Thursday, February 11, 2010

Grappler, Don't Let Fear and Fatigue Weaken Your Training.

Don't allow fear to exist in your dojo (i.e., your mind), grappler.

OK. So, you're not going to train like a champion every time you step on to the mat. Some days you're just going to be lacking - maybe you stayed up too late watching "The Real Housewives of Orange County" or you got in a fight with your girlfriend (or boyfriend) or your dog ate your grappling tights. Maybe you are nursing some ailments or are just physically run down. It happens.

We've already established here at DSTRYR that you MUST minimally show up (regularly) and work hard in order to improve and realize your full badassedness. But, as we've just established, it's natural that you will not be at your best 100% of the time. Therein lies a common problem.

A common bad habit that I see time and time again in my own training is EXCUSE MAKING WHICH LEADS TO SUBPAR TRAINING. And, because the sport is so rigorous and demanding, it's very easy to do in the game of grappling. Coasting has no place in your BJJ training. Just for fun, I've broken it down into a few archetypes in the BJJ world. We embody all or most of them at least some of the time. Here a few types we want to avoid being:

Run and Hide Guy. So, I'm exaggerating a bit here. Sure, there are plenty of so-called grapplers out there who literally run and hide at the first glimpse of a real challenge in free training. Hopefully none makeup the DSTRYR readership . But, we are all guilty in a much subtler way. We all know the athletes in our camp or club who will give us the greatest, gnarliest, most painful challenges. And, sometimes, we fail to accept those challenges on account of being tired or hurt (or late for a mani/pedi or some other lame excuse).

I know, when I'm not feeling my best, I'd prefer not to have to fight for my life. But, bottom-line: it's weak and we need to resist the temptation to back down. In the end, getting your ass kicked in training jiu jitz (as long as you aren't injured in the process) is 100% a good thing. Plain and simple, it makes you better.

The Staller. A much more common offender than Run and Hide Guy, this breed of grappler wastes everybodies time, holding positions and failing to advance his game during free training. Instead of taking the necessary risks to improve his game (and his opponent's), The Staller chooses to ride out the clock. The Staller usually acts out of fear or fatigue or both.

We all do this. For example, I sometimes find (usually when matched with a very strong opponent) that, after I've passed guard, I'm content to maintain side control rather than risking a submission attempt. It's weaksauce jiu jitsu. And, it's a bad habit that needs to be quit.

Mr. "Let's Go Light." Fortunately, I'm never this guy. But he's out there and he cracks me up. Don't get me wrong. Going "light" in jiu jitsu free training does have it's place: for warming up, dealing with an injury, focusing on movement/flowing, etc. But, for the average, healthy, mid-level grappler, free training is not to he gone about "lightly." You need to go 100% full speed on a regular basis. Not quite murderous (sometimes this actually helps), but closer to that than "light."

The Guy Who Doesn't Wash His Gi. This is a total non sequitur. This guy has nothing to do with today's topic, but I really hate this guy. No one likes smelly gi. No one.

So, there, grapplers. A few things to think about as we move along this grappling year. Just remember, you're already there, so why not skip the excuses and get the most out of your training? I gotta keep telling myself that .


  1. Strangely enough, my coach(Jean Jacques Machado) actually advocates stalling from time to time. I'm paraphrasing(and probably butchering his point) but he says that it's important when you're tired to learn how you can get to positions where you can use minimal energy, while forcing your opponent to use as much energy as possible to escape. I don't know that I agree with im 100%, but I think it's an important skill to have when competing(everyone gasses at some point during competition) or even if you're just tired in class(sometimes Jean Jacques makes us stay on the mat for x amount of time, and truthfully if I've spent a few rounds rolling with a few of the blues at my gym, or some of the purples+ and they're rolling pretty hard, the only way I can survive the 4th and 5th roll is to get side control and catch my breath for a minute).

    Also related to "lets go light guy" is "guy who asks to go light and then goes 10000 miles per hour" fuck him, and fuck doesn't wash his gi guy.

  2. Right on, bro. Good point. I do think it's good to be able to control the situation and your opponent. I do this too. Sometimes you need to ride out your opponent's violent energy until he calms down (e.g., when you have side control).

    My issue is stalling or pacing/coasting when I know I should be actively seeking to better my position or trying something to finish. I've been hyper-aware of it lately.

  3. Great post. I always laugh at the guy that starts with "Let's go light" and then tries to bulldoze my ass. AND, the guy that decides to wait a week to wash his sweaty Gi, is a nightmare to roll with.

  4. Postscript: Isn't it another form of stalling and a cop out when you get a guy in your closed guard and because he's so F'in frustrated and cannot pass, he then grinds and jams his elbow or forearm into your nose and mouth until you have to tap. Gotta love that.

  5. weird...i think am a combination of the first 3.

    go figure.

  6. Lets remember, the closed guard position can also be a stalling position, because unless you are trying to actively sweep or finish a person from your guard. The person in the guard is not just stalling but also losing the role. When you train the best way to get better is to fire bullets and see if they hit. If you happen to lose while experimenting or trying to play your game, it's all good, and it will make you a better bjj practitioner

  7. Yeah, when you said "let's go light guy", I also assumed you meant the guy who is really thinking "nah, I'm lying: I want to crush you."

    I'm not sure I've ever gone 100% full speed in class. I always try to stay relaxed and technical. However, that could be because I also don't compete (done it once, didn't like it, but will probably do it again at some point), so the super-aggressive, "hulk smash" type sparring doesn't generally appeal to me. ;)

  8. Good point Alanz. I have been guilty of holding guys in my guard. I try now to constantly fire bullets and try to work new sweeps etc.

  9. Additionally, I would say that a more subtle form of fear is not trying a new move you're working on against someone better than you. I have been guilty of working on a new move against lower level guys and but then completely abandoning it against higher level guys in fear of getting ruined trying it. Then if I have to roll against 2 or 3 advanced guys in a row, I really didn't work on anything new that day--I was just surviving with my old tricks. I still may improve a little doing that, but its a much slower process.

  10. Haha, I know a few of each of those guys. Unfortunately I know more than one of the last ones!! I've been guilty of doing the "let's go light thing", except I don't try to go hard after I say that. I will be honest. I've said it on days where I am feeling crappy about my game and intimidated. But ever since my coach gave me some choice words on having to get over my fears, I've been approaching each grapple with this philosophy: I will try. I will do what I know, to the best of my ability. I will be the aggressor. And I will tap. :)

    I think some of my best training days have happened when I feel tired or "not up to it". The reason, in my opinion, is that I go into the grapple not expecting to do well. I take all the pressure off myself and relax. Usually, I roll better because I'm not worrying about it so much. Plus, being tired forces you to rely more on technique than on strength or scrambling.

  11. A.D.: I'm glad you can relate. I really think we all battle internally with these tendencies.

    I know I struggle with it all the time.


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