There are many different Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Some people are casual, some are competitors and some are teachers. This is the beauty of BJJ. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has a depth in technique and concept that allows an individual to engage in this martial art at varying degrees, yet still benefit from its lessons.
Regardless of how often you train, or how hard you train, there is one underlying factor in common. Every practitioner wants to get the most out of their training and with a limited amount of time allowed you must ask yourself this question: “What should I practice?” This simple question can have many different answers, and the correct answer will ultimately depend on how advanced you are and your desired use of these techniques (grappling competitions, self-defense or mixed martial arts).
If you are a beginner or intermediate grappler then I am about to give you a revelation of epic proportions. You (in all your awesomeness) are not much different than every other human being on this planet. This may be in contradiction to what your instructor has told you. I’m sure you’ve been told that some techniques will be difficult for you to accomplish because your arms are too short, or your legs are too long, and while this may or may not be true I argue that you have more in common with your fellow human beings than you have different.
Most of us have two arms, two legs and a head. Although you have varying lengths, shapes and sizes, this should not lead you to undervalue a technique because “it doesn’t fit your body size.” Let me be clear in my statement: I am NOT telling you to try and apply techniques that don’t make sense, but I AM telling you that it is equally important to rep out these techniques as well as your “A-game” techniques. Why, you ask? Because I want you to be a drama queen.
Yes, you read that correctly. I want you to be a drama queen. You may be confused. At this point you’re having a hard time understanding how a drama queen could correlate to better BJJ. Thankfully, I can connect the dots for you.
First we must understand what a drama queen is. In my world, a drama queen is a person who finds relevant issues, stirs up controversy, creates problems and revels in the aftermath. In the absence of relevant issues a good drama queen will even create problems, seemingly out of nowhere, because the need for drama is paramount to living.
My argument is that practicing and drilling techniques outside of your game will be extremely valuable. Not because I want you to perform these techniques, but instead so that you can prevent other people from performing them on you.
Think back to the last time you drilled a move that you didn’t like. What was the reason that you didn’t like this move? Is it because your body is oddly shaped? Is it because your balance is terrible? Or maybe it’s because you have a hard time holding onto a grip? There are a whole host of problems that can arise while learning a new technique and it seems like any one little mistake can lead to failure.
As I stated before, you are not that different from your training partners and when you finally realize this, not just in passing, but REALLY realize this, it can lead to a lot of success. The success is not in the completion of a technique, it is in the prevention of a technique. This form of reverse engineering can be invaluable to your defenses, which in turn is valuable to your progression.
If you are having a hard time understanding this concept I would ask you to think about a technique that you learned in class that you really liked. Think about the time spent drilling this technique with your classmates. Think about how the majority of the class was really excited and pumped up about how “cool” this technique was. Then the moment of truth comes, sparring. You get in a great position to try this cool move and, well, it didn’t work out exactly right. Maybe it worked, maybe it didn’t, but most likely it was a version of the move and your opponent squirmed, moved around and was generally uncooperative. They created problems some that you knew were going to be problems, and others that came seemingly out of nowhere. Your partner was, well, a little bit of a drama queen.
Some of these problems were the result of an intimate understanding of technique that can only be reached through repetitions of the move. It helps build an understanding of movement and space that is very difficult to obtain through any other means. It is for this reason that we should value practicing a technique even if you think it’s outside your athletic or genetic abilities. You need to realize that although it is not going to be a cornerstone of your grappling game plan, it may well be in someone else’s.
Although we often avoid drama queens because they create problems in our lives, I think that we can agree that they are good role models for our training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Remember that we are not as genetically unique as you would like to think and that your training partners will have the same problems that you have. In the event that your opponent’s technique is sound, it is your job to give your opponent problems with that technique. Drudge up all those places where you were off balance or had trouble with timing and insert them into the technique. Find innovative and creative ways to create controversy within your opponent’s movements. Focus on disruption, diversion and destruction.
Finally when your opponent is focused on the drama you have created, you move unnoticed into your techniques. After all, a good drama queen is only trying to take the focus off him/herself and place it somewhere, far, far away from where the real issues are. This is why being a drama queen, at least in the technical sense, can be a great thing.