How To Build Your A Game

The first year or so in starting jiu-jitsu, the new student’s primary focus is on learning the basic techniques. How to perform the correct mechanics of those basic techniques that are an essential part of all complete jiu-jitsu players.

After jiu-jitsu students have been training for over a year they may start to look at building their A Game. The intermediate student should have enough foundation in the fundamentals of base, posture, hip movement and mat fitness that they can benefit from trying more advanced positions and see if these new positions and techniques are going to be a fit for your style.

Fans of competitive jiu-jitsu can name their favorite jiu-jitsu fighters and upon closer examination, see that these individual champions can have very different styles. One may be known for heavy pressure passing game and another is known for pulling guard and triangling their opponents. Very different strategies that are both successful. It may come as a surprise to you that not all competitors are equally good at every position. They definitely have strong preferences. We can see there is no one style that can be said to be the best.

Along the way, training for and competing in many competitions over several years, these athletes have discovered which positions and strategies work for them. Many have a well defined A Game that they have tailored to their strengths and tend to play that game when the medal is on the line.

How do you develop your own A Game?

1) Foundation in the fundamentals comes first. It is difficult to imagine having a solid A Game if you are seriously lacking in some of the fundamentals. Your opponent can quickly spot an area of weakness and take advantage. Furthermore, you may not have developed adequate hip movement or base in order to competently execute some more advanced positions. Let’s make sure you can escape from mount or back mount before concentrating on becoming a berimbolo specialist!

2) Experiment! Once you are a blue belt, it is the perfect time to start trying some of the more advanced positions. For example there are many different open guard styles that you can experiment with to see if the guard feels right to you. Some guards will click for you and some will feel awkward and get passed easily. You won’t know if a position could be a solid piece of your game until you devote at least a couple of weeks trying it out in sparring.

The only way for you to know is to experiment. There are great videos out there of the positional studies of top competitors and that is a great way to get some ideas to try.

3) Dive deep. Ok, after a period of experimentation with various positions, you will certainly experience a higher amount of success with some positions compared to others that just don’t seem to work for you.

Now is the time to put those weaker positions to the side for the time being and double your focus on those that are working for you.

Get yourself a good training partner and drill them like crazy. Learn some of the possible variations of your best sweeps and submissions and passes. What are the most common defenses to your best moves and how do you overcome the opponents resistance? Study all aspects of that smaller number of A Game techniques and make them as sharp as possible.

One of the best training methods to isolate and sharpen a certain  area of your game is Specific or Positional training. For instance: You only try to pass the guard using your best passes over and over again, resetting back in the guard after a successful pass or if you were swept or submitted. Narrowing the scope of your rolling to specific objectives. This is how you amass the greatest amount of actual training time in that position…and that is the key to developing your A Game.

What is your A Game?


See also on Gracie Barra : Applying Principles To Your Jiu-jitsu

Applying Principles To Your Jiu-jitsu


Credits: Mark Mullen 

Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia