Creating an Environment for Success

I’ve heard it said before that “environment trumps will”. For those of us who like to credit our success to our own grit, determination and hard work this is not an easy truth to accept. Sure, some of the greatest people have emerged from some pretty bad environments, but those are the exceptions – not the rule.

How can we, as adult jiu jitsu practitioners, use this information to help us get better at jiu jitsu? Well, the good news is that we do have some control over our environment. It’s something that we can improve. Let’s look at a couple of ways our environment off the mat may be hindering our progress and maybe one or two ways our environment at the gym may not be helping us. Then let’s look at how we can turn that around.

If you have a spouse and kids and you cannot get them on board, your home environment will not be ideal for progress and success. It’s a lot to juggle, but somehow you must get them behind you. Getting them involved is a great way to do this. Keeping things “fair” is important—if you’re spending 4-6 hours a week doing something you’re passionate about try to help your family members find things they are passionate about and make sure they have the time to pursue those passions the same as you are pursuing jiu jitsu. Another way to get them behind you is to ensure that they are also reaping the benefits of your journey—jiu jitsu should be helping you become healthier, happier, more confident, and more relaxed. In other words, it should be helping you become a better spouse and parent.

If you leave home early for work, stop for a fast-food mc-something and coffee for breakfast, sit at your desk all day studying spreadsheets only stopping once to have lunch at the food truck on the corner, then rush home for a heavy carb loaded dinner—this will not help you accomplish your jiu jitsu goals. A busy life and stressful work environment is not always easy to overcome. Somethings that might help are: meal prep on the weekends for breakfasts during the week, pack lunches on work days, taking the stairs at work, standing at your desk,

If your friends that you hangout with on the weekends think that belly flop competitions and beer chugging are athletic events, you might be spending time in an environment that is not conducive for success. You probably don’t need to completely abandon recreational activities that include bratwurst, beer, and belly flops…but you probably need to minimize them. The key here is, like they say, balance and moderation.

What’s the environment like at the gym? How can you affect that?

Is there an “I have to win at all costs” environment at your school? Here’s the problem with that: When you adopt that mentality, you find a way to win i.e. get really good at a few moves that seem to be really well suited to you and then only do those moves. Or you may only train with training partners with less skill or lesser attributes which obviously won’t challenge you to the same degree as training with partners who are better than you. If this attitude is prevalent at your school, here’s how you can make a difference. First of all, roll with everyone and tap when you’re caught without trying to spaz out of the submission and don’t make excuses. Secondly, when rolling with training partners you can easily beat, roll in such a way that puts you in bad positions or get’s you caught once in a while, i.e. start from bad positions, work from your week side, try new techniques, etc. For more ideas along these lines check out Six BJJ Training Games, by Byron Jabara. By approaching jiu jitsu this way you will be setting an example that others will eventually follow.

Is there a “me first” mentality where students seem to only be concerned about their own progression? While this seems to be a mindset that would indeed help you get better faster it is, in the jiu jitsu world, actually counterproductive.  There should be a culture of comradery with the mind-set that a rising tide raises all boats. If you are training at a gym where other students, as well as the instructor, are concerned about your progress and are willing to invest in your success then you are training in an environment where you are likely to succeed. The solution here is simple, but not necessarily easy: Model the behavior you hope to see in the rest of your team. Take a round or two every class for a while and make it about your teammate. I’ll often time ask my teammates what they’re working on and then steer the match in that direction.

In conclusion: I’m not a life coach, marriage counselor, nutritionist, or even a jiu jitsu expert so I can’t necessarily tell you the best way to improve your environment. But I can tell you that there’s enough evidence out there to indicate that it would greatly improve your chances of success if this was something you paid some attention to. Maybe pick one area of your life and work each week to make that area just a little better.

 

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

 

Joe

When your teammates are in Competition Training Mode and you’re in I Can Barely Drag My Ass to Class Mode

When your school is gearing up for a competition and everyone is training at the highest level of intensity prepping for the tournament and you are not, what are you supposed to do? Maybe you think you are not experienced enough to help or get much out of the class, maybe you are rehabbing an injury, or maybe you (like me) are older and not too interested in competition. Is this just a good opportunity to take some time off? Maybe, but probably not, there are many ways you can help your teammates out and still benefit from going to class.

