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What I've Learned

So first of all, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. My apologies once again. It seems like I’m always apologising for that but I live for the day that I’m quiet enough in my working life to update this more regularly. Actually, who am I kidding? I love being busy and it’s been extremely busy at the gym of late. Long may it continue. We have 9 new promotions in the gym, my purple belt and 8 new blues. There’s a bit of an edge on the mats right now as a whole bunch of white belts try to take some trophy taps from the newly promoted lads and with all those guys trying to live up to their new status. It’s funny, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu must be the only martial arts where people sort of regret getting promoted- it just paints a target on you!

And that brings me nicely round to why I’ve decided to post tonight. I suppose I’m in a bit of a reflective mood which is rare enough, so here goes my attempt at what I’ve learned so far: the several (I haven’t decided how much I’m going to write yet) lessons I’ve learned from training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

1. It’s not all about the tap
Yes, I know it’s been said, many times many ways, but it really isn’t. Training is training, and I would say that if you’re just chasing submissions, you might miss out on some other stuff that’s going on that will count against you in competition. Firstly, think about this example. If I always try to tap my opponent from my guard, my sweeps will suffer. If my sweeps suffer, my ability to score points in competition suffers too. Equally if I’m giving away top position for the sake of submissions, well, that could cost me a match. Secondly, if subs are your goal, then the temptation to always give your “A” game will be there. If you always play your A game, you don’t develop a plan B, and you’re less open to new elements creeping into your game. So my lesson is “don’t always chase the tap”. Instead, some nights chase sweeps, some others chase superior positioning, some nights chase a new guard retention technique. In other words, grow your game.

2. It’s all about the tap
Your tap that is. I reckon if I never tapped in training then I wouldn’t have developed even to the meagre level I’m at now. If I’m not tapping to my training partners then I am playing too safe. This is not football. You’re not training to be the best goalkeeper and let nothing in. You’re training to be the complete package so open up your game and try new things. Here’s the second of my corny examples: If I think I’m Captain Wonderful because I didn’t tap though my opponent had me mounted for 5 minutes in training, am I the best defender of submissions in the world or just the worst at escaping mount? Take the same scenario and have me try every mount escape I know against my opponent. What happens? I don’t know, but let’s make something up. Probably I get out of mount a few times, I get stuck in mount a few times and I get submitted a few times. But I’ll take the times I succeeded and try to repeat them, the times I got stuck and try to improve them, and the times I made a mistake and got submitted and try to eradicate them. That’s what training’s for.

3. Training partner’s are important
So 1) don’t hurt them and 2) try to keep them away from women they might marry. Both scenarios keep them off the mats for some time. So maybe you can’t affect the course of romance but you can definitely help to keep your partners healthy. I’ve learned through my own injuries and that of others that my neck, knees and back all require particular attention when I’m rolling- from both people involved. I like to think that I’m experienced enough now to know when I’m creating pressure versus cranking, or holding versus twisting. Hopefully, I keep my partners safe and well and ready to train tomorrow. Can you say the same do you think? It’s not something people are that mindful of. Too often I think people see their training partners as their opponent rather than their team mate. There are several things I do to stop me hurting others. A) I don’t manipulate the neck, or rather when I’m choking I attempt to manipulate the neck as little as possible. Once I think I’m cranking I’ll let go. This is hard to police that’s why I’ve put it first. After all we’ve all choked and been choked by neck-cranky subs. It’s a fact of training but I try to minimise it as much as possible. B) On less experienced people I catch and release footlocks, including, for the most part, the straight ankle lock. Unlike quite a few BJJ players I like foot and leg locks a lot and I go for them quite often. On experienced partners I’ll go to the tap for the most part, and experienced partners know when the time is to tap. With inexperienced partners I’ll catch the foot or leg hold, and then release. C) I put joint submissions on very slowly whenever I catch them. I have two reasons behind this. Firstly, if I jerk his arm in an arm bar or keylock, I may injure him. Secondly, if I can control someone enough to do it slowly, then I have better technique and won’t have to rely on my speed to tap him. This is good, as I have quite literally no speed. OAPs are faster than me so I prize control above all else.


4. You’re not 24 forever

Oh yeah I’m getting older, just like you and everyone else. So before every session I warm up. I don’t jump on the mat and get to it, I take my warm up time seriously. I do everything that old father time and countless soft tissue injuries have taught me to do. I get my body ready for training and whaddya know, I’m able to train more often. I know there’s some younger-than-me folks reading this thinking it doesn’t apply to them but you know what, it does. So warm up, do that prehab stuff the physio gave you. Do the hip things, the back things, the neck things. Yeah sure they’re not cool or sexy but they might just work and they may well equal a few extra months training over the course of the year.
5. Go to seminars
Don’t look at the price just go. I was a little down on the old mojo front earlier in the year and wasn’t too interested in training. Then I got the opportunity to train with Rafa and Guilherme Mendes and I got out of that funk sharpish. Even if you never remember a technique from one of them you can absorb a huge amount of ideas for training, concepts and drills. You also get to see the game at its highest level and more often than not, you get to roll with the guy. Before the year is out I will have rolled with Rafa and Guilherme, Robert Drysdale, Cobrinha (this weekend), and possibly Abmar Barbosa and Joao Assis.
So that’s my list for what it’s worth. If you have anything I’ve missed out on comment away. Maybe there’s a lesson in the comments for me.


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