term Athletic Development

To understand how BJJ training fits into the LTAD model, it's important to recognize the distinct stages of LTAD. These stages are designed to match the physical and psychological development of the athlete:

  1. Active Start (ages 0-6): This stage focuses on developing basic motor skills through fun and engaging activities. In BJJ, this could involve simple coordination exercises and playful, movement-based games.

  2. FUNdamental (ages 6-9 for boys, 6-8 for girls): At this stage, the emphasis is on developing fundamental movement skills. For BJJ, this means introducing basic techniques and principles in a fun and inclusive environment.

  3. Learn to Train (ages 9-12 for boys, 8-11 for girls): Here, athletes begin to consolidate basic sport-specific skills. In BJJ, training becomes more structured, with a focus on refining fundamental techniques and introducing more complex movements.

  4. Train to Train (ages 12-16 for boys, 11-15 for girls): This stage is about building fitness components and technical skills. BJJ practitioners at this level work on advanced techniques, strategy, and begin to understand the physical and mental demands of the sport.

  5. Train to Compete (ages 16-23+): Athletes focus on optimizing their fitness and technique for competition. In BJJ, this stage involves intensive training, focusing on high-level techniques, competition strategies, and mental preparation.

  6. Train to Win (ages 19+): At this elite stage, athletes aim to maximize performance in competitions. BJJ athletes focus on refining techniques, strategies, and mental toughness to perform at the highest levels.

  7. Active for Life: This stage can be entered at any age and focuses on lifelong physical activity and sport participation. In BJJ, this means continuing to practice and enjoy the sport for personal satisfaction, health, and social reasons, regardless of competition level.

These stages of LTAD provide a framework for developing athletes in a way that respects their physical, emotional, and cognitive development. Applying these stages to BJJ training ensures that practitioners develop holistically, enjoy the sport, and reach their full potential.

BJJ for Life: Aligning with LTAD

BJJ is often described as a lifelong journey. This philosophy dovetails seamlessly with the LTAD model, which advocates for continuous development and lifelong participation in sports. In BJJ, LTAD can be observed through the gradual progression of skills, from fundamental techniques for beginners to more advanced and complex strategies for higher belts. This progression isn't just about physical skills; it also encompasses understanding strategies, respecting the martial art, and developing mental toughness.

BJJ-Specific Training Ideas Aligned with LTAD

To align BJJ training with LTAD, instructors and practitioners can implement several strategies:

  • Age-Appropriate Techniques: Tailor training to the age and developmental stage of the practitioner. For children, focus on fundamental movements and games that develop coordination and basic skills. Adults may focus more on technical proficiency and conditioning.

  • Skill Development: Develop a progressive curriculum that builds foundational skills at early ages, and builds into a more complex system of techniques for adults. his focus lays a foundation for more advanced training in the future.

  • Physical Literacy: Incorporate exercises that improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and strength. These skills are crucial for injury prevention and overall athletic ability. Each age group will incorporate a different focus into their training regiment.

  • Injury Prevention: Incorporate warm-ups, cool-downs, and mobility exercises into training sessions. Educate practitioners on the importance of rest and recovery.

  • Mental Development: Teach the values of discipline, respect, and perseverance. Encourage a growth mindset where challenges are seen as opportunities to learn.


Long-Term Athletic Development in BJJ is about more than just becoming a better athlete; it's about embracing a lifelong journey of growth and learning. By aligning BJJ training with LTAD principles, practitioners can enjoy a more fulfilling, sustainable, and injury-free martial arts journey. BJJ, with its deep emphasis on continual learning and improvement, is ideally suited to the LTAD model, offering a pathway not just to athletic excellence but also to personal development and fulfillment.

Interested in learning more about LTAD? Check out the definitive book Long Term Athletic Development by Istvan Balyi, Richard Way, and Colin Higgs.

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