The Line, and Where to Draw It


Fitocracy is nice because there’s a lot of grapplers so when someone asks a question you get a lot of responses. It’s also the bane of our respective existence. The ability to ask questions online and to try to learn techniques from YouTube is a paradox – I think it’s great and destroying grappling simultaneously. When I read the ones in the Martial Arts threads I often feel like someone has asked for medical advice on the internet. Sometimes, that’s literally the case. But they’ll say “I’m doing X and I’m having a problem.” and because of a combination of wanting to be a nice person and wanting to display your prowess to the world you respond with “Have you tried Y? It helped me.” The thing is – we have no idea why they’re messing up X. Without a video all we do is speculate based on their description. They get like 20 suggestions, often conflicting. The BJJ specific threads are a bit better. We have a more-or-less standard language and it rarely devolves into “My karate is better than your jujitsu.” Reading the responses for a question about reverse mount (and getting involved myself) made me wonder about where we should draw the line.

The guy asking is a white belt. He sounds like a more experienced white belt though. He’s passing the guard or defending triangles and ending up in reverse mount. So he naturally asks what he can do from there. I think this is a pretty common question. Not with the reverse mount per se, but with almost any new position. A white belt ends up in half-guard for the first time, it’s likely they’re going to stop and go “What do I do from here?” For the basic positions it seems like everyone has the same stance: answer the question. For the unorthodox positions this isn’t the case. I replied with two transitions and stating leg locks are really one of the only options. I’m not trying to get some white belt in trouble by having him spin into knee bars, but it’s an honest answer to his question. One of the other responders left responses along the lines of “you’re doing it wrong.” My stance on teaching and learning is always to answer the question asked, not to correct the person’s rolling habits.

I get pissed when I ask a question and a higher rank blows it off and says that I shouldn’t concern myself with such things. To me it really means one thing: they don’t know. You’ll get a lot of responses about unorthodox positions. When I accidentally found 50/50 guard my instructors didn’t tell me it was a bad idea. They warned me about getting hip-locked if I didn’t play it correctly and then pointed me to Ryan Hall so that I could see how the position is used by a higher level competitor. I was trained with the understanding that techniques are arbitrarily given ranks. Some of them require learning a more basic form first, but you could spend one class doing all of the work to build up to almost any technique. Nothing really requires more than two hours of prep work to understand. At the same time when I play the 50/50 guard higher ranks will usually stop me and ask what I think I’m doing.

So that’s where I stand – I answer any question asked of me to the best of my abilities. While doing so I’ll often state things like my background or how comfortable I am with my answer so someone won’t blindly follow bad advice. After all – I’m not the guy to give DLR advice unless you want to know where the heel-hooks are from the top and bottom, but I’ve played a lot of DLR that I can tell you the best that I know. Where do you stand? Are you the kind of person that ignores questions about techniques/positions that are too “advanced” or do you answer them? Why?

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