Let’s look first at some things you can do to help your teammates out:

  1. Positional sparring. If your training partner is a much better grappler than you and they are in competition mode you may not be able to offer them “a good match”. Pushing them physically is probably not in the cards, but you can ask them what they’re working on for the tournament and then volunteer to start from that position.
  2. Pace yourself. If you can’t keep up at their pace, set a pace you can keep. Most competitors, I think, would rather a good steady round for the regulation time than to have you gassed half way through.
  3. Don’t spend time in stagnant positions. If you’re stuck, move. If you’re in top position and unable to finish the match, transition to something else and look for the finish from there.
  4. Offer encouragement and (when appropriate) feedback. If you are newer to the game it may not be the time to be offering advice or coaching, but you can still be there for support and encouragement. If you have been training for some time, but are not in comp mode, you may have valuable insights to offer your teammates.

This is great and will be helpful to your teammates, but we know that you are on the mats so you can get better at jiu jitsu. How will going to class for competition training benefit you when you are not in competition training?

  1. You WILL get better. You may feel like you’re just getting your ass kicked, but trust me; you are absorbing information and learning more about yourself and your limits. You’ll get a chance to see how your technique works when your training partners are trying a little harder to win.
  2. You will benefit from the strengthening of the team and the development of a deeper team comradery. These are some of the things that will keep you on the mats and get you through the times you wonder if it’s all worthwhile. These are also some of the things that are, for many of us, at the core of why we do jiu jitsu.
  3. If you are there for your teammates, they will be there for you. One day you will be prepping for a tournament, or trying to polish up some techniques as a promotion approaches, or maybe even having personal issues off the mats and your teammates will remember that you were there for them. They will be there for you.

In conclusion: It’s easy to think if the class or curriculum is not suited to us, that that is a problem….in the words of one of the greatest mariners of all times, Capt. Jack Sparrow, “the problem is not the problem, your attitude about the problem is the problem”.  Go, learn something, have a good time – you’ll be glad you did.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe

Applying a Growth Mindset to Jiu-Jitsu

By: Ron Drumm- Breaking Grips

Intro

What is your attitude to failure? How do you react when you lose a Jiu-Jitsu match or have a particularly bad day at training?

The answer to these questions may indicate whether you have a fixed or a growth mindset. It is not always obvious but generally people tend to have one or the other.  

Applying a growth mindset to your Jiu-Jitsu may help you to improve your game and can be beneficial in many other areas of your life.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford University and is famous for her work on the mindset psychological trait.

Dweck’s research challenges the common belief that intelligent people are born smart. Based on this research she has written extensively on the benefits of having a growth mindset.

In a 2012 interview Dweck provided this definition of the fixed vs growth mindset: “In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.“

Ability to change mindsets

The good news is that you can change from a fixed to a growth mindset. Learning about the growth mindset is sometimes enough to put people on the path to changing previous held beliefs.

Here are the 4 steps that Dweck recommends in order to change your mindset

Step 1: Learn to hear your fixed mindset “voice.”

Step 2: Recognize that you have a choice.

Step 3: Talk back to it with a growth mindset voice.

Step 4: Take the growth mindset action.

Jiu-Jitsu

Jiu-Jitsu is a perfect opportunity to test out the growth mindset. Development and progress can be clearly measured though your ability to perform certain techniques, your grade, and your ability to compete with other students.

It is hard not to look around the academy and be envious of others who are perceived as talented. However by adopting a growth mindset in Jiu-Jitsu

Take the example of a white belt that rolls with a purple belt and gets tapped out 4 times in 5 minutes and is stuck in side control all the time. The fixed mindset student might think, “I will never be that good. I suck at Jiu Jitsu“, whereas the growth mindset student might think something like, “I will be that good someday, but need to try and not get stuck like that in my next roll.“

In the case the fixed attitude student is less likely to figure out how to get more and is more likely to quit. On the other hand the growth mindset student will soon figure out how to counter the opponent and may even develop a sequence to get the dominant position.

Getting tapped out regularly and finding weaknesses is your game should be viewed positively. They should be seen as opportunities to learn and develop. 

Examples in other sports

Take the example of the greatest tennis player of all time Roger Federer. Many people credit his success to natural talent. However it is the thousands of hours that he has spent perfecting his technique and refining his game that has made him so talented.

