My youngest kids are girls that are less than two years apart in age. The
older one was not too interested in driving so delayed taking drivers education
and getting her permit. By the time she did start the process her younger sister
was almost ready as well. This resulted in me doing a lot of driving and teaching
for almost a year straight. Whether they were driving, or I was behind the wheel,
every time we were on the road it was a lesson. I would say “we’re a few blocks
from the Jr. High and it’s 3:00 we should be keeping an eye out for kids, right?” or
“this is the first rain in a few weeks, be aware the roads could be slick” or “can
you see the mirrors on that 18-wheeler in front of us? If not, we’re following too
close” etc. etc. etc. These are all just basic safe driving practices that experienced
drivers follow without thinking about. But after a years’ worth of conscienceless
thinking about and actively discussing these issues I felt like a safer driver.
I’ve been driving for over 30 years with 2 tickets and zero accidents in the
last 20. After all that time of safe driving, if spending some time consciously
focusing on the basic principles of safe driving can make me a better driver, I’m
willing to bet the same logic applies to jiu jitsu? If you spend some time focusing
on the basic principles of good jiu jitsu your techniques will get tighter, you will
become more efficient, your defense will improve….in short, your grappling will
It’s tempting to make a list of “5 basic principles and concepts…..”, but the
reality is every person will be different. If your top game is weak or not
progressing the fundamentals you choose to focus on will be different than they
would be if your go-to guard game needed some improvement.
Focusing on the basics in general will help your jiu jitsu. Focusing on specific
basics that are directly relevant to your game will help you even more. In my
mind, this is an example of a time that paying your instructor for a private lesson,
will be worth every penny you spend. Tell your instructor you would like to
improve upon the foundation of your game – that you would like to make sure
your jiu jitsu is fundamentally sound and ask him for a private lesson, so you can
roll, and he can assess your game and make suggestions.
In conclusion, no matter how long you have been training jiu jitsu, there is
always value in getting back to the basics. No amount of slick moves and fancy
techniques will ever make up for a game that is not fundamentally sound. It’s
never too late to get back to the basics.
Train hard. Train smart. Get better.
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.
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