Advanced Methods: Limit Your Training

For some more experienced belts, finding training partners of the same level in some academies can be difficult.
Not all academies have a variety of training partners of beginning through advanced belts – particularly in newer academies. Or when you relocate to a different city or country where bjj is still developing, access to advanced training partners may not be there.


MMA trainer and Combat Submission Wrestler Erik Paulson says that we need 3 types of training partners:

1) Those more advanced than we are so we can work on our defense
2) Those equal in level so that we can get a good workout
3) Those lower in level so that we can work on our offense

It is this last type of training partner I want to talk about.

Paulson recommended limiting your training as a way to make training more productive when there is a large skill discrepancy. By restricting yourself in certain ways, you can make the training more challenging for yourself with lesser experienced (or even much smaller) partners.

Here are 3 tips on how you can benefit from training with training partners of lower experience level.

Tennis21) Work your weak side only

When you are passing, only pass to your right. Based on my own observations, 90% of people choose to pass to their left – and thus, have 9 x the experience at passing to that side. Only do the triangle on your less dominant side.
Sweep to the opposite side. Attack from the other side of your opponent’s body in side control. These are all typical situations in training where you can become very comfortable only executing techniques from a single side. Your lesser proficiency on your less dominant side will make your attacks much more of a challenge and help even out your bjj.

2) No sweeps from your back – only submissions

20With a well developed sweeping game, you might find yourself automatically working your favorite sweeps every time in guard and ignoring your submission attacks. If the last time you submitted someone from your back, a different President was in office, it might be time to challenge yourself to try to submit only from the guard. When your opponent gets wise to the idea that you are only hunting for armlocks and triangles, they start to keep their arms in tight and making your job much more difficult.

This is going to force you to use all of your tricks to get that arm. Your setups and combinations become much more important when the opponent need only defend one aspect of your guard. You will have to combine attacks, switch when tactics fail and use misdirection to catch your opponent by surprise. Imagine your opponent is a 10-time world champion wrestler who is impossible to sweep and get on their back.
You must find a way to catch the submission from the bottom.

3) Limit yourself to only one submission

submissionYou no doubt have several “go to” submissions in your arsenal. The easiest thing in the world is to go for your best position and catch the collar choke for the 1000th scalp on your belt. But telling yourself that “today, chokes, ONLY armlocks or kimura” will force you to look at different routes to submit the opponent. You must be creative in how to isolate the opponent’s limb from the defensive safety of their torso.

I learned something simple yet profound about the armlock from the mount when limiting my training in this way.
I made a resolution that I was determined to perfect my Roger Gracie cross collar choke from the mount. I was ONLY going to try to finish my opponents with this move. Every time I progressed to mount, I attacked the collar with full commitment. My opponents started extending their arms with complete disregard for their elbows to avoid the choking pressure.

BJJ SubmissionThe armlocks were ridiculously easy. My chokes showed small increase, but my straight armlock subs went through the roof! This is the law of unintended consequences. I discovered that the key to my straight armlock from mount was… to seriously attack the choke!

If you decide to concentrate on a single submission, what other things might you learn?

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Taipei, Taiwan
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