Everyone wants to get better at Jiu Jitsu, everyone wants to improve, but few understand what it takes to get better. I truly believe there is not one way to get better, but a few things that will always be required. Most people who train Jiu Jitsu do this, they show up, they train, then go home. At the early level in Jiu Jitsu, meaning white and early blue belt, thats okay. In a way. At that level you are still learning the game and trying to specifically learn one thing can steer you away from actually learning what you should be learning. At the lower levels of Jiu Jitsu you should be learning proper mat etiquette, escaping positions, and the general concepts of what can be done and the overall goal. The hunt should be to find what Jiu Jitsu is suppose to feel like. Smooth effortless, minimum strength, structures and frames.
At some point in Jiu Jitsu, you need to stop being reactive and have a goal. Rolling with a purpose. What I mean is, at the lower ranks you only identify submissions when the opponent is giving you an indicator. And thats fine, but as you become better, you find ways to force your opponent to give you what you want. Now I dont like using "force" because people attach that with strength, but I mean setting up specific moves like a Kimura, Armlock or back take using proper Jiu Jitsu, not strength. This is a mini exercise I do with my students. I ask them, how do you escape the mount? They immediately respond. Then I ask, how do you escape side control? They again, immediately respond. Then I ask, how do you submit from side control? Every student begins thinking. After a few seconds I interrupt and say this "See the issue is if you have to think of what to do, then you are going to be losing.". When you start in Jiu Jitsu, all you can do is defend and escape, but once you start attacking we have so many options. You need to start picking one attack and discover multiple ways to get to that attack. Now which attack do you choose? I believe in choosing the attack that has options. Options meaning, if the move fails, what else can I transition to smoothly.
I look for these few things when I am learning/developing systems in Jiu Jitsu.
- Options (Options to transition to another attack/postition)
- Risk factor (How risky is the move for the given situation. If they escape, will I be in trouble)
- Percentage (High percentage or low percentage? and are my options high percentage or low percentage?)
This is why I am a huge fan of using the Kimura. The Kimura itself can be a tough submission to finish as its easy to protect from it, but the options off the Kimura and the ability to grab the Kimura from many different transition positions is what makes the Kimura highly effective. All of the students I teach at blue or higher I introduce the Kimura system to them. There are plenty of different systems out there and you can also develop your own system, or at least add a little flavor to them. When I get to side control and I am attacking with a purpose, I look for the Kimura.
Now, every day you cannot train the same. You cannot come in and train hard every day, you cannot come in and play defense every day. I mean, you can. But you aren't going to be developed as fast as you could be. You need specific mindsets and training days. You need days you come in and go hard, not rough, but hard. Meaning you are training with a purpose to pass and submit. Usually these days, its you working on your game plan. When push comes to shove, you go to your game plan.
Then there are days you are in development mode, this means you are developing a new system, or working on a specific attack like, lets say the Omoplata. On these days you will be focusing on one specific attack. Once the Omoplata is developed, then you need to start building a system for it. Where can I transition to off the Omoplata. How many set ups do I have to get to the Omoplata. Then once the Omoplata and its systems are developed, the Omoplata can be one of your "Go hard days". You don't go hard if you havent developed a move. It's too much of an injury risk factor for you and your partner, and youll be using tons of strength to set things up and get frustrated when things dont work.
Then there are defense days. This explains itself, you are here to learn how to escape. Not with strength, but with Jiu Jitsu. This is where 99% of people fail. People dont like getting tapped, people dont like the lower belts seeing them lose or get beat. Get over it. Put yourself in an armlock and learn how to not get tapped with your arm fully extended. Now this type of training requires a tremendous amount of trust in your training partners. I will NEVER train like this with newer students. They know nothing and are wreckless. Its not their fault, they are just new. With the lower belts, dont crush them. Use basic, fundamental Jiu Jitsu, self defense mindset. Again, they are new. Headlocks, grabbing fingers sometimes, very rough. Expect it, and play against it properly. Now back to the defense mode. Once you develop a strong and confident defense, your offense and fluidity becomes very effective. One of the main reasons students are rough and stiff is because their escapes suck and they are worried to be put in a bad situation.
Now all of these types of training days require a specific mindset. You cant just come in and see your partner as an opponent. You arent in competition with your partner but in competition with yourself and your mind. You are in competition with your own Jiu Jitsu. Lately I've been putting my self in my Fiancees armlocks. Nicole is very good at armlocks and Ive been tapped a thousand times hanging out there. But now, Ive started to feel this little angle in which I can place my arm/body where she has had my arm fully extended and having trouble finishing it. It's made my hitch hiker escapes more effective and even though she gets frustrated trying to armlock me, itll develop her armlocks to be better and then Ill have to adapt again.
You need three people in your Jiu Jitsu training. You need people who are better than you to crush you, people at the same level to have a competitive roll, and people below you to work on techniques. Coming in every day trying to beat everyone for your own ego will only hinder your training. Also, think about the investment in other students. Ive had plenty of students that were once white belts I could do anything to, to now being go to training partners because of the investment mindset of coaching and playing with the lower belts. The more they work on their armlocks with you, the better your escapes will be and the more their armlocks will get better. In the long run, they become tougher students because of the development mindset you have when you roll with them.
Hey! My name is Stephen Miller and I am currently a Brown belt under Relson Gracie, training at Gracie Maryland (www.RealJiuJitsu.com)