As your own game develops in brazilian jiu-jitsu, you will get very strong in certain positions and experience your best success using your favorite techniques. The opposite side of the equation that you will also have some weaknesses in your game! A person who loves to play the open guard will fail to get a strong passing game. Another student coming from a wrestling background will not be nearly as competent defending their guard.
Gracie Barra 3rd Degree BB Josh Russell says the ideal is to be equal top and bottom in bjj. As the nature of a fight is unpredictable you can not always decide where you might end up in the match and therefore must be prepared to fight in any position.
How do we go about filling those holes in our games?
Here are 3 tips to help correct weaknesses in your bjj game.
Once you have identified what your particular weakness is: let’s say it is your open guard; you need to figure out some solutions.
Is there a senior belt in your academy known for their formidable open guard game? Ask them about their favorite techniques and drills to start building your own open guard. What are their favorite grips and sweeps?
Your instructor can provide valuable guidance as to what might best fit your body type and also work within your personal game.
Youtube can be an invaluable resource where you can see how the art’s best train and use their own open guard games. Watch 10 videos on that spider guard sweep and spot the identical principles that the world champions share. The resources are all there for you.
2) Get uncomfortable
Sorry, but you are going to have to get out of your comfort zone in order to correct a weakness. Your “bread and butter” positions, those you are most proficient in, are going to have to be set aside temporarily and put yourself in uncomfortable situations in training.
If you have been a top player, you are going to have to ask your training partners if you can start the roll with you on bottom.
Resist the urge to use a wrestling scramble to take the top position when you feel a bit of heat.
Imagine that your opponent is a world champion wrestler and that getting to the top is impossible, so you MUST develop a way to win from the bottom!
And at first, your guard is going to get passed, until your open guard game starts to improve. This is a bit hard on the ego at first, but it is essential to making progress.
3) Devote a month to specializing
“Spend a lot of time in the position”, says GB Black Belt Josh Russell. “That is the key to getting good at any position.” Make a deal with yourself at the beginning of the month of training that the focus of all of your drilling and rolling is going to be your open guard.
Set aside the other interesting positions for the time being and concentrate just on this one area. Drilling is an excellent way to get the valuable mat time that you need. You can not always count on your position coming up in sparring, so you must isolate it in drilling. There are always other students in the academy who also want to drill and you can pair up and help each other.
Repetition after repetition of your sweeps will burn a groove in your muscle memory. The neural and motor pathways will be developed and strengthened and your previously awkward sweep will become fluid and smooth.
In actual rolling, look for any opportunity to work in your new position. If your opponent attempts to sweep you, you can resist and insist on the top (like you traditionally have done) OR you can say “Ok, here is a chance for me to work MY open guard” and go to the bottom position and start working your open guard.
Remember, it is just TRAINING. The primary purpose is to DEVELOP technique, not just to win.
Share your own tips on how you corrected weaknesses in your own bjj game.
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan