We all want to believe that we’re better than we are. It’s pretty natural. You have something you’re comfortable with and you catch people with it, and all of the sudden it’s your signature. You finish people with it almost unconsciously. My current game isn’t chess. My current game is nature. I do what comes naturally. I don’t force or impose, but rather go along with what I feel. I end up sliding my leg in here or there when I feel I’m losing what I consider to be a good position and this is typically how I end up with the leg-lock positions. My legs go between yours and I roll or you bridge me and I turn to recover and it’s there. Sometimes there’s not always something there so I grab the leg for control and try to figure out what I can do. I don’t “go” for leg locks. I take what’s there and bluff or hold when nothing is immediately present. Very rarely is there a plan. My stand-up is the same way. I don’t bait certain throws or have pre-planned combinations. A lot of people do. Ippon Seoi Nage > O Soto Gari > Uchi Mata. That’s just not me. There is an exception – my top game. I’ll bait positions and submissions and as stated a million times before – kesa gatame. One arm hugging their neck, the other gripping their tricep. My top game is the most polished and well-rounded aspect of my grappling. I’m not sure if I have a plan because of that, or if it is that way because I have a plan.

In general though, I don’t have plans, I have tendencies. This weekend was a valuable life lesson in fixing those tendencies. When people get used to your game they can crush you very easily. That was me this weekend. Ken’s game has stepped up. Wade is… well, Wade’s the black belt. He has a lot of games he can play with us. So I got a lesson in humility. I got a lesson in they’ve learned when I’m ending up in a leg-lock position and because I’m going by feel they can beat me out of it before I feel that I’m in it. To me, being beaten so easily like this was a wake-up call to correct bad habits.

I know I have a lot to work on. I usually make a point to list the one thing I want to work on next practice, but this goal is loftier. I want to strip my game down to the bones and rebuild it on a better foundation. We’ve been doing a lot of half-guard. It’s most of the curriculum for blue to purple. I want to go back to the white belt curriculum and merge it with the blue to build a better game.

I’m in what I would have initially thought was a unique position – I came to BJJ after a couple of years of Waboku ryu jujitsu and shortly after starting I added in judo. I’ve been exposed to a lot. My situation isn’t unique. We have an overload of techniques. YouTube videos, blogs (shameless plug for the updated blog roll – please feel free to make suggestions to me also), magazines, and DVDs allow everyone to get exposure to thousands of techniques and variations. Exposure like I came in with IS the norm. But exposure isn’t enough. Yes, I’ve seen that guard pass before. I’ve done it maybe 20 times over 3 classes. That doesn’t mean I know it or that we should rep it 10 times and move on. I think we have too many techniques.

How Anders treats judo snaps together nicely with exposure. I really miss that style. It’s one of the things I look foward to most about my return to judo. He’ll show us one or two throws and we’ll rep them, but we also have designated time to practice whatever throw we want within  limits. He’ll call out – pick your favorite foward throw and do uchi komi of it. That’s open license to try out that Sambo variation I saw the other day and do 20 reps right away to feel it out, then another 20 once it feels good to really drive home how it should be executed. So in the hour of warm-ups, drills, and practice we do like 3 throws, and 1 or 2 ground techniques (usually one submission and one sweep/escape). The emphasis is on standing so it works out great. Then the last 30 minutes is a mix of rolling and randori to practice your game openly and try to add the new pieces you’ve worked on that day into it.

We don’t really do that in BJJ. We’ll do a ton of techniques and then guard pass drills and then roll. That’s how BJJ has always been for me. Regardless of the instructor or school (with the exception of a shark-bait school which did 5 minutes of one technique and then rolling forever after), this is how BJJ has been presented to me. I don’t blame the instructors. I could invest more careful time into repetition. I’ve learned that if I can’t make it work in a drill situation I don’t want it, and if it does work against most people in drills it must be close enough to right. I get corrections during techniques. I get advice on what to focus on after a roll. There’s just not adequate time in this structure (for me personally) to ingrain the good habits and to work on the technical aspects. Doing 40 arm bar switches for a drill makes me worry about speed, not technique. The drill isn’t to do 40 great arm bars. More and more I feel like it should be though. Or at least some variation. Do 20 solid, picture-perfect arm bars, then do 10 for speed, then five as fast as you can do them perfectly, then five as perfectly as you can do as fast as possible. I think building good habits means stopping and doing it right first, then adding speed, then reducing speed to make corrections, then doing speed again. I guarantee you arm bar number five of the last set will be at least as good of arm bar number 10 of the first 20. You just did 40 armbars, and 25 of them were about technique so your body has adapted accordingly. I think training like that builds a better foundation than many of the competition based drills we do in grappling sports in general. I think back to the judo instructor whose training methodologies I disagree with. Why wouldn’t I apply what I love about judo to BJJ to build a better base? Training like that has made my throws for demonstration amazing, and by doing competition drills only for the throws I’ve mastered in demo-mode I’ve ended up with a well-rounded competition set of things I feel I can hit more times than not (which is really all you can hope for against people of the same size and skill level).

So the take aways from this long rant:

  1. In addition to all the little goals I have an underlying principle goal for my training.
  2. I have an actionable plan for meeting this goal (review the curricula, select techniques, do the 40 reps I’ve laid out above for each)
  3. It’s important to get knocked down a peg by people figuring out your game so you can improve as a grappler. Humility is a gift, not something to get upset about.
  4. Check out the new blog roll. I guarantee you every blogger on there has more of a clue about what they’re talking about that I do.

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