BJJ: Positional Advice

Earlier this year, we headed to Malaysia for our annual trip to visit my parents for Chinese New Year. We were in Malaysia for 3 weeks this year and headed back to Leverage Combat Academy to train.

As with last year, it was an amazing experience, if anything it was even better this year because we got to attend more classes and got to meet and roll with more people. I learnt a great deal and got some new perspectives to add to my training.

IMG_3587A few of the Leverage guys we trained with during our trip. 

It’s always interesting to hear or learn about how people train BJJ and their philosophies, be it in the way their schools are run, or how they train, or their approach and philosophy of what moves or strategies to pursue while rolling.

Quite a while ago, I asked my own coach for advice for which areas of my jiujitsu I should be focusing on or improving. Of course, this was a very general question and so my coach offered me this insight: He said that as a small and not very strong person in the gym, I’m going to be finding myself on my back a lot and so I should be working on my closed guard.

Later on, I was asking advice from another of my instructors as to what strategy I should be pursuing (ie: guard game or top game). His advice was that as a small person, I should be trying to go for top because why would I want to be squished by someone bigger than me?

When I was training in Leverage, I was talking to the instructor there and mentioned my difficulties in facing larger opponents. He offered me this advice: As a small person, go for the back. If I have my opponent’s back, I’ve got all my weapons against them and they won’t have any of theirs against me.

Three coaches, three different sets of advice or perspectives. 🙂 This is why I love BJJ or martial arts in general.

I like all three suggestions and I can understand them all. And I don’t know if its by luck or if its by the way I think or go about my training, it feels like they came at the right times in my training.

The first advice: Maintain and focus on closed guard.

Screen Shot 2013-09-03 at 10.55.15 PMMy first ever No-Gi Comp at the 2013 Australian Girls in Gi Competition

When I got this piece of advice, I was still feeling very uncertain of what things I knew and I didn’t know what I liked or disliked to do. So when my coach said this, I did notice that I did end up on my back a lot and felt rather useless there. So I started focusing on making sure I got to closed guard. At first it didn’t matter what I did from there, as long as I got my legs around and my guard closed, I felt like I’d won the battle. Of course, it was only natural that I started to feel more comfortable in this position and then started thinking about how to attack from this position. So in that way, it focused my training towards the kind of submissions I like or am able to do from guard.

The second advice: Get on top so I don’t get squished.

panpacs2013-362013 Pan Pacific Championships, I started in guard but not being able to do what I wanted, I disengaged and managed to get a takedown and worked my way to a top position.

 This came a little later when I was quite comfortable in guard but starting to realise that sometimes it was hard to do what I wanted to do from guard against someone bigger and stronger than me. So it started me thinking about disengaging, sweeping and also got me to focus more on my top game. I made new discoveries about how to maintain control from top, particularly against larger opponents and this made me really understand the importance of head control and under-hooks. These were very much transferrable to my guard game too.

The third advice: Get on their back.

20131130-_CPS0395I couldn’t find a photo of myself getting anyone’s back so here’s a photo of how I got my back taken at the 2013 Melbourne Opens. I committed a very stupid and almost fatal mistake of shooting for the wrong leg in my attempt for a single-leg takedown.

This only came very recently and I’m still trying to work through this one but I do understand the reasoning behind it. I used to dislike getting back control, especially when I first started jiujitsu. We learned and drilled several basic chokes and I always felt it was impossible. This was when I used to only train in Gi and all those Gi grips would blow my wrist to bits, not to mention trying to drill techniques on my back while someone much heavier than me was lying on me. I just did not feel comfortable and couldn’t understand how it could be such an awesome position when I was getting squished and blowing my short legs out from hooking legs that I could barely reach and wrecking my wrists with uncomfortable Gi grips. If I had been told, just focus on back control way back then, I probably would’ve quit jiujitsu. But now, I’m comfortable and know how to take on weight, I know how to use my leg hooks and I understand the concept of control a lot more so I know how to go about learning to train my back control.

I’m not about to stick literally to each of these suggestions, I don’t want to specialise in any one area of jiujitsu. While it would be cool to be known as the so-and-so specialist, I’m definitely far, FAR away from that part of my journey in jiujitsu where I start focusing on any one kind of game. But I definitely do appreciate these kind of insights and advice because it gets me thinking about why such suggestions would work and that leads me to understand positions and techniques far better. As usual, the name of the game is Train Hard and Keep Learning! 🙂

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