Jiu-Jitsu Letter

Master One Side

When we learn, or teach, we usually practice just one side. The idea is once you’ve mastered one side, it’ll be easy to learn the other. It’s mostly true, but I wonder if it’s actually worthwhile trying to be very good at both sides.

The obvious answer is of course it’s good to master both sides. But it’s not so simple. For some techniques, it’s a definite yes. Something like the triangle is pretty simple to finish on either side, but it’s very difficult to become equally good at the same setup on both sides. From the mount, the Americana is pretty simple to finish on either side, but the hard part is getting there.

For the past few months, I’ve been practicing standing passes and have come to prefer them.1 And I’ve come to realize I like passing to my left with a knee split, and to the right with a leg drag or leg weave. It makes sense if I typically have my partner’s right leg in the middle. And I have trouble going the other way with the other technique, so I’ve been thinking about how much time I should invest in getting good with each pass on both side. And I think as long as you have good options on either side, it’s enough.

I read a while ago in one of Royler Gracie’s book2 that he tried to master both sides with every technique. The problem with aiming for complete symmetry though, is you could end up at 50-70% on both sides with one technique, instead of 95% on two sides with different techniques. At least for the hobbyist, asymmetry seems more practical. Maybe for everyone.

Principle-based learning is helpful. Work to understand what you and your opponent need to succeed, instead of memorizing step-by-step details on how to execute a move. By continuing to deepen your knowledge, you’ll be able to apply techniques in more situations and positions.

Final thought: Maybe it is worth trying to master everything on the opposite side. There’s an advantage to doing everything on the side your partners don’t practice against. Sort of like how southpaws are troublesome matchups for many (most?) boxers. They just aren’t used to training against it.

  1. “Do not have preferences." Musashi↩︎

  2. Submission Grappling ↩︎

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