Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Holes in Your Game

You may consider some techniques or positions are simply not for you. That’s fine. But that doesn’t mean you don’t train them. And you absolutely need to get dominated in those positions during sparring. That’s the time to suck.

Let’s say your side mount defense is horrible. You’ve developed an amazing guard and guard retention. It’s so good that many of your partners are either afraid to pass (since their attempts can lead to getting swept or submitted), or when you do have your guard passed, you use 100% effort to recover guard immediately.

Understandable. It can be tough getting stuck under side mount. Maybe you’re in the bottom half of your school in terms of size and/or strength. It can feel like your partner isn’t doing anything besides using their weight. Seems unfair, and you’d rather not deal with that. So, you fight very hard to prevent giving up side or full mount every round, every class.

It’s good to know you can get out right away, but it’s better to know you can also defend as long as necessary from the bad position. If you’re safe from submissions (and punches1), then you’re fine.

One day, you’ll get matched up with someone that has amazing guard passing and amazing side control. If you haven’t spent time in the position, you’ll suffer more. So suffer now. When I spar, I prefer to start in the inferior position. Unfortunately (or fortunately), there are occasional rounds where I spend the entire round in bottom side. I’m not thrilled about it, but it happens. Remember that you can’t train every round like it’s your last round. If I’m stuck, I work on awareness and submission defense.

You need the same mindset on offense or on top. If you have a great mount attack, let’s say with the cross choke, do you have options for no-gi? Or do you have to dismount every time to side mount to attack from there? Or worse, do you allow a reversal so you can play guard?

Like always, there will come a time when you run out of options. If you’re not trying new things during practice, you’ll never have new things when you need them.

If your training frequency is low, then it certainly makes sense to ignore the holes. I have a private student that trains twice a month. If we tried to develop a well-rounded game for him, he’ll just be mediocre everywhere. So we focus on a couple of things. One, what does he enjoy? Two, what’s important? Like many, for him, the answer for question one is side mount control and attacks. And for two, it’s a self-defense mindset. That’s not to say we don’t introduce other aspects of jiu-jitsu. We do. There’s so much to explore, I wouldn’t be doing my job if he didn’t have exposure to everything.

If your training frequency is high, then you have so many options. You can dedicate a day per week to specialization and/or a day to filling holes.

As always, everything goes back to training forever. Train with that goal in mind. That could mean getting your guard passed, or letting your guard get passed. If you’re getting stacked and you’re flexible enough to bend your way into retaining guard somehow, that doesn’t mean you should, at least not every time. One day, your flexibility will not be as great2, and you’ll have to deal with getting stacked another way. (And the way is let go. Allow it.)

  1. Remember that in a street fight, if you’re in bottom mount or side mount, any attempts at strikes from your opponent will give you the space needed to escape or recover guard. ↩︎

  2. There’s an argument that (extreme) flexibility is not something to strive for anyway, as it could actually be a major factor in getting injured. ↩︎

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