Positional Sparring: Getting the most out of it

Drilling is a great way to practice new moves and memorize the sequence of movements necessary to complete a technique. However, it can lack the element of “aliveness” necessary to prepare you for executing techniques in a real-life scenario. Whether it be a competition or an actual altercation you will need to be prepared for a much more chaotic environment. Free rolling, or live sparring, most closely resembles real-life scenarios, but the jump from drilling to free rolling can leave a gap—this is where positional sparring can be very helpful.

I’m sure most people reading this are familiar with positional sparring, but just in case there is someone new to jiu jitsu who is not: Positional sparring most commonly starts with two teammates in a static starting position like full guard. The student on top is challenged to pass the guard while the student on bottom is challenged to sweep or submit. Once one student accomplishes their goal they reset back to the starting position.

Here are a few suggestions, based on my own experience that may help you get more out of positional sparring. Keep in mind that these suggestions are in the context of learning and refining technique. There may be other reasons for positional sparring and other strategies may be more suited at those times.

Try the technique that was taught in class. Often positional sparring follows the technique portion of class and will be from the same position. It will be hard to hit the technique (after all your training partner just saw it as well) but the best time to work on a technique is when the instruction is fresh in your mind.

Focus on accomplishing your goal more than preventing the other student from accomplishing theirs. Sure, you’re more likely to be swept when attempting a pass, but that’s how flaws in your technique are revealed. If you’re training with a better grappler you will probably get passed when you open your guard—embrace it, that is the best way to see the flaws in your game.

Always be making progress towards your goals. If your training partner is passing your guard and you catch their foot in “1/4 guard” you may be able to hold them there preventing them from completing the pass—but is this the point of the exercise? Maybe it is if you’re preparing for a tournament—maybe you’ll find yourself there in a match and preventing the pass could mean the win, but you can literally spend most of a positional sparring round stuck in this position. For me, I’d rather concede the pass and re-set so I can work on my game.

Don’t automatically default to your comfort zone. If the positional sparring starting position is butterfly guard — transitioning to x-guard to a sweep, is probably a legitimate strategy. But if x-guard is part of your “A” game and you already have consistent method of getting there from butterfly guard then you are missing out on one of the main benefits of positional sparring which is to become proficient from all positions. Take advantage of this positional sparring session to work on traditional butterfly guard sweeps, arm drag to back take, or something else you can add to your game.

If your school does not include positional sparring as a regular part of class give it try on your own time. You may find it helpful. You may also find positional sparring to be a safe way to train if you are nursing a minor injury—pick a position you feel safe in and work from there.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better.

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 180 The Aging Grappler

Are you a little (or a lot) older than most of your training partners? Today Gary and Byron speak from their experience and offer advice to the aging grapplers out their doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

We talk about:

  • Age on the mat is relative
  • How to roll the odometer back on your mat age
  • Changing the way you view yourself
  • Dealing with your own ego as you age
  • Making changes to your game to fit to your body
  • Getting better with age
  • Finding joy in watching your team get better
  • Benefits of being a little older
  • Tips for starting BJJ as an older student
  • Setting a schedule that is healthy for training


Quote of the week: “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Mark Twain

Article of the week: Training Partners Trump All

Byron pulls two pranks on Gary one that spans 5 episodes about Gary taking your back literally. The other is Byron saying song titles with the word time in them during the show.


Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

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Drilling: How To Get the Most Out Of It

Drilling is a common method for learning and refining techniques in jiu jitsu. While drilling is not complicated, there are a few concepts and fundamental aspects that once understood, will help you get the most out of it. Here are a few suggestions I would make based on my own experience.

When you are the one drilling the technique:

Ask questions and make sure you’re getting it right. The way you drill a move is the way you will execute it when rolling. Don’t drill bad technique. If you’re confused about a move or sequence, ask your coach for clarification. Ask your training partner for feedback.

Use proper positional fundamentals when setting the move up. If your drilling a back take starting from half guard knee shield position. Make sure your knee shield is strong and you’re using good frames so as not to get flattened out. In live rolling you’ll never pull the move off if you’re constantly smashed and flattened out every time you’re in bottom half guard.

Finish the move. If you are drilling a sweep, don’t settle for just knocking your training partner off his base, follow through until you are in a dominant position. If you’re drilling a pass continue until you’ve secured side control or knee on belly and are setting up the next transition or submission. If finishing the move is not a part of your drilling, you will find yourself constantly in live rolling “almost” getting the sweep or pass.

Experiment and pay attention to detail. Let’s look at the scissor sweep. Will gripping the sleeve at the wrist or elbow work best for you? When gripping the sleeve at the wrist, does a pistol grip, or a pocket grip work best for you? Does it work best for you to have you shin across your partner’s torso parallel to the floor, at a 45-degree angle, or something in between? These are just some of the details of one move that need to be looked at and experimented with. Drilling gives you the best opportunity to do this.

