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Training with Intent
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Training with Intent

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Rather than looking at a specific technique today, I wanted to discuss how we think and act in the training room. When starting out as white belts, we just show up to class and drill whatever the coach is teaching that day. 

There is nothing wrong with this, particularly if your gym is large enough to have a dedicated fundamentals class. And for beginners, this honestly the best way to start. Show up, have fun, learn. With regular training you will progress and learn the sport. A good coach should be able to connect the lessons week after week to build a progression of skills.

At mid blue belt to purple belt though, you become much more responsible for your own training. Because at this point you should have at least a passing familiarity most of the positions and concepts of the sport, have an understanding of the fundamental skills, and the outline of a game that works for you.

At this point, your progression is as much in your own hands as it is your coach. There are a variety of strategies for expanding your game, from outside learning, to guided drilling, to target goals during rolling. 

Research

Jiu-jitsu, like any other massive subject, is something that you can spend days researching and never get all the way through. We need to be specific about what we are studying to improve quickly. There are three ways to go about finding new paths for yourself.

First, pick a position or submission that fits into your existing game plan already. Then go find an instructional on that specific subject and watch it. For example, if you play a lot of halfguard, looking in Craig Jones, Lachlan Giles, John Danahar, or Marcus “Buchecha” Almedia are great resources to expand and refine your existing game.

The second path of research is to pick an area of grappling you are a novice at. As a personal example, I realized that I didn’t have a solid plan for nogi stand up, I started watching everything I could find about front headlocks. After a few months of drilling and trying to catch a headlock at every opportunity, I am much more confident going into nogi matches now.  

Filling in gaps of your game is a good place to start if you are not sure where to go in your development. It can be frustrating early on though, given that you are probably not going to be inherently good at it starting off. 

The last way to research is to find athletes with a similar body type exceling at a high level. If you’re a feather weight, looking into Mikey Musumeci and replicating his game plan maybe be a good path for you. 

Guided Drilling 

After research, drilling is the next step. No one got magically good at something by doing it once. If you have time, before or after class with one or two partners is a good way to get work in on the techniques you are trying to add to the arsenal. Setting a timer and having one person just go, getting as many reps in as they can, and switching when the timer goes off.

Even if its only for ten minutes, doing this often will pay dividends when it comes time to roll. Alternatively, open mat is also a good time to get some drilling in. Try to keep this drilling time focused on only a few things, rather then trying to switch to something new every session. 

Goal Oriented Rolling 

The final step is to make sure your new techniques are battle tested. Have a goal at the start of every rolling session, something like “I am only going to go for armbar submissions” or “I want to get focus on getting to singe leg x”.  Starting with white belts, work your way up to higher belts as you have more success to try these goals more knowledgeable and technical defenses. 

This is also a good time to visit other gyms to get fresh looks at your game, if a gym in your area has an open mat you can attend. A training partner there might have a defense you haven’t seen yet. 

As you progress through a new game plan, you have to backtrack several times, from drilling back to research, living training back to drilling as new obstacles come up in rolls. But training with intent will make you a better grappler then the student who just shows up. 

Pressure Passing and Top Game by Rafael Lovato

Pressure Passing and Top Game by Rafael Lovato is a 4-part masterpiece of guard destruction. Take the classic passes you have been doing for years and REVITALIZE it with Lovato’s help. Rafael is one of the most decorated American Jiu-Jitsu practitioners in history. Thankfully for us, his way of instruction might be his biggest accomplishment yet!

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