“How can I beat someone better than me?” instructors get this question a lot and you might be wondering the same thing too.
The answer is to be specialized in one area, either technical or physical, where you are better than your opponent.
In the video I give lots of examples of what this might look like on the mats.
A really interesting topic when it comes to the development of your game is whether to be ultra specialized in something or be as versatile as possible.
One thing that cannot be denied is that ultra specialization works. All top competitors in the world are specialized in some things. Bernardo Faria is very specialized in the half guard and the over under pass. The Miyao brothers are specialized in the berimbolo. The list goes on.
But what does specialization mean? It means that you base your game around certain techniques and that you will become so proficient in those techniques, that you will have a counter for every reaction your opponent has. Does specializing in things mean you won’t know other things? No, in fact top competitors are very proficient in most of the positions that they will find themselves in. Let’s put it another way. A good black belt that specializes in De la Riva can show you techniques from there and with details that you probably won’t see at many other guys. He will still be able to show you other techniques, but not with that level of detail. The danger that comes with specialization is that some people focus so much on it, that their game is very narrow and forget to take a look at the bigger picture and learn new things outside of their game. This will lead to being a one trick pony and should not be confused with being specialized in something.
As we said before, while specializing on certain techniques will probably yield you some good tournament results, it may very likely be that it will not be anywhere near as fun as being the versatile guy. That happens because in order to be specialized in something, you have to target your training very careful towards specific situations. You want to become a good half guard player? You will have to stop using any other guard and every sparring session go to the half guard and work from there. Any moment spent doing something else is a moment you’ll be spending NOT improving your half guard. You will also face the frustration of reaching eventual plateaus where people learn how to counter your every move and you will have to push through them and persist with your chosen techniques until you find a breakthrough.
In this video Stephen Kesting gives lots of examples of what being specialized might look like on the mats.