When playing the role of Uke, or, “the one who receives the technique”

Apply the appropriate amount of resistance. The only thing worse than having a training partner simply fall over before you’re even half way through setting up a sweep is when they go into full lockdown “you’ll never sweep me” mode. Initially you should apply enough resistance that your partner must do the technique correctly but no more. As you progress and train with more experience training partners the level of resistance will increase slightly.

Think about your defense and counters. The key here is think about your defense and counters. You are not actually trying to prevent your partner from completing the move or counter them. At a bare minimum, when your training partner drills a sweep or pass, assume the correct defensive posture including frames and hand positions as they complete the move.

Provide some feedback for your training partner. I never presume I’m qualified to tell others (especially those at, or above, my rank) how to do jiu jitsu, but I’m more than comfortable providing simple feedback like “when you gripped behind my elbow I felt like the technique was stronger than when you grabbed my sleeve at the wrist”.

This is not an exhaustive list or a list of the most important…. It’s just a list of things worth considering to help you get more out of drilling.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better. 

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 179 Pedro Sauer 8th Degree Coral Belt

We are very excited to bring you an interview with a grappling legend. Pedro Sauer earned his Black Belt from Helio and Rickson Gracie in 1985. He now shares his over 40 years of experience on the mat. Joining the interview with Pedro Sauer is a past guest on The BjjBrick Podcast Brent Lillard.









We talk about:

  • His start in Jiu-Jitsu in the early 1970s
  • The BJJ belt system after black belt
  • Continuous learning on the mat
  • How to avoid missing training time due to injuries
  • Learning Jiu-Jitsu vs Jiu-Jitsu or Jiu-Jitsu vs bad guy
  • The importance of learning self defense first in your training
  • Creating a learning culture
  • How you can train with Pedro Sauer in Brazil
  • Training camp in Petropolis, Brazil
  • Staying safe while in Brazil
  • Saving money when you book your flight to Brazil
  • What Pedro Sauer was like as a blue belt
  • His experience fighting Mr. Utah
  • Advice for the grappler that can not train everyday
  • Advice for the older grappler
  • Being able to teach Jiu-Jitsu


Quote of the week: “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up” Babe Ruth

Article of the week: “The Worst Grappler on the Mat”

Mat Tales 16 “Solo Club”


Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Epi 178 Amazing Tips and Advice From Black Belt Matt Jubera

This week we have an interview with Second Degree Ribeiro Black Belt Matt Jubera. He as won pan ams multiple times in different divisions, he is currently running his school in Broomfield Colorado.

We talk about:

  • His start with BJJ
  • Starting wrestling in highschool
  • Using his wrestling in BJJ
  • Why being a little bit lazy can help you add efficiency to your BJJ
  • Using a heavy pressure style
  • Focusing on the bread and butter moves
  • The idea of training ugly
  • Upcoming competitions
  • Tips for how he has been able to stay injury free
  • Tips for preparing mentally for a competition
  • Advice for training on a busy schedule
  • Competition training advice
  • Building a good defense your first few years


Quote of the week:This week we have three quotes presented by Neil Melanson.

  1. Iron sharpens Iron, so one person sharpens another Proverbs 27:17
  2. As a coach figure out why not how
  3. Loyalty goes two ways


Article of the week: Are You Doing the Right Things Before and After BJJ?

Gary’s audiobook is called “Iron Sharpens Iron, Just Like Gary Sharpens Byron”


Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Bernardo Faria’s The Pressure Passing Encyclopedia DVD review

Having trouble passing the guard? Want to learn from one of the best in the world? Barnardo Faria has a DVD called The Pressure Passing Encyclopedia. In this review I try to help you decide if it is the right DVD to help your BJJ get to the next level.
Check out the DVD Here https://bjjfanatics.com?tap_a=8913-840d2b&tap_s=82388-af87d6

DVD Review of The Catch Wrestling Formula by Neil Melanson

Here is a review of a DVD that teaches many different ways to get in to submissions and pass the guard and much more. I learned a lot of new stuff on here and this review may help you to decide if the DVD is right for you.

Epi 177 Legendary MMA Grappling Coach Neil Melanson

This week we are excited to bring you an interview with Neil Melanson. Neil is one of the top MMA coaches teaching grappling. Neil is the former Head Grappling coach at both Xtreme Couture Las Vegas and Alliance MMA you will now find him as Head Coach of The Blackzillians MMA Team. Neil has coached many fighters including Dominic Cruz, Randy Couture, and Michael Chandler.

We talk about:

  • Not training with the gi
  • What is catch wrestling
  • The rules, submissions, and tactics of catch wrestling
  • Ground fighting for MMA
  • Why some wrestlers struggle doing MMA grappling
  • Neutralizing an athletic opponent
  • The importance of having a good attitude for training
  • Learning things from lower belts
  • The problem with hierarchy in grappling
  • How to make grappling more interesting
  • Being able to submit someone that is better than you
  • The changes in the leg lock game
  • His Catch Wrestling Formula DVD
  • Using the cage for grappling in mma


Quote of the week: “To get better you have to step out of your comfort zone. You can’t do the same things you’ve always done & improve.” Jordan Burroughs

Article of the week: There are Two Types of Coaches. Which are You?

