What Are The Right And Wrong Ways To Train Aggressively In Jiu Jitsu?
Exploring aggressiveness in Jiu Jitsu…
Aggression can be defined as a forceful and sometimes overly assertive pursuit of one's aims and interests. Aggressiveness in life is often applauded. However, there are many circumstances where it can be deemed as inappropriate at best and offensive at worst. Aggressiveness, if not implemented strategically, can be a recipe for disaster. Few endeavors in life are successful without aggressiveness. The same is true for the mats. There is a right way to use aggressiveness and a wrong way. Let’s take a few moments and explore aggressiveness in Jiu Jitsu.
One misuse of aggression in Jiu Jitsu is with strength. While it is fine to use strength in Jiu Jitsu, in the training room, it should be used to compliment technique and not in place of technique. I would argue that one first needs to roll without strength before they add it to their game. We all want to show heart and fight hard. However, at times, especially for the novice, strength is substituted for technique in the training room and the result is not Jiu Jitsu. Jiu Jitsu uses technique as a force multiple for strength. Rolling aggressively can only be done correctly with the strategic application of strength. If someone wants to win a fight based solely on strength they are better off pursuing body building and not Jiu Jitsu. Strength is an important component of Jiu Jitsu, however in the training room it is best used as a force multiplier to proper technique.
Other times, people equate aggression as a flurry of action. Hall of Fame basketball player and Coach John Wooden stated, "Don't Mistake Activity for Achievement.” Just because action is being taken (even aggressively) does not mean anything is being accomplished. Consider, for example, if I am in someone’s closed guard. I can flail around aggressively and accomplish a lot of movement. However, most likely, I will not pass the guard based on these actions. Technique and strategy need to be implemented aggressively. In my own game, to pass closed guard, I will intentionally leave my arm at the edge of safety and feign small movement as if I am attempting another pass. I know if I play second in this position, I have a strategic advantage. More often than not people will take the baited submission and I’ll pass. While my actions were limited and certainly not aggressive, my strategy was aggressively implemented. One should aggressively implement their strategy for each position. I am not sitting in top side control to kill time. I want to force a mistake. Knowing what the strength and weakness are in any position and aggressively looking to exploit the strength is a great example of aggression. Even beyond having a positional strategy in place for every position, once could use the aggressive threat of submission to advance position and use the aggressive threat of the position to open up the submission.
So what are some other ways to implement aggression into your game? First, you should aggressively get your repetitions. In our exploration of The Talent Code we talked about the value of a high number of repetitions to learn any new skill. There are times we tend to get very few repetitions in a roll because of our ego. Maybe we don’t want to get tapped out in front of the teacher. Maybe we feel good if a higher belt only taps us out 1 time. There are countless more examples of things that may prohibit our repetitions in the training room. However, unlike a competition or self-defense setting, tapping out does not matter in the training room. It should not be the yard stick a roll is measured by. The yard stick should be the repetitions itself. Consider someone who trains 3 times a week but gets 1 repetition per roll with 3 rolls a session. That equates to 9 reps a week. Compare that number to someone who trains the same 3 days a week with 3 rolls a day. However, this person is able to get 5 repetitions a roll. That certainly is a reasonable number for a 5 minute roll. That person would have 45 repetitions per week. That is a huge difference at the end of one week. Say both people train 48 weeks a year. At the end of that year, the first person would have 432 repetitions completed. The second person would have 2,160 repetitions completed. The difference is astronomical at the end of even the first year.
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Another way to be aggressive is in setting goals. Figuring out the skill to be learned, breaking it down to small pieces, practicing those pieces and then obtaining feedback. Goals are huge in Jiu Jitsu. It is extremely difficult to achieve anything of merit without having an idea ahead of time on what the goals should be. John Danaher advocates goals as an important factor in getting good quickly. He stated, “The danger is that as time passes, progress can be destroyed in two main ways. First, by extended periods away from the mat. Second, by showing up and training without a clear sense of purpose for each session, just complacently showing up and thinking that’s enough. The first will cause you to lose skills you once had; the second will simply maintain whatever skills you do have and no more – guaranteeing a plateau in performance that can go on for months or even years. If you seek excellence – as time passes make a concerted commitment to the idea of MINIMIZING TIME OFF THE MAT AND MAXIMIZING THE VALUE OF YOUR TIME ON THE MAT. Do this by having at least one clear goal every time you go to train and a plan to work towards that goal – showing up is not enough to avoid stagnation. The single best example of this mindset in operation over long periods of time I ever saw was Georges St-Pierre. Despite winning the success that could have easily made anyone else kick back and relax, he trains constantly and learns constantly.”
Aggression has its place in this violent art. Certainly, one can roll aggressively by using a flurry of movement and strength as a substitute of technique. However, that is an example of poor aggression in Jiu Jitsu. There are many positive examples of aggression in Jiu Jitsu. Aggressively implement your strategy for positions. Aggressively seek your repetitions. The value of a roll is not in how many times you tap someone but the quality of practice achieved. Aggressively set goals and destroy them. True aggression can be found in both a death roll and a flow roll. We should not be passive in Jiu Jitsu. However, we should use our aggression strategically.
Don't forget to check out John Danaher's Leglocks ENTER THE SYSTEM PART 1. This series will teach you the concept and techniques that are used by the much feared, "Danaher Death Squad." You can get it here!