Bring Your A Game with Prof Valerio Ubaldini

“In my opinion is better to be decent in every position, than be great in only one position. ” Prof Ubaldini
This week we talk with 2nd-degree black belt Prof Valerio Ubaldini about how to avoid blue and purple belt training mistakes and some advice to help us build our A Game in jiu-jitsu.
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GB: What are the biggest training mistakes that you observe at the blue and purple belt level in Jiu-Jitsu?
Prof Valerio: I believe that one of the mistakes that not only blue and purple belts commit, is to take it too seriously. It’s very easy in Jiu-Jitsu to take it wrong, believing that at one point of our journey we become invincible. I saw so many times students quit in their first 3-8 months in Jiu-Jitsu because of their ego, even more, students went after being promoted to blue belt. It’s because they taking it too seriously!
Unfortunately, a new stripe or a new belt doesn’t add extra superpowers: it’s all about time spent on the mat and dedication.
I consider this one of the biggest mistakes in Jiu-Jitsu. You have to train to know that on your path to the black belt you are going to get tapped thousands and thousands of times, you are going to be put into uncomfortable positions, you are going to be swept and your guard is going to be passed more than you can ever imagine. And that’s OKAY!!!! In Jiu-Jitsu we never stop learning and this is the beauty of this martial art, you can always learn!
I always tell my students two things:
1) Leave your ego off the door and if outside the building there is a three, hang your ego to a branch and store your everyday thoughts and life/working problems in there. Step on the mat knowing that you are going to be swept some and you will sweep some, you will be tapped out and you will share your submissions too and I promise that they will finish the class more humble and like a new person.
2) Remember the word “ play “. In Jiu-Jitsu we hear very often someone playing open guard, for example. We use the world play because if we don’t archive what we have in mind, the worst thing it can happen is our partner passing our guard, or we will get submitted. And where is the problem there? I never heard “ we play boxing “ or “ we play MMA “: after getting punched in the face is not that fun anymore, right?
Jiu-Jitsu can help us overcome the obstacles in our minds first and physically then, can give us thousands of opportunities and an unlimited opportunity to grow.
I always repeat to my students: if you would know everything Jiu-Jitsu would be boring! Your best days in training are when your partner didn’t let you work your best moves and submitted you. So you can come back home, think and study what happened in class, and be able to get better the next time.
GB: What advice do you have for Gracie Barra students who are looking to build their A Game?
Prof Valerio: I found my “ A game “ when I got my brown belt. I have heard people getting their own style right away from a white belt or even stories of black belts that never have found a game yet.
My advice especially for the blue and purple belts is to have fun and don’t get stuck in one position because you think is your BEST position! There is so much to explore, so much to investigate and so much to fail before focusing on one position more than others.
In my opinion, is better to be decent in every position, than be great in only one position. Don’t set limits to your learning!!! For example, whenever I see my students in training applying always let’s say a guillotine with a 100% rate, I stop by and tell them in the next round he can use any other techniques but not the guillotine.
Because the percentage rate is so high, eventually we already know what would happen if get into the circumstances of closing a guillotine. It would not help him because his game would be limited, it would not be good for the partner because he would always be caught in the same submission.
So as an instructor, my goal is to let my students improve and get better in every situation. And in every aspect. What happens if someone specializes in only one move and for any reason, in training or in the competition this move doesn’t work: what happens will be that the student would feel loose and desperate.
Obviously if close to a competition it’s always good to get sharpened to your best moves, but especially when off-season I always give the advice to my students to have an open game and enjoy everything this beautiful martial art has to offer.
See also on GB Blog: GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt