Monday, September 12, 2011

Evolving Your Game: Identify. Address. Implement. Repeat.

A lot of times, in Jiu-Jitsu, we begin learning defensively. We learn first how to survive. For those who have read Saulo Ribeiro's Jiu-Jitsu University, his white and blue belt sections emphasize this point thoroughly: as a white belt you must first survive. As a blue belt you must escape.

Phase 1: 
When I came from Judo I did what a lot of Judoka do: played top position whenever possible, got to my feet, and played an aggressive, physical, if not less than overly technical game. I cut corners, smashed and passed and occasionally got a choke or armbar.

There's nothing wrong with an aggressive, smashing, top control based style. I'm simply calling it for what it is.
I realized that my energy expenditure did not much what I was actually accomplishing when I was rolling with so much effort. I had the conditioning from Judo to roll hard for 5 min's straight, but my energy expended versus what I was achieving was woefully disparate.
I watched the precise way the purple and brown belts would control and pass and submit and I wanted that. Call it lazy, call it effective, call it smart, but I wanted it. 

I decided to make en effort to learn Jiu-Jitsu for what it was, or what I felt like it had to offer in filling in the holes in my game: I started playing the guard, fighting off of my back, and doing the positions I was not good at. I wanted to find the control, finesse, and smooth, relaxed pressure game I felt from higher ranking BJJ players who made it seem effortless. 

Phase 2: 
Fast forward 2-3 years when I began fighting competing in MMA. I realized that being on the bottom is a dangerous place (moreso than the top). Judges tend to score a round more favorably for the top position fighter, and in general, more damage can be inflicted from the top. My primary goal was to absorb as little damage as possible while on bottom, and sweep or get back to my feet.
My game from off my back became breaking down posture, minimizing damage, and scrambling to a standing position.

Phase 3: 
After 4 1/2 years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I've found that my passing/top game now needs to be polished every bit as much as my bottom game. 

In class, I virtually always start off my back or in a bad position, work to escape, transition to top then look to pass to dominant position then submit. However, what I've found is that due to my Judo background, I spend far more time in tournaments working to pass open guard or some half-open-guard transitional position.

Recognize tournament performance and class performance.
Address areas in need of attention.
Prioritize training time/training with partners accordingly.

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