With so many streams of information and access to knowledge from across the globe, now more than ever an individual BJJ practitioner has the ability to control their learning trajectory in the form of targeted study during their time on the mat.
I am 100% behind this new evolution as it rapidly increases the knowledge base of practitioners all around. This leads us to some inevitable and important questions however, which are; What topics do we choose to study and why? I believe the answers to these questions are best found in the training room and on the competition mat. Let me explain.
Most, if not all techniques, have a standard, purely mechanical, correct pathway that depicts how they work and how they are applied. They also have an abundance of variations, links, and chains that can initially seem confusing, as in; if there is the perfect way to apply an armbar… why are there so many armbars?
The answer is; Necessity
All variations and innovations are born out of necessity. There are so many body types, game plans, physical and tactical approaches to grappling and the it is a purely application-based art. This means that every innovation in BJJ has been generated through sheer trial and error on the mat in real time situations to solve an immediate physical problem, presented by a fully resisting training partner or competition opponent.
That process of highlighted failure and need for betterment is still the most beneficial, and it will guide you as to where to place your focus of learning and problem solving outside of the mats as well.
Take the current elite level meta trajectory for example. The advent of the leglocks vs bodylock passing era has led to the resurgence of the Choi bar and arm-straightener submission dilemma, due to opponents seeking a heavy cross face and chest-to-chest top pressure early during their passing attack.
So what does this mean? It means that an overhead crunch, passed the hip line and almost cradle style, of passing develops in order to counter the ability to access the arm from the crossface. This is a depiction of variation through necessity as we can then focus our attention on a wrestling ride, near-side underhook, and hip-turk tutorial to better our understanding of guard passing and top pins, diversifying our knowledge in that area. But the only way to know for sure that this development in BJJ is necessary in the first place, is to spend time on the mat experiencing the evolution for yourself.
Another example is the leg-entanglement vs berimbolo back-take era, using the latter to punish the former. In a transition that may look fancy or impractical, it’s progression comes from pure logic and problem solving, brought out once again by the need to innovate to battle against high level attack systems.
How does this effect my mat time when training BJJ?
All too often we see an over willingness to simply roll. Rolling is the fun part of course and what draws us in socially with the varying intensities, training partners and opportunities to employ practically what we have learned technically in an open setting. However the pitfall of course is that we become mindless, or without intention, when we roll with no specific outcome of progression in mind.
Showing up to class or an extra scheduled session and rolling with the same person for an hour, participating in the same cycles over and over again does more to create closed minded habits or more specifically, a strategy designed to overcome one set of variables, as opposed to actively modifying our movements and intentions.
Specific rounds tailored towards trial and error volume, gaining access to huge amounts of data, has become the prevalent way to back up your study and analysis routine with hard physical facts and experience.
No matter how much Information sharing we have, and how much knowledge you can gain conceptually, in order to be the true driver of your own progression and make the best decisions for your personal development, you must spend time on the mat training consistently and without prejudice, willing to experience all possible scenarios available in BJJ. You must be willing and able to take in knowledge from the best and most readily available source that we have; each other.
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