Know Your Audience: Three Different Games For Visiting New Schools
Jiu Jitsu can be an invaluable key to meeting new people and to discovering authentic communities when you hit the road.
Over the past four years, I have trained in places like Maui, Iceland, Barcelona and San Francisco, and I am always amazed at how welcoming practitioners are when I have visited their academies for a day or week at a time. If you are fortunate enough to be allowed to train at a new academy while travelling, then you really should anticipate changing your approach to rolling so that you create a positive experience for your partners and for their coach, who will be watching your mat behavior very carefully.
The last thing you want to do upon hitting the mats is to play an offensive, spazzy game and alienate an entire class against you. For instance, opening with an Imanari Roll to Ashi Garami to Outside Heel Hook is not a great idea. Neither would it be advisable to work on you Can Opener/Knee on Throat game; such behavior will either have you being asked to leave the mats or the coach will release the dreaded enforcer upon you. Either way, you will have lost access to what could have been an awesome place to train every time you hit Hawaii or New York City for vacation. You will also need to recognize that black belts talk and if you walk into a gym with poor behaviour, then a phone call or email may be dropped back to your home gym's coach.
So far in my travels I have visited around thirty different gyms for training. In fact, I am travelling as I write this blog, and I trained the night before at an academy that I have been welcomed with open arms for the past four years. What are your options for an approach to rolling with new partners, and which techniques are usually positive? Personally, I have three different games I like to use and rotate as I become more comfortable with my surroundings.
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The technical game is almost always the safest place to begin your time at an unfamiliar gym. By technical, I mean working on fundamental techniques in a thoughtful manner. So for instance, this might be a perfect time to go deep into a specific guard that you are working on. Entering into Spider grips or a Butterfly game is not going to offend anyone. You might get smashed and need to regroup, but it means that you allow your opponent show you what kind of game members of his academy tends to prefer.
Opening Rubber Guard with Gordon Ryan
Be wary if your first roll is with the main coach and he sits to play an open guard. He is undoubtedly testing you to see how you will treat his students, so this is not the time to bring out your cartwheel passes or the nifty kneebar you watched on YouTube the night before. Instead, I strongly suggest calmly working on the types of technical guard passing that you might see in matches featuring the Mendes brothers, Marcelo Garcia or Gordon Ryan. Indeed, some time practicing the techniques featured in an instruction like Systematically Attacking The Guard by Gordon Ryan will give you the confidence to try guard passes repeatedly without losing your cool against the school's main coach. Remember that he may want to see what you do in situations where you might become frustrated. Calm, technical guard passing is a good way to reassure that he made the right choice to open his doors to you.
Another possibility is that you will be matched up with a white belt with little experience or strength. Here is your chance to play positions and work on the fundamentals of mount control and basic attacks such as the Americana or Cross Collar Choke. Your job here is not to tap the soul out of your eager partner, but rather to demonstrate genuine empathy for their frustration under a superior partner. You may also need to deal with a few odd maneuvers and a lot of strength being propelled your way. Calmness and transitioning to new positions often alleviates their eagerness to tap out the new guy to gain the attention of his or her coach. If you are really feeling beat up or frustrated at the end of the round, then you can always slip in a tasty choke to show your partner that you were trying to be a great partner instead of killing it.
Next up, once the technical game falls apart and you end up being swept or having gracefully lost your position, then it is time to play the survival and escape game. Sweeps happen, and should almost be a positive event when first visiting a new gym. Once you hit the bottom, you may get a chance to work on sweeps or guard retention. However, you will more likely end up in a survival posture against an upper belt. Relax, breathe and take this as an opportunity to show that you have both technique and grit. You may be put in a situation wherein a heavy knee is on your belly or a choke is pretty tight. In some cases, people want to see if you have learned to remain calm under pressure while others hope to see that you are intelligent enough to tap and let your ego go. Personally, I can usually tell what the upper belt wants to see and I will tough it out in a difficult position for a long time just to hear the brief praise of "good" from my superior opponent.
How To Do The Perfect BJJ Side Control Escape by John Danaher
If I were to start somewhere with perfecting my escapes, then it would undoubtedly be Pin Escapes & Turtle Escapes: BJJ Fundamentals - Go Further Faster by John Danaher. Like in all of Danaher's tutorials, he clearly explains the principles through heuristics and simple concepts. When you find yourself in side control bottom, and you will find yourself there more than in any other position, then you will be happy to have spent the time learning this material. While it may not feel like the most exciting area to spend your professional development funds upon, the effective techniques taught by Professor Danaher will reap great rewards not only in your own gym, but also at any academy you will walk into. I can attest to the efficacy of his Back System instructional, as it gave me an absolute awareness of what the black belts I faced last night were aiming to do once they took my back. I may not have always been able to stop my opponent, but it definitely bought me precious seconds of further play.
Guard Passing Techniques That Will Work INSTANTLY! Click Learn More below!
Finally, you will want to have this last option to play when the situation arises: the pressure game. Pressure is a funny thing. I would not want to open up with any serious pressure with new opponents. Rather I would suggest saving it for the overzealous opponent who just ripped a careless armbar or ground his shoulder clear through your ear and bottom jaw. Pressure takes time to develop and it usually takes some time to cook your opponent so that he feels helpless, breathless and wary. Pressure will make him regret letting you pass his legs, but never leaves him feeling like you are out of control or an unworthy opponent.
Mount Concepts by Murilo Bustamante
If you are wondering where to start improving your own pressure, then two great places to start are Battle Tested Pressure Passing by Bernardo Faria or Old School Crushing Pressure and Submissions by Murilo Bustamante. Both instructionals will offer a foundation of passes and concepts that will make your top game valid in every academy across the world. The flying triangle wristlock may look cool on Instagram, but will make no friends among most of the community at large. Personally, I like to use a soul-stealing kesa gatame hold or Kurt Osiander's infamous Animal Planet to slow down my partner's movements.
In the end, what you want to aspire to achieve when visiting new training venues is to be a solid partner who is both humble and competent. You are not raiding the academy for heads and arms for your trophy case at home; remember that you are a guest in your host's house, so you always need to abide by the rules and to play with a game that makes your guest wish you were his own student or that you might stay just a little longer. Eventually, over a few years, you might find that your drop-in fees are waived or that you do add on a few extra days to train with your hard-won jiu jitsu friends.
Check out Gordon’s “Systematically Attacking the Guard”, and while you are at it, you should probably pick up “Getting Swole As A Grappler” his complete meal plan and workout strategy that allowed him to pack on insane amounts of muscle and functional strength. Besides, does anyone not want to be shredded? Yeah…. Didn’t think so.
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