What Are You Working On?

This is one of my favorite questions to ask students of jiu-jitsu. Some students scratch their heads and are not sure how to answer.

“What do you mean?”

What aspect of your jiu-jitsu are you focusing on improving at this particular time in your training. When one first starts training jiu-jitsu you just attend class and learn whatever the instructor is teaching as part of the Gracie Barra curriculum that week.

After a period of months you are more familiar with the basic positions and have identified some favorite movements and areas that you are lacking technique. Now you have a specific focus when you approach drilling and rolling.

Unless you are a jiu-jitsu progidy, it is going to take longer than just seeing a move once in class and then feeling like you got it down. Truth is that you are going to have to string several consecutive sessions together of drilling and trying to use the technique in live training before you have much hope of that technique getting into your muscle memory.

The quickest way to get those great moves into your muscle memory is to approach each class with intentionality. That is to say you have a specific focus and goals for each training session. Keep that same focus for a group of sessions before switching to a different position.

Here are 3 things that I focused on.for significant periods in my time at different belts.

White Belt – My focus was on getting 2 solid techniques from each of the major ground positions. I needed to build my vocabulary of techniques so I knew what to do in every ground situation.

I needed to teach my body how to perform the mechanics of each technique properly and efficiently.

Blue Belt – Game Development
I experimented with and discarded many different styles of guard and passing to see what did and did not work for me.

Once I picked a few positions that seemed to work for me, I worked on assembling the pieces into a game. I went deeper into the knee on.the belly position, hand on the collar closed and open guard and my inside trip in stand up. I performed hundreds of repetitions of these techniques in my training and built my A Game around them.

Purple Belt – Master of Defense
I decided it was time to correct the holes in my game. Areas like guard retention, escaping side and back control, defending the turtle became the focus.

In order to have the confidence to use all the different submission attacks, one must have confidence in your defense. If you try a submission and miss it you may lose your dominant position. Not having confidence in your escapes makes you conservative in your jiu-jitsu. Once I had confidence in my defense, it really freed up all the rest of my jiu-jitsu.

Most of my rolls I would start with my opponents in dominant positions and it was my job to fight out of it.

Brown Belt – Advanced Basics
Looking at the totality of jiu-jitsu techniques it occurred to me that black belt level jiu-jitsu was not a matter of knowing a vast number of moves but in the high level mastery of the basic techniques. Those techniques that we all learned our 1st year of training BUT performed with black belt level.of detail, precision and timing.

Inspired by Roger Gracie I revisited the basic cross collar choke from mount, rear naked choke from the back and the Bullfighter guard pass. All moves that you already know. But adding in.the setups, combinations and details that made it a black belt technique!

What are YOU working on in your jiu-jitsu?

See also on Gracie Barra : GB Techniques: Technique Combinations

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam
Instagram: @bjjmarkmullen