Getting squished and overcoming adversity forged my improvement. When I was at the bottom of the heap I could see and feel all the ways I needed to improve.
After years of being one of the worst grapplers on the mat, I finally became one of the upper belts. The way I focused on improving my Jiu Jitsu changed drastically. How can I maximize the training I get from rolling with a 6 month white belt? How do I blaze my own trail for improvement?
Training and rolling with people in the same manner I had been, lead to a plateau. It isn’t easy to step away from finally winning after years of getting destroyed. To progress I had to attempt to make it easier for my opponents to beat me.
1.) Put myself in bad positions.
Since it is unlikely the white belt is going to put me in a compromising position, it is essential I put myself in a bad spot for them. I will do this by making conscious mistakes such as turning away from them and giving up my back. Now I get to focus on getting reps in on escaping back control.
If I am getting ready for a tournament I will have them just start in these dominant positions so I am not accidentally setting bad muscle memory habits. I will have them start with back control attacking for the choke while I attempt to escape. If I escape we go right back to the position. This way they get in a significant amount of time working on attacking the back as opposed to 20 seconds here or there against other white belts every other week, and I get reps in on my escape.
2.) Help them defeat my game like a super villain would.
I tell them my plans. Letting them know how I am setting up a choke on them repeatedly is an example. Now they will be more vigilant in defending the choke and I will have to work harder and smarter to get the tap maybe switching to the armbar.
Once I overcome their new defensive tool, I tell them how I did that too. Build the “anti-me” grappling partner that knows my game and how to shut it down. This is like increasing resistance on the treadmill.
3.) The more I can help make my training partners, the better I can become.
When drilling in class I try to pair with lower belts to make sure they are getting as many aspects of the shown technique as possible. It is more familiar and comfortable to pair with my purple belt buddies I have been training with for 5 or 6 years, but pairing with the lower belts helps them improve faster. Also it helps me develop a sensitivity of my body and a vocabulary for describing movements to someone else.
4.) Don’t play my A Game, play my B, C, D, maybe even that one cool video I just watched on Youtube Game.
Focusing on only my A Game is a great strategy for tournaments but I think we all know deep down that no matter how effective our A Game is that eventually, someone is going to shut it down and then the depth of our game will be essential to winning the match.
The stakes with a less skilled opponent are much lower, so if that new guard pass I am working on doesn’t pan out, I can probably recover to try again. With my less refined techniques my training partner has a better chance of exploiting a mistake
4.) Get tapped.
If I’m not getting tapped or in danger, then I’m probably not opening my game up enough. If I hold a blue belt down in side control for 3 minutes doesn’t help either of us improve. A round where I engage in a disadvantageous scramble and the blue belt ends up getting deeper on a submission than I would like could mean he taps me. Great!
How much of Jiu Jitsu is mental limitations? Now that the blue belt has seen that it is possible to submit me, how much harder do you think the roll will be next time we grapple?
5.) Seek out the other upper belts for tough rolls, especially when I am already tired from rolling with the lower belts.
I am not the best guy at the gym, but I am near the top. I have to focus on training with the other top guys constantly to stay at my peak and to help keep my ego in check. Rolling more than 5 or 6 rounds per night is a minimum to test my technique.