Ideas to Improve Your "A Game"

A few weeks ago I penned an article about how to correct weaknesses in your bjj game. Today we are going to spin around faster than a 180 degree armbar and look at your best & favorite positions & submissions.

It doesn’t take long in your bjj journey before certain positions or submissions start to click for you. It may be a submission that provides your earliest success in getting the tap. It might be a position that allows you to survive longer against the blue and purple belts during sparring. In any case, you probably already know what your best moves are.


Now the question becomes: How can we expand on what you are already good at and bring it up to the next level of technical skill?

Here are 4 tips to develop your favorite technique:
(Let’s use the triangle as our working example this week)

1) Research the variations
Youtube is an invaluable resource for students of bjj. If you want to know how the top competitors or master instructors teach the triangle, it is all just a Youtube search away. Search “bjj triangle setup” and start down the “rabbit hole” of watching hours of triangle setups by the best instructors.

10549671_4638272891344_7028773287490813380_oAsk yourself while watching:
What are the common principles they share in describing the leverage and ways to make the triangle tighter?
What are their favorite entries and setups?
Can you catch the triangle from different positions other than the standard open-guard triangle?
Can you use different grips to control the same position?

2) Common counters & re-counters
Your opponent will certainly be wise to your setups and attacks after a short while and develop their own strategies to counter your triangles.
Now you are forced to adapt and get deeper into the technique!

Your instructor can help you with the “what if he does this..” questions.
For every predictable defense, there is a technique you can do to counter their escape or even form a combination with armlock or omoplata.

I am fond of saying that purple belt is the belt of combinations. Purple belts begin to refine their attacks by combining techniques and using the opponent’s defensive reactions to lead them right into another complimentary technique (ex. omoplata).

Obviously, a practitioner of bjj doesn’t have to wait until purple belt to start using combinations, but in my experience, this is the level where the student really begins to think in terms of chaining counters and attacks together.

tussa23) Catch and release
This is a really instructive way to approach your training. If you are strong at triangle and confident that you can control and get the tap from your training partner I am going to suggest that you bring them nearly to the point of the tap and then let them go.

Now, watch what happens…what do they do? Which direction do they turn when you release the pressure?
This will provide valuable information on what you can expect a tough opponent to do when they successfully escape your triangle.

Now it is your job to find a strategy or “Plan B” for how they move when they escape. You will be a step ahead of them wehn they make their move.
If you have rolled with a high level belt and felt that they were “always 5 steps ahead of you”, you were probably experiencing their knowledge of where you were going to go before you even knew yourself!

4) Ask the champions
I love attending seminars given by high level bjj competitors and instructors when they come to my city.
Some students complain about the price of admission for a few hours of instruction, but I find that I have nearly always gotten far more value (in developing my personal game) than what I paid!

What is the dollar amount that you would pay to make your best techniques even stronger?

At the end of the seminar, the instructor will ask if anyone has any questions.
You should be prepared to ask questions like:
“I have some success with the triangle, but my opponents are giving me a difficult time when they FILL IN THE BLANK, what should I do?”
default“I love the triangle from guard, but feel a little stale in my game. Can you give me some ideas on some new variations I can try?”
“I love the triangle from guard, and I do it this way. Is there anything different I should be looking for?”

Please share in the comments your best advice on developing your best positions.

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