Even as he reaches the twilight of his career he famously continues to put in the hours of training and researching opponents in an effort to win as many major championships as possible. In 2017 he won his first major championship in 5 years at the age of 35 despite most pundits stating that he had come to the end of his reign.

If you are a regular reader of sports biographies you will notice that this is a common trait among the greatest athletes of all time. Many of them give examples of athletes with similar abilities at young age, but what elevated them above their peers was the skills that they cultivated through deliberate practice.

Summary

The phrase “Win or Learn“ has become somewhat of a cliché in Jiu-Jitsu and MMA but if you actually take a bit of time to think about it and apply it to your own martial arts journey you will likely see some benefits.

So when you get your next set back in Jiu-Jitsu try to view it as a challenge and be grateful for the failure. Failure should always be viewed as a springboard for growth. Get addicted to failure! It will make you a better Jiu-Jitsu player.

Five things that can kill your guard

Are you trying a new guard and it’s not working? Are your opponents and training partners having little trouble breaking and passing? There are many reasons this could be happening. If you have found yourself in this position, take a look at the five things below and see if they help.

Five things that can kill your guard:

  1. Poor posture. From every position, top or bottom, there are things you can do to have a strong posture and structure and things you can do that make it weak. With a weak posture and structure, you will not be able to absorb or exert force. In other words, you won’t be able to keep your opponent from putting you on your back and you won’t be able to create space and set up attacks. To learn more about strong and weak structures and posture go here Nic Gregoriades-Strong Structure This is a key element to playing any guard and something we can all improve on.
  2. Not recognizing when your opponent is no longer actually in your guard. When your opponent is in your guard their objective is, obviously, to pass/improve their position. You could say there are three steps in this process: They are in your guard, they are passing your guard, and they have passed your guard. Another way to look at this is that there is a zone that your opponents are in for playing guard, and when they are no longer in that zone, you are no longer playing guard. For more on this idea go here: Jason Scully-Guard Retention Recognizing early when your opponent is out of your guard zone will not only give you the opportunity to prevent the pass and regain your guard — you will also see opportunities to catch submissions in transition as well as sweeps or reversals.
  3. Not knowing the other side of the equation well enough. If you have learned to defend and pass a particular guard well, then when you are playing that guard you will have a pretty good idea what your opponent is trying to do based on the grips they choose, their posture, base, pressure etc. This allows you to anticipate and counter a move almost before they try and make it. If you are not familiar with the other side of the equation, then your opponent will have this same advantage.
  4. Not staying busy enough. ABA…always be attacking. As a general rule, if you’re positionally sparring with an equally skilled opponent and your only objective is to hold them in your guard, it might take some time, but they will eventually pass. On the other hand, if you are looking for sweeps and submissions and are attacking relentlessly, your opponent is likely to either tire or make a mistake. When this happens the sweep or finish will present itself.
  5. Missing some key details of the specific guard you are playing. The first four points are general ideas/concepts that apply to every guard. If you play multiple guards well, it’s likely you already understand these concepts. If that’s you, and you’re struggling with a new or different guard you’re trying, it’s possible you are simply missing some key details regarding grips, points of control, or the specific techniques from that guard. Ask your instructors and senior teammates for advice.

The great thing about jiu-jitsu is that often times what will fix one problem will fix many others as well. Look at the first four points of this article. If you apply these concepts to your spider guard for improvement there, you will likely see improvement in all other aspects of your game as well. So, if your guard game is a struggle, try looking at these concepts and then see how the rest of your game improves as well.

Thanks to Nic Gregoriades and Jason Scully for providing quality content to help illustrate the points made in this article.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

Self Defense Seminars: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Self-defense seminars, and specifically women’s self-defense seminars,
have enjoyed some popularity through the years. Within the martial arts
community opinions vary: Some say they are of very little benefit, some say they
have no value, and some even say they are counterproductive as they can give
people a false and unwarranted sense of confidence. I would say all three of these
views have some merit and represent what is good, bad, and ugly about self
defense seminars.


