Developing Your "A" Game – Tips on Finding Your Strongest Positions

It doesn’t take long into your study of bjj before you start to experience success with some positions or submissions. It seems that whenever you roll, you find yourself in side control or spider guard and your kimura or triangle choke is right there for you.


Especially for competitors, it’s important for them to develop and refine their strongest “go-to moves” for when the tension is high and the medal is at stake. Most likely your “A Game” will reveal itself to you early in your training. Quite simply, you will experience your earliest successes with certain moves and naturally gravitate towards them.

It is not unusual to see experienced blue belts with a purple or brown belt level of knowledge and sharpness in their best position!

Interestingly, world champions like Romulo Barral reported that the positions that they are best known for now at black belt were positions that were also their strengths at blue belt. Their preference and “A Game” revealed themselves very early on in their training.

Here are 3 tips on developing your own “A Game”:

1) Anatomy is destiny
16293195873_2c4b35bd9d_kTo a large degree, your physical attributes will determine your strongest positions. Most triangle specialists have lanky builds with long legs. Same with Darce choke specialists. If you have the legs of a Hobbit, triangle greatness is probably not in your future.

But your butterfly guard and guillotines might be very dangerous!

Look at top competitors who share the same physical type as you and observe what positions they excel at.
Some practitioners actually select a role model whose game they wish to emulate and pattern their game after that black belt.

Read also: Top Game or Bottom Game?

2) “Sets and Reps”
In his excellent auto biography “Total Recall”, Arnold Schwarzenegger writes about the key to success in all of his accomplishments – whether it was building a Mr. Olympia physique, acting in movies or delivering a Governor’s speech in front of thousands, the key was repetition and practice.

16911956872_0fb11070d7_zThe same is true for developing your A Game positions. If you ask any of these World Champions about their deadly spider guard or half guard sweeps they will tell stories of countless hours in the academy, drilling and experimenting with the positions.

When it comes to acquiring a high degree of skill in any endeavor, there is no substitute for mat time. You have to accrue the reps. I recall at a seminar one black belt challenging two students to complete 500 repetitions of triangles in a month of training.

One of the students asked “Is the triangle tighter if I put my leg this way or that way?”

The instructor responded by saying “Perform 500 triangles and YOU tell ME!”
His point was clear: you will learn things by repping that you can not learn any other way.

Read also:Advanced Methods: Limit Your Training

3) Get Obsessed For a Time Period
I am a strong advocate of advanced students starting to direct their own training. Learn all of the techniques that your professor shows in regular classes. But you also must look to direct your own learning in the positions that fit your own game.

16912210521_1e00d9c03c_kConcentrate your training efforts (especially drilling and technical idea exchange with training partners) on a certain position for at least a month.

Study the DVDs, the YouTube videos, ask your professor and the advanced belts in your academy for their tips. Immerse yourself in that position for at least a month and you will dig deep into the secrets of any submission that you want in your “A Game”.

Read also: 6 Steps to Fix a Hole in Your Game

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