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Some Jiu Jitsu Musings

Seems like a long time since I’ve written about Jiu Jitsu, which is strange because apart from sleeping, Jiu Jitsu is the thing I do the most in life. Anyway, here are some random thoughts on training and maybe some advice (if I may be so bold)

It is what it is.
The better you get, the more you get to shape each roll or match to your aims. You get to suck your opponent into doing things he doesn’t want to do so that you can do the things you want to do. The age old concept of counter and re-counter applies here- force him to react, and have something waiting for that reaction. When you do this right, and everything goes to plan, it’s a great feeling, however most of the time, things don’t go to plan. Jiu Jitsu is a fluid game with no set pieces, so your development depends on your ability to instinctively react. Learning 20 different ways to sweep is a decent idea, but learning 3 so well that you can do them without thinking is better. Better yet, learn 3 with 3 re-counters for each.

Learn one sided.
Some people will disagree with me, but I think it’s far easier to perfect things on one side than it is to know them on both sides. Everyone has a favourite side, and I think it’s far better to have an A game for that side than it is to have 2 B games for your left and right sides. That’s not to say you should neglect drilling on the far side completely, just that you may find it easier to master one side first before moving on to the other.

It is what it is part 2
If you catch yourself complaining about the type of game one of your team mates has, slap yourself in the face. You now what I’m talking about. “I don’t like rolling with him, he always plays closed guard”. “I don’t like rolling with him, he always goes for foot locks”. “I don’t like rolling with her, she goes too hard”. It is what it is, and people are what they are. It helps to think of partners like puzzles. Someone closing their guard around you all of the time and sweeping or submitting you from there is an excellent opportunity to figure out how to 1) Stop them from getting to the closed guard (a really important skill against closed guard players) 2) how to keep your posture and not allow them to sweep or tap you (another really important skill) 3) how to break and pass the closed guard (yet another great skill). Your partners represent the best training tool on the planet. Living, breathing, reacting conundrums that give you a slightly different stimulus every time you roll with them. Complaining because one of them is too strong or too fast sounds like you’re asking them to be weaker or slower just for your benefit.

ABC- Always Be Closing
This is something for the guys who find themselves dominating positions, but not really sealing the deal with a submission, pass, or sweep. Something I’ve noticed is that a lot of people spend a lot of the time in sparring doing very little. For example, if I get to a guy’s very dangerous half guard, I have to play clever to make sure I don’t get caught. It’s permissible, natural, and prudent to be very cautious here to prevent submissions or sweeps. But am I setting up my guard pass or am I just waiting for what he does next? Sometimes it’s hard to say. To give a specific example, I found myself getting to my training partner’s backs an awful lot in the last 6 months of the 2013, but not really doing anything with it. I was scoring my 4 points, this was good news, but sooner or later, they would escape, the round would end, or I would get frustrated at not having finished and bail into another position. So I gave myself a goal in January- ABC, stolen of course from the great Glengarry Glen Ross speech. Technique came later- my early goal was just to get a submission from this position no matter what. This was training, so I didn’t care if the guy escaped 9/10 times, I knew I had to get the game moving. Long story short, I have improved there, the rounds are more dynamic when I get to the back, I’m less frustrated, and while people still defend well and escape, they do so less and I am more prolific on the back now. My tip- get moving, get finishing.

These are a part of grappling. They’re marginally more dangerous than most arm locks but as long as you’re not training with Mongo from Blazing Saddles, you’ll be alright. Everything is safe with respect and a good atmosphere among training partners. Don’t be an idiot, tap early, you’re fine. I don’t really coach them in the early stages of your training- firstly because when applied incorrectly they have a higher potential to go wrong, and secondly because they’re a little bit of an uneconomic use of time if your grade level doesn’t allow them in competition. That being said, rules of the competitive arena change depending on whether you’re fighting BJJ, MMA, ADCC rules etc. and I believe in grappling as a total art as well. We all enjoy the “cheap!” gag when someone wristlocks us, but think of how much control it requires to make a guy tap using just his hand, or the end of his foot. That’s pretty cool.

Leave your Superid at the door
You will hear that your ego should be left behind, and it should, but I think people sometimes think that having an ego means swaggering around like you own the place. Every excuse you make is your ego screwing with you. Becoming frustrated or angry with a bad session is your ego screwing with you. It is, as we’ve said above, what it is. One bad session doesn’t make you terrible any more than one good session makes you great. To use an old Dan John adage that I’m very fond of again; out of every 5 sessions you’ll have one brilliant, one terrible, and three just okay.

Learn different paces like they were techniques
This is something I’ve discovered about myself in the past year, and I really think it has improved my own grappling. Try a night or a week where you focus on slow execution of technique. Then try a week where you do the opposite and try to blitz your opponent every time with your pace and movement. I think this helps you understand the times when it’s necessary to execute quickly and the times when it’s best to sit and wait.

And finally…
Enjoy it. I don’t know a single really good guy who doesn’t look like he’s having the time of his life in training.

That’s it!


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