First let’s talk about the good. You can’t teach someone to fight over the
course of a 4-hour seminar, but there are some things you can do to help prevent
them from becoming a victim in the future. Let’s look at a few:
Promote safe behavior: If at least some of the seminar is devoted to helping
attendees adopt behaviors that will make them less likely to be a victim – that is a
good thing. Things like, parking your car under a street lamp, walking in groups at
night, always be scanning your environment, keeping your cell phone at the
ready, etc. are all behaviors that can help people avoid becoming the victim of a
violent encounter.
Serve as a starting point: When someone attends a self-defense seminar,
joins a gym, and starts training on a regular basis the seminar has been a
success.
Supplement existing training programs: Maybe you are training 1-2 times a
week at a school that is extremely focused on IBJJF style tournament jiu jitsu and
you would like some more self defense specific training. Catching a decent self
defense seminar once or twice a year may be just what you need.

Now let’s talk about the bad. Most people attending a self defense seminar
where they are shown a handful of techniques are under the impression that they
can then go use these techniques on the street to defend themselves. This is not
possible. There are skills and attributes necessary to prevail in an altercation that
cannot be obtained at a 1-day seminar. These skills and attributes can only be acquired through consistent training that includes “aliveness” and regular
sparring sessions. Let’s look at some of those skills and attributes.
Muscle Memory: Any technique you would use in an altercation to defend
yourself needs to be completely automatic and responses will only become
automatic when they have been repeated 1,000’s of times. Furthermore, muscle
memory is somewhat situational. If you only drill the move in a static
environment, you are likely only going to be able to repeat it in the same
controlled setting.
Fight Stamina: Whether it is because of a person’s inability to deal with the
adrenaline dump or a lack of activity specific conditioning, most people are
completely gassed and unable to continue in a fight within two minutes. Live
sparring will give you the activity specific conditioning you need. If you train and
choose to compete, that will help you get accustomed to the adrenaline dump.
The Ability to Comprehend the Violence: Assaults don’t start with a “slap,
bump, and roll”. Often the victim is caught off guard, starts the fight a step
behind, and never catches up. While we (hopefully) will never feel like we’re
facing sudden, overwhelming, and unprovoked violence, in the gym we’re often
caught with a quick hard takedown, or an inadvertent elbow/knee. This s not the
same as getting blindsided on the streets, but enough of these incidents will help
us be prepared for a more extreme situation.
Spatial Awareness: To defend yourself in a violent confrontation you need
to develop an innate understanding of distance and angles. Ideally, we keep the
attacker in front of us outside of striking range. If we can make that happen, no
fight happens. If we can’t make this happen, we at least want to keep the fight at
whatever range we are most comfortable at and definitely not let an attacker get
behind us.

And lastly, let’s look at the ugly. I don’t want to spend a lot of time here.
The fact is some of these seminars are simple scams – they do little other than
separating the attendee from their money. And worse yet, some students leave
with a false sense of security, and may end up catching the wrong end of a
beating because they now think they can “handle themselves”.

Long story short: Buyer beware. If you (or someone you know) is thinking of
taking a self defense seminar it can be a positive and productive experience if you
shop wisely, find a reputable instructor, and have realistic goals.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.
Joe

More articles by Joe here

Concepts, Concepts, Concepts

Understanding the concepts of jiu jitsu may, in the long run, be more
important than simply learning a multitude of techniques. I’m not saying learning
techniques is not important, but understanding the concepts will allow you to still
be doing jiu jitsu in the scrambles and chaos of a fight where setting up and
hitting specific techniques can be difficult.
Here are three concepts that I believe are easy to explain, easy to
understand, and easy to apply to your grappling. You have probably already been
introduced to some of these ideas but with different terminology. I’ve given them
labels and used verbiage that I think make them easy to explain and understand.

LEGOS: If you have two small rectangular Legos there’s a dozen ways you
can try to press them together that will result in zero connectivity. Even when the
right surfaces of the Lego pieces are facing each other, if they are not properly
aligned, there will be no connection. But if get they positioned and aligned
correctly they will snap together…. where one goes, the other goes…whatever
direction one turns, the other will follow. This is the kind of connectivity you are
looking for when you are, for example, using hooks to control your training
partner. I like to use x-guard as an illustration. Typically, you will have your top leg
with the knee sticking out behind your opponent and your foot in front of his
thigh, while your bottom leg is in the opposite position with your foot behind
their lower leg. If your feet and toes are curled with your toes up to “make a
hook” and your top foot is planted firmly in the pocket of your hip and groin while
your bottom foot is planted firmly in the crook behind your opponent’s knee you
should have pretty good connection. With these two points of contact you will
now have the ability to control and manipulate your opponent. How will this help
you now? The most obvious answer is that you can control and/or manipulate
your opponent’s posture, base, and balance. Additionally, it will help you to
control the timing and tempo of the match and maintain the distance of your
choosing. Bruce Lee once said, “All other things being equal, the fighter that
controls timing, tempo, and distance will win the fight”. The Lego theory, or
connectivity, will help you do that.

