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

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