Sharpening Your Sword

This is an old expression that means that you take your best tools (or techniques in the case of the BJJ student) and sharpen them to be as sharp as possible. These are the things that you do best and you want them to be the best they can be.

When you are starting training jiu-jitsu, you will get submitted far more than you are submitting your training partners. Being able to experience some early success with a sweep or submission will really inject some enthusiasm into your jiu-jitsu training!

In your early training certain positions will feel more natural to you and you will experience some early success with a few techniques out of the many your instructor has demonstrated. This is a starting point for you to develop your personal game.

I observed one student in the 1st couple of months of training try several different submissions, but seemed to naturally catch the Kimura shoulder lock. There are few feelings as positive in jiu-jitsu as catching one of your training partners in a submission and getting the tap. Yes!

Now the student has a starting point for more focused training. They will of course continue to learn the lessons as taught in the classes, but their own drilling and mental focus can now be directed towards “sharpening that sword”. All of the advanced students in your academy have a few moves that they are known for and this is how they started.

Here are a few tips on how to sharpen your own sword – using the Kimura lock as an example

1) Study the Kimura mechanics and variations

Ask what are the ways I can get to the Kimura grip? Your first Kimura success was attacking from side control…but how about other positions?

Can you also get the Kimura from guard or your half guard? Mount? North south position?

Ask your instructor about the fine points of the mechanics. “Is my grip better this way or that way?”. How can you generate the strongest leverage?


2) Learn the counters
Your training partners will soon recognize that you are a Kimura threat and will start to hide their arms and defend.

You now need to understand what your opponent is trying to do to defend your Kimura. Ask yourself “How can I prevent them from countering?”

Your instructor can show you how to deal with the most common counters (ex. the opponent gripping their belt – how to break that defensive grip?).

3) Develop a Plan B
BJJ techniques do not work 100% of the time. Or else BJJ instructors would teach ONLY that technique and it would be a short class!

If your opponent successfully defends your Kimura, what do you do next? In jiu-jitsu, when you devote 100% of your defense to stop one threat, you often create an opening for something else.

In the case of the Kimura, if the opponent grips their belt to stop your Kimura, they have forgotten about their neck! It may be time to suddenly switch your attack and take advantage of the new opening to attack with a collar choke.

Show your instructor where you are getting countered and ask “What do I do when they have a tight belt grip?”

These tips can be applied to any technique that you are experiencing some early success with and want to make your own.

see also : The 6 worst white belt rolling mistakes

Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam
Twitter: @MarkMullenBJJ