Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter Cascao Vital. He runs Cascao Evolution BJJ out of Las Vegas nv.
When you see a powerlifter or a swimmer going into their practice session, they bring with them something very few BJJ students bring to the mats, focused training goals that have been programmed out. So often a grappler will just walk into class, follow the instructions from the Black Belt while learning a few new techniques and then roll to win every round for 30 minutes or so. This gets them a good sweat and then they head for home. Probably sounds familiar to most and there is nothing wrong with this approach, unless you want to progress more effectively with proper training efficiency.
To get to your full potential, you need to analyze your game and see what areas are your strong and weak points. Now choose a weak area in your game that you want to work on. An example could be bottom butterfly guard. You never use butterfly guard, you may know the basics, but your techniques there lack detail, tactics and confidence. So you map out the major paths of this guard system, which are entries, sweeps, retention, submissions and transitions. Now create a training plan for butterfly guard improvement, which includes non resistance drills, resistance drills, positional drills, as well as goal focused rolling rounds.
Week one could look something like, going through some planned sweep and entry drills, then starting every round of rolling from closed guard with a switch to butterfly guard followed by a classic sweep. After class analyze what went right and what went wrong. Maybe they were blocking your hips in closed guard making it impossible to enter into butterfly. Maybe they were posting with a leg stopping your sweep or maybe your technique was just off point. No matter what the barricade ended up being, its now up to you to find a solution around each sticking point. So the next week you start with your drills including the tweaks learned from the failed experiences last class and have each round start the same as last week, but now you find your self manipulating their posture to prevent the hip blockage from guard and you slip your butterfly right in. Then when they post with their leg, you begin a counter sweep or even a leg attack entry. The combinations and chaining of techniques from each position is endless. It might take you two to three weeks before you feel comfortable to begin adding to your current system so stay working on each area until it becomes second nature. Its your pace.
Now imagine what your butterfly game would look like after a solid six weeks or even three months of concentrated, planned out effort. It would become the best butterfly guard in the school. This is exactly what the top level BJJ guys do with their training, as well as most high level athletes in all other sports as well. They break down their skills to see what needs work, and they program out a game plan to address those issues, where BJJ guys often just do “go with the flow training” with very little proactive programming.
There are always areas big and small that need focus and work in our grappling game. We cannot wait and rely on our instructor to hold our hand through all our belt levels. We need to take individual responsibility to analyze our game, find the holes, create a game plan and execute that game plan. Use your instructor as a guide and a consultant. They are incredible resources that are willing and able to help you. Once one area has been improved upon dramatically, move on to another area with the same strategy. Be consistent with this type of focused training and within a year you will have a much more dangerous game. Drill with a purpose, with each round roll with a purpose and be consistent with giving your game a direction and focus and you will never stop progressing.