The Referee Corner Epi 3 Belts getting untied


Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod 

Are You Doing the Right Things Before and After BJJ?

What you do before matters, what you do after makes a difference.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: It’s Tuesday, you know you go to jiu jitsu on Tuesdays, but you go about your day without giving jiu jitsu a second thought. It’s after work and you’re at home engaged in some mundane task and all of a sudden – “crap, I gotta be to class in 30 minutes”. So, you grab your bag, hit the road and get to the gym with just enough time to suit up, line up, and start class.  After class, you rush home to finish up a work project, catch your favorite TV show, or engage in some other non-jiu jitsu related task. Been there? You’re not alone. But what if we treated jiu jitsu class like it was one of the most important appointments we had this week? What if we determined that, “I’m investing a good bit of time and money into this hobby, I’m going to do absolutely everything I can to get the most from my investment”? I propose that there are a few simple things we can do before class and after class to maximize the benefits we get from each training session.

Here’s a few things you might consider doing before training to get the most out of each class. This is not meant to be an authoritative or all-inclusive list…. just some ideas that might be helpful.

  1. Ensure that you are well hydrated considering the water you will lose due to perspiration. This is first because ideally you will drink a little more water throughout the day. Drinking two additional 16 oz. bottles of water in the last hour before class will only result in a full stomach and a full bladder. If you are routinely adequately hydrated simply consider adding an additional 16 oz. bottle during the day.
  2. In anticipation of the additional calories you will burn, make sure you have consumed an adequate amount of fuel. I’m not a nutritionist and won’t offer any specific dietary advice, but I can’t state strongly enough how important it is for each athlete to do their own research and come up with a plan that works for them. For me the most important aspect of this is timing: If I eat anything substantial within two hours of class I feel bloated and slow, on the other hand, if it’s been more than 5 or 6 hours between my last meal and a training session I feel like the gas tank hits empty midway through class. So, I try to eat a full, well rounded meal 6 hours or so before class and a light snack 3 to 4 hours later.
  3. Engage in some pre-class mental preparation. If you had an important work meeting where you were required to give a report and would be expected to participate in a round table discussion wouldn’t you review your notes for your report and make sure you knew something about the topics for the round table discussion? My instructor puts out a monthly training schedule—we know a month in advance what positions we will be working from in every class. I take 10-15 minutes late in the day to watch a few tutorial videos on whatever position we will be working that day. If you keep a training journal or take notes, 15 minutes before class would be a good time to review them.
  4. Get to the gym early enough to do something productive before class. This will look different for each athlete. I’m older and my joints don’t work as good as they used to. For me an extra 10-15 minutes of stretching makes all the difference in the world. If you’re a 25-year-old competitor, maybe you need some higher intensity warm ups to be ready for class. If nothing else…. grab a partner and rep some techniques.
  5. Establish a pre-class routine. If you do “A, B, and C” before every class, like eating at the same time, watching some tutorial videos, and taking the same route and listening to the same music on the way to class soon “A, B, and C” will become triggers that help get your mind right and focused for class. See Pavlovs Dogs

And here’s a few things you might want to consider doing just after class to maximize the benefits from each class and prepare you for the next.

  1. Take a few minutes to stretch and reflect after class. Lately I have been noticing that many of the top guys I train with find a quiet corner somewhere to spend 15 minutes after class stretching out. Knowing these guys like I do, they’re not just stretching….they’re analyzing their performance and making mental notes so their next class will be more productive.
  2. Get some help/advice from your coach or training partners. After class is a great time to ask your coach for clarification on something he taught that night or to grab one of your training partners and say “hey, you seemed to sweep me really easily from ½ guard, you mind showing me what you did?”.
  3. Document and journal what you did and what you learned. Journaling is not for everyone, but if you do it—the sooner after class the better.
  4. Fuel and rehydrate. You should drink plenty of water during and after class and if you cannot get home and eat something right away consider taking a recovery shake with you.
  5. Address any injuries or aches and pains. If you didn’t tap soon enough to an armbar or foot lock, getting the joint iced and elevated ASAP and taking some anti-inflammatory meds can be the difference between taking one day off or needing to miss 3-4 days.

You may be asking yourself how will making these changes to my pre and post training routine make a significant difference in my jiu jitsu game. The truth is, these types of changes can make a difference, but you won’t see the difference overnight. If you make improvements in your pre-training hydration and dietary practices you may find that you have enough energy to put an extra round of sparring in at the end of class—this won’t result in significant improvement over the course of a month or two…but over the course of a year, this will add up to hours and hours of additional sparring which will result in significant improvement. If you stretch and address aches and pains right after class you may find that you can make it to a few extra classes in a month and a few classes each month turns into 20-30 extra classes a year which will result in significant improvement. The key is: make incremental improvements, trust in the process, and be patient.

Train hard. Train smart. Get better at jiu jitsu

By Joe Thomas Find more articles by Joe Thomas here