The Push/Pull concept: The underlying principle here is leverage. The pushing and
pulling (or more accurately and simply stated – applying force at two points in the
opposite direction) is how the leverage is generated. Most joint lock submissions
rely on the effective use of leverage as does moving your opponent. When you’re
standing and you pull on your opponent’s right arm while pushing on his left
shoulder you are using leverage to turn him, off balance him, and move him
where you want him to go. How will this help you now? Mechanically speaking,
using a lever makes work easier. In other words, it’s efficient. As a training
session, match, or fight proceeds the more efficient athlete will have more gas in
the tank to finish.

Compass quadrants: Imagine you are lying on your back on the mats—your head
represents north and your feet represent south with your arms to the east and
west. Between these points you have a NE, SE, SW, and NW quadrant. All you
have to do to sweep your opponent is to element a post in one of these
quadrants and then dump your opponent into it. How will this help you now? The
percentage of sweeps you finish will go up and the effort it takes to finish them
will decrease. Maybe most importantly though, you will start to see (and hit)
sweeps in transitions. During a scramble you may notice overly committed in one
direction with most of his weight on the post in that direction: Delete that post
and dump your opponent in that direction…..SWEEP!!!

In conclusion: Learning one technique from one position will improve your
game today…. as long as you can get to that one position, but grasping a concept
can improve your game today no matter what positions you find yourself in.
Train Hard. Train Smart. Get Better.
Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe here

Defend the Primary Threat

When it comes to jiu jitsu I’m extremely “concept” orientated. I believe that after you’ve learned the basics of each position and a few moves from each position, understanding a few basic concepts can do so much more for your jiiu jitsu than simply continuing to collect random techniques. Defending the primary threat is an example of a concept that, when implemented can improve your game from many different positions in a short period of time.

Defending the primary threat is a concept that I spent a good deal of time focusing on as a white belt shortly before receiving my blue. Identifying the primary threat from most of the positions I found myself in and figuring out ways to defeat them made a dramatic difference in my rate of progression. Lets’ look at a couple of examples that will illustrate what I mean by “defending the primary threat”.

First, the primary threat from any given position might not be the same for every jiu jitsu practitioner. If when in your opponent’s guard you are consistently being swept by the scissor sweep or variations of it or you are constantly fighting the cross-collar choke then the cross-collar grip is probably the primary threat you need to be concerned with. Conversely, if you are constantly being arm barred of swept, swept with the flower sweep, or having your back taken off an arm drag then having your arm dominated and your elbow pulled across your center line is the primary sweep. You can learn and drill all the guard breaks and passes in the world, but if you don’t learn to defend these primary threats you will always struggle inside your opponents closed guard.

A few other examples really quick: If from bottom half guard or when shrimping from bottom side control to recompose your guard you are getting choked with guillotines and similar chokes then the primary threat to defend is your opponent getting his arms in position to execute the choke — i.e. defend your neck. If from top half guard your opponent is getting the under hook and sweeping your or taking your back then obviously your opponent getting that under hook is the primary threat that must be defended.

This concept can be applied from the offensive perspective as well. If you have found that bottom half guard with the under hook is a position you are having a lot of success from then getting that under hook should be your main objective. If you like working from top side mount you need to keep your opponent on his back so you may want to consider that getting the cross face and blocking the hips are some of your main objectives.

