GB Student Question: “Is it better to concentrate on my best moves or learn a lot of different techniques?”

A BJJ student with just less than 1 year of training asks a great question. “There are only a few moves that I can tap my training partners with and I use them all the time I roll. I’m still learning new stuff every week in a class of course. But should I just go with what works for me?”
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This is a tough one to answer.
Why? Because it is difficult to argue with success.
As a white belt, more often than not, your experience has been as the metaphorical “nail” and not the “hammer”! After getting tapped so many times, it tastes great to finally experience getting some taps of your own.
Also, nearly all advanced jiu-jitsu fighters have an “A-game” of their best positions that they have confidence that they can make work in the toughest roles. They developed that A Game by recognizing what works for their body type and attributes, and working on that smaller subset of techniques, and sharpening them. Ask a black belt about his A Game and he or she will probably tell you that they found most of their favorite positions even before blue belt.
So yes, by all means, continue to develop those positions that are paying off for you. These techniques will likely be your favorites for many years to come.
However…you must also consider that if you focus only on a few moves or positions (ex. you have a lot of success pulling guard and triangle your opponents) then you will be ignoring other essential areas of your overall game. If you habitually pull guard, your takedowns are likely to be weak and you probably don’t work on your guard passing.
Over a period of time, your game will develop with these distinct gaps. An experienced opponent will quickly find out where the holes in your game are and exploit them. If your opponent can force you to play positions that you aren’t good in, you will get rolled up! So we must pay attention to the idea of having complete jiu-jitsu – standup, self-defense, both top, and bottom games.
Secondly, to have a complete understanding of jiu-jitsu (and this is especially true for anyone who helps teach classes) you must have some knowledge in all of the various open guards, the passes for those guards, submissions that you don’t use often, and so on. At the very least, you need to understand the position so you can recognize when your opponent is working it and how to shut them down.
For competitors, you must have some understanding of what your competition is likely to do and how to shut it down. If you enter a tournament having pulled guard in the majority of your matches and as soon as the referee says “combate!”, your opponent immediately pulls you into his De la Riva guard…you will be at a big disadvantage. How much time have you spent working on your passing in training?
For these reasons, as Gracie Barra jiu-jitsu students, we can not allow ourselves to have too narrow a focus in our training and ignore some positions in BJJ. Develop your A-Game, but also make an effort to learn all of the essential aspects of the art and sport.
See also on GB Blog: GB Values: Body & Mind with Master Carlos Gracie Jr.
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt