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Tips on Developing Your Game
One of the best things about training Jiu Jitsu is it’s such a vast martial art with so many different techniques available to you. Inevitably at some point, you will hear people talking about their “game”. What does that mean? When is the right time for you to start working on yours?
With so many techniques available to us in Jiu Jitsu, there’s a number of ways to accomplish the same goal. If you are looking to pass someone’s guard for example, you have tons of options, over the legs, under the legs, around the legs, stack pass, knee over, knee slice, etc. Because there are so many different ways to accomplish the same thing you likely will find a few techniques form each position that you tend to do more often than others. You may feel like certain moves are easier for you because of your body type, or your athleticism. This is what will ultimately make up “your game” when you are ready.
Your game will become your strategy, something you are constantly modifying and working to improve. For example, you may find that you like a specific single leg takedown, to knee on belly. Maybe you like to go to mount from there and start working a mounted triangle choke. Regardless of what series you like best, the point is you will likely start to favor certain techniques or and styles and that will become your game.
But at what point are you ready to start developing your game. I think there are a lot of schools of thought on this. As a general rule of thumb, as a white belt you should be training whatever the instructor is teaching that day. Regardless of what you saw on YouTube, you should be drilling fundamental techniques as often as possible. As a white belt who is looking to progress as quickly as possible, there are a lot of resources available to you. A good place to start would be a something like Professor John Danaher’s “BJJ Fundamentals: Go Further Faster” series on pin escapes and turtle escapes. You may also consider supplementing your training with appropriate strength training. You may choose Gordon Ryan’s “Getting Swole as a Grappler”. Bottom line, focus on learning everything you can. At a typically white belt level, you don’t have enough exposure to the techniques that are out there to start developing a game.
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Congratulations, you are a blue belt now! At the blue belt level, you should be focusing on perfecting the techniques. You should be focusing on doing as much drilling and live training as possible. The blue belt is unfortunately where we as a Jiu Jitsu community lose the most people. Personally, I think there are a lot of factors that play into this. It could be that students get burnt out, they are bored, maybe they even feel they have mastered the martial art. The blue belt is a fun belt, you know enough now to have fun when you’re rolling. You also know enough you can help out with the kids classes, if the instructor will permit. At blue belt, you have what I feel is a superpower.
You have the power to connect with the new students on a level only you as a blue belt can. You haven’t been training so long that you have forgotten what it was like when you walked in the academy to train the first few times, but you know enough to give them some friendly pointers on how to make the best of the training experience. As you progress through the blue belt rank and approach the rank of purple belt, you will likely start to notice you have some go to moves in certain situations. Use this time as an opportunity to further develop the techniques you are working on through private lessons, or video instruction perhaps, but do this while still attending classes regularly and learning new techniques.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the purple belt is the belt of exploration. This is where you start to have enough knowledge to start building the foundation of your game. What guard do you feel most comfortable in? What are your favorite submissions? Remember, while you have some knowledge, you don’t know what you don’t know, there is a ton to learn in Jiu Jitsu and at this level we are just scratching the surface. It’s likely safe for you at this point to start looking to develop your game, as long as you have the right mindset. You should still be attending class and drilling that move with your training partner. Much like the blue belt level, you have the unique ability to partner with the new students, and help ensure they have a great experience!
Don’t take the responsibility of helping the new students lightly. This is arguably the best thing we can give back to the sport. Don’t get so busy working on your game that you forget what it was like when you first started. It seems the higher you go in this sport, the more important it is to stay humble, and give back whenever possible.
Go Further Faster looks to provide a road map to success. Go Further Faster will provide details only Danaher can, and will lay the groundwork for the rest of your game. Whether you are a complete beginner or a grizzled mat veteran John Danaher has the tools to give you to become a dynamic problem solver like many of his students!