In closing: Do you want to get better at jiu jitsu fast? Start looking at the concepts that make it work. If you’re new to the idea of “concepts” talk to your coach or experienced grapplers in your gym. There are also a ton of online resources available as well. Check them out.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe here

Expanding your Jiu-Jitsu in a logical manner

I ran across this scenario and subsequent question not long ago: A white belt 6-8 months in has developed a decent closed guard but when his guard gets broken he has no answers to prevent the pass. His question was, “what’s another guard I can add to my game?”. That’s a great question, but a better question might be, “how do I figure this out myself? — how do I determine which positions and techniques to add to my game?”. Most grapplers will find themselves at the point of needing to evolve and expand their game many times during their journey. Sometimes you will adjust your game for competitive reasons, because of injury, or simply to continue moving towards a complete game. If you have a sound methodology for making these kinds of jiu jitsu decisions the process will become more efficient allowing you to progress more quickly. Here’s a few questions you can ask yourself during the process.

Have you explored all the options in the game you’re already playing? I would not try to discourage someone from expanding their game, but before you abandon something that has been successful, but no longer is – it may be worth spending some time trouble shooting. Perhaps with a few simple tweaks, you can get some more mileage out of that position. This may be especially relevant if you are trying to solve a problem for an upcoming tournament. A month before competition is not the best time to be revamping your game.

Does it solve the problem? If your training partners are using standing guard breaks and passes, spending a month studying half guard might not be as effective as spending a month transitioning from a broken closed guard to a single leg x guard, x guard, or de la riva guard.

Does it fit with the game you are already playing? Adding a new element will be easier if it shares some commonality with the game you’re already playing. All jiu jitsu fits….so maybe a better question here is “how will I make this fit into my game?”.

Does it fit with your physical attributes, skill set, and experience level? Every jiu jitsu practitioner has a different body type with different physical attributes and therefor certain positions and techniques will work better for some athletes than others. This definitely should be a consideration when expanding your game.

Is it the next logical step in regard to complexity and difficulty? If the two takedowns that had been working for you no longer are, then getting the fight to the ground would be a problem for you, and adding some additional techniques would make sense. Learning to do flying triangles and flying arm bars could be a possible solution, but you need to have the requisite skills in place first. If you are not already proficient at arm bars and triangles from more traditional positions and during transitions, then doing flying variations is most likely not the next logical step.

What does your coach think? If you have reached a point where you must expand your game to address a weakness, odds are your coach has also noticed you have an issue to address and has some direction for you. You can catch your coach before or after class, or even better, schedule a private lesson with them.

In conclusion: Efficiency is a core concept of jiu jitsu. Efficiency of movement is one of the things that allows smaller, weaker, or older people who have trained to prevail over those who haven’t. Why not apply this same principle when it comes to building your game?

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe here

Can a Coach roll too much with the Students??

It is great to have a coach that will get on the mat with the students and train. It is often a badge of honor, a way to lead by example, and proof that the coach is a legitimate source of instruction.

This article is not an aid to help determine if your instructor is a sham. I simply want to invite coaches to consider an important tool for teaching jiu-jitsu.

If you are a coach and you roll every round, you might consider a different option. Try rolling most of the rounds with the students. Use the rounds that you sit out, to watch the students roll. This is a great opportunity to look for areas of improvement and discover strengths of your students. I know that you can do this when you roll with your students, but students roll differently with their coach.  By watching your students roll, your lesson plans can be adjusted to the needs of the room. Simply guessing what technique to work next is unlikely the most beneficial way to plan future lessons.

Observing students roll is also a good way to correct poor mat behavior. Someone may not be a mat bully to you or even able to put you in unsafe positions. But when you take a step back you can better identify a mat bully, and request that a change in behavior is made (something the rolling partner may not be willing to do for themselves).

Look across the spectrum of sports- coaches don’t typically take the role of participating to the degree of a BJJ coach. Why is that? I have two main reasons. The first, is most coaches in BJJ are actively trying to get better at the sport so their participation is benefiting themselves. The other reason speaks volumes about jiu-jitsu. In many cases coaches can outperform the students (even if they are significantly older or not as athletic). Therefore by being an “on the mat rolling coach” is providing the students with competitive and technical training sessions.

I am not advocating that coaches stop rolling with students. I am saying that it may be beneficial to take a step back and make observations and corrections from the sidelines. After all how many football coaches do you see putting pads on? How many basketball coaches are blocking shots? How many baseball coaches do you see hitting home runs? How many boxing coaches do you see land a knockdown punch?

Watch the video below to learn more about rolling too much with your students.

Great coaches may not always be doing the sport, but they are great at transferring knowledge and changing habits.

A wise coach will spend some time observing students and making changes.

