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The Game of Jiu Jitsu
You've probably heard the phrase "your BJJ game". Someone's jiu jitsu game typically refers to the moves, techniques or positions, that a particular person tends to use in training or competition. Though at some point we think we're going to master the art by the time we reach that coveted black belt, the sobering truth is that the immense landscape of the art makes it almost impossible for any one practitioner to master every possible technique that is out there and available to them.
So should we stare into the infinite horizon ahead of us when looking at all of the possible BJJ moves and despair? Absolutely not, part of the beauty in studying the art of jiu jitsu is to jump in and develop a game that's as individual as we are. Many things can influence the development of your own unique and individual BJJ game. Let's look at three very impactful forces on how one's game develops and gets shaped over time.
Your Instructor and your game
The academy and instructor that you begin to learn jiu jitsu will have a major effect on how your BJJ game develops. The style or approach of that instructor will shape the curriculum which will shape the techniques that one is exposed to as a student. For example, if one is studying at a school that has an competitive BJJ or MMA focus, he or she will be exposed to a different curriculum and menu of techniques than one would see at a certified Gracie Academy. Like the old nature versus nurture argument, our jiu jitsu is a product of our environment. There is nothing inherently wrong with differences, it is simply something that one must consider when they are developing their particular game plans and assessing their goals. If you have aspirations of being a submission only specialist, you may not make the best progress at a more traditional academy that trains only in the Gi and does not teach any leg attacks.
You and your game
In this section, we will look at a few physical aspects of the martial art that will shape your game plan. Let's say you are an older practitioner who got into jiu jitsu in your 40's or 50's. If you are an average person who doesn't have experience as a contortionist or gymnast, the inverted guard game filled with berimbolo on top of berimbolo might not be your first choice of guards you want to strive to master. It's important through your exposure to the art to find techniques that work for you and do not require body mechanics that are simply impossible. If you have hip flexibility issues or your leg length is shorter, perhaps triangles will not be an integral part of your game plan. Now, can you make improvements to your hip flexibility? Can you make modifications to your triangles or use variations that allow you to exploit your particular body style? Absolutely, but in the grand scheme of life, it's important to look at the return on investment. Perhaps a different type of submission comes really easy to me. Maybe it would be better for me to perfect all of the different ways this technique can be implemented, rather than try to force something that will take an endless amount of time to get better at. Again, there is no right or wrong way to go, simply another point to consider.
Your goals and your game
Lastly, when developing your own BJJ game, it's important to examine what your own goals are. If you are a casual practitioner, you will develop a handful of go to moves and probably be content to continue to improve them while dabbling a bit in the latest flashy technique. But if you plan to be a competitor on even the smallest of stages, this mentality will not save you from even the average competitor who has done their homework and learned slick techniques and defenses that will make your head and your joints spin. Each road is long and will be filled with amazing joy and even a bit of frustration, but at the end, if you've set your goals and followed your path, the reward will be immeasurable.
In the video below, legendary instructor and BJJ black belt under Rickson Gracie, Luis Heredia almost casually shows some of his playful BJJ philosophy that can inject your game with new found energy. And for more information on creating a complete BJJ game, check out this article from BJJ Fanatics here.
In this video, Professor Heredia stresses two very key points that are extremely valuable when developing your own game. First and foremost, if we treat the study of jiu jitsu as a game, we open ourselves up to a much deeper understanding of the ups and downs because we realize that at the end of the day, it's just a game and having a bad day on the mats is never going to be the end of the world. We must simply dust ourselves off and get back out there the next day or next session.
Secondly, controlling a position should always come before "the kill" or the submission. Once we've got our opponents or partners completely controlled, a myriad games open up for us to take advantage of and allow us to secure victory.
So get out there and start developing your game by exposing yourself to the beautiful art of jiu jitsu. Using the guidance of your academy and instructor, you will be able to traverse the broad universe of techniques available to you. And then by looking at your goals and your particular attributes, you will piece together the best possible game for you.
Now's your chance to take advantage of the legendary instruction of Luis Heredia one of Rickson Gracie's longest tenured students. With his 4 DVD "Pure Jiu Jitsu" instructional series you will reclaim what many argue the art of BJJ has lost with the rise of jiu jitsu's popularity, it's essence and foundation. Whether you're a competitor or not, this series will give you a new way to look at the old moves that you may not have fully mastered.