Gianni training with Ruan Alvarenga at MGA.

On every New Years Eve or New Year’s Day training session since I was 16, I spend my time between rounds writing down my goals for the new year. It’s the one day that I actually like to take more of a break between rounds writing down my goals because I feel like it is just as important as the physical training that day.

I started the tradition with my first strength and conditioning coach, and one of my mentors: Martin Rooney. We would put on some of the most grueling New Years Eve workouts, and to top off the physical work, we’d also have to put in our minds and then on paper what our goals would be for the coming year.

Today, almost nine-years later I kept that little tradition going during my drill session in Hoboken with my friend Rich Van Houten. Between the constant reps of leg drags and knee cut passes, I would jot down my goals and this year I’ve noted that this list of goals may be my most diverse list yet. Yes, almost all of it has something to do with jiu-jitsu, but not all of it is “on the mat” goals like you might expect.

With that, I’d like to share a few of them with you:

– Be more mentally active between training sessions:

The biggest thing that I miss about being in college is having something else to occupy my mind when I’m off the mats, and I’ve learned that that’s an important thing to have. But, without college and without a real steady job, my routine has been pretty dull. I sleep, I eat, I train, then I come home, I eat, most of the time I sleep, then I get up and train again. By having a routine where I’m not stimulating my brain in the time I rest between training, I don’t feel as productive or overall satisfied with my day. There has to be more accomplished in my day than just drilling, learning technique and sparring.

So, in 2018 I want to be more productive with my rest time. I want to explore the city more, and take in the sights around me. I want to read more, stimulate my mind with something other than jiu-jitsu matches on YouTube. I want to socialize more, get away from being a hermit and going home to rest for the next session–actually make an effort to go to lunch with teammates and get to know more about the people you are trying to strangle everyday.


Gianni versus Justin Rader at F2W Pro. photo: Ric Ricard

– Continue Competing As Often As Possible:

In 2017 I competed in 20 tournaments, so I feel like I’ve already accomplished this goal before, but simply I want to do it again.

This means being open to competing in all different rulesets, with different opponents at different weight classes and anywhere and everywhere in the world I’m given the opportunity. Not only do I want to compete at the international tournaments and money tournaments but I also want to compete at the local IBJJF events where the only thing you win is pride and some ranking points.

While I’ve heard from some advisors that black belts like myself shouldn’t compete in non-paying IBJJF local opens because it doesn’t benefit the competitor enough, I choose to put myself out there regardless. I remember after I won weight and absolute at a local New York Open, the next day I received a couple messages inquiring about seminars. Any tournament is an opportunity not only to test your skills, and really see what needs to be worked on, but it is also good exposure.

– Restart Blog:

Well, I guess I can already cross off one resolution from my list! But, in all seriousness this has always been something I’ve wanted to get back to for over three years but could never get myself to commit to. But this is it, new year, fresh start. This is the first of what I intend to be many blog posts in 2018.

– Use Weekends to Get Away From Jiu-Jitsu:

This is a new one for you to hear from me, but this goal is serious and true–get away from jiu-jitsu more on the weekends! This means after my two hour morning session on Saturday’s ending my week I don’t want to watch any YouTube or FloGrappling videos, read any jiu-jitsu articles or even talk (much) about jiu-jitsu amongst friends or family. I need to make time for an escape. Of course, the exception here comes in if there is a tournament that weekend.

I’ve noticed this need since I moved to Hoboken back in October. When I spent a weekend doing something different–going to lunch or dinner with friends and family, or doing some physical activity outside of jiu-jitsu, I come back to training Monday morning mentally fresh and eager to get back to work. I’ve found that small periods of time away is good for the mind and that distracting yourself with some other activity off the mats, it can help make your time spent on the mat more productive and enjoyable.

– Focus More on Having Fun:


Gianni and Yuta Shimada after training at MGA.

If you’ve trained with me before, you probably know that I can come off as a very serious person when on the mats and I’m probably not the best person to throw jokes at between rounds or during drilling. I take my time on the mat seriously, but that often leads to coming off as overly serious and a not-too-likable attitude while at the gym. Also, over the past year I’ve begun to learn that just because you don’t like to joke around, it doesn’t mean it’s helping you anymore on the mat.

In 2017, I noticed I trained better and often times learned more whether within sparring or during drilling when I allowed myself to have more fun, joke around with teammates and simply just open up and socialize more rather than always being a stern ass. I have felt that having those good vibes and being more light hearted in the gym leads to better training, and the better you’re training the more confidence it gives off going into competition.

So, these are just a few of my goals. This year I didn’t put in anything lofty like, “black belt world champion,” or “repeat as Abu Dhabi Pro champion.” Nothing about results. Those results will come with doing all the little things right. Competing often (testing myself), occupying my mind outside of jiu-jitsu to stay fresh and to enjoy the process of training more. With keeping up with those goals, amongst others, I expect 2018 to be a wonderful and fascinating year.

Gianni Grippo
Marcelo Garcia Black Belt | English Major at Montclair State University | NJ/NYC

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