 

Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler

That quote is generally attributed to theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. When someone as brilliantly intellectual as Albert Einstein says that simplicity is a good thing, I think the idea is worth looking into and that it may be worth considering applying this concept to all aspects of our lives….. including jiu jitsu.

To come to a mutual understanding of what we’re talking about let’s take a look at how this might apply to something simple that almost all of us use almost every day: A car. There are features such as four-wheel steering that have been around for years but are not widely used. Why? There may be many reasons, but I would suspect that it boils down to the fact that it would be a steep learning curve for most drivers, might be prone to failure, would be difficult and costly to repair, etc. – in short, it would be too complicated. On the other hand, in an effort to make cars easier to repair, easier to operate, and cheaper to build you could start removing many of the features that are currently available. If you started removing blinkers, lights, mirrors, all climate control, etc. I think we could all agree that that would be too simple. In either case the driving experience would not be as good as it could be.

Now let’s talk about jiu jitsu. From my perspective, while we practice jiu-jitsu as a sport, it is at its core a martial art that should enable us to defend ourselves in a fight. Even if you don’t completely agree with my assessment of what jiu jitsu should be, I think the idea of evaluating your game to ensure that it is neither too simple nor too complicated can still be of some benefit to you.

Let’s look first at what elements need to be in place in order for jiu jitsu to not be “too simple”. In my mind, there are some things that must be in place for jiu jitsu to be complete and not too simple. This is not about a list of techniques, but more about having a complete system that allows you to defend yourself (or compete) at all ranges of combat.

  • I believe first of all that you should be able to manage distance and control an opponent on your feet. Greco Roman wrestling may be king in the standing clinch, but a jiu jitsu practitioner should at least have a level of proficiency. Takedown drills and sparring that starts on the feet will help with this. You should be able to determine if the fight goes to the ground or not.
  • If your specialty is ground fighting then you should have more than one reliable method of getting a fight to the ground. Pulling guard is one option, but in a fight in a parking lot or at the beach, might not be the place for guard pulling. If you can take the fight to the ground and immediately be in a dominate position, that might be a good thing. You don’t have to become a judo expert or an Olympic caliber wrestler, but having a decent throw or takedown is, in my mind, essential.
  • You should be able to fight from every position at all ranges on the ground. You don’t have to master the De La Riva Guard, x guard, single leg x guard, etc. but you need some tools for dealing with an opponent who has knocked you down and is attempting to stand over you and punch you or pass your guard. You don’t have to be an expert at closed guard, half guard, butterfly guard…. but you need to have some tools to deal with an opponent who is trying to flatten and crush you. You should have offensive options from all top positions as well as bottom positions. You should have defensive answers from all positions as well. Part of your strategy for dealing with every position and all ranges may include means of transitioning to your strong positions. Disengaging from the fight is also a something you may want to ensure you are capable of. Going from side control to knee on belly to standing and disengaging, or breaking your opponent’s guard to standing and backing away, or using the technical stand-up are all good strategies for disengaging from the fight.
  • Your jiu jitsu should not fall apart if punches are introduced. I’ve come to be of the opinion that you don’t necessarily need to train with punches, but you should at least be aware of them. You can be a sports jiu jitsu specialist and still be aware of which techniques you are good at that are designed specifically for the competition mat and which techniques will save your ass in a fight.
  • Ensuring that all of the above elements are incorporated in your jiu jitsu game will ensure that it is not too simple, but how about the other half of this quote? How do we ensure that it is “as simple as possible”, or not too complicated? Are there certain sport techniques such as inverted guards and flying triangles that don’t belong? I don’t think so. All of the techniques that I see currently being practiced on the competition mats are valuable and legitimate jiu jitsu techniques. However, if you are so obsessed with having the flying armbar, flying triangle, and multiple variations of the berimbolo incorporated in your game that you are neglecting some of the core elements of jiu jitsu then perhaps you’ve allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated. If you are trying to be the resident expert at every variety of guard that can be played and have become a jack of all trades, but master of none…you might have allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated.

In conclusion: your jiu jitsu system should be expansive enough to allow you to work at every range from every position, but limited enough to maintain and manage. I believe a good rule of thumb is a good jiu jitus practitioner be proficient at 2-3 moves from each position or range of combat.

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