Should you be drilling, or training the non-dominant side? Or should you focus entirely on the dominant one? Although many instructors have different opinions, this article explores a couple of different reasons as to why one should focus heavily on both during training.
The question of whether to drill on one side or to drill on both will probably come up a lot during your journey in BJJ. If you had the advantage to attack your opponent’s strength, or rather their weakness, where would you go? Of course, it would make the most sense to attack the weakness. However, Nick Albin, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, who is better known as “Chewy” from his “ChewJitsu” YouTube channel, recalls an incident of dealing with dominant versus non-dominant side when he was rolling with an opponent. Chewy was passing to his strong side, which happened to also be his opponent’s strong side, but he found himself stuck. His opponent had some really good positions. So he tried to go to the other side, which happened to be the right side and the weaker one. Chewy often says that his best side is his left, and his good side is right, since he trains them both. So Chewy passed to the right, and blasted his opponent, passing his guard easily. And at that moment, it seemed as if his opponent was reduced to white belt status. Chewy went on to explain that one of his blue belts had rolled with the same guy, and was just getting destroyed on his dominant side. His coach had given him a little cue, and it worked — he easily passed his opponent’s guard, the same way Chewy did. The opponent was a good black belt on one side, but was so underdeveloped on the other that his experience level was comparable to a white belt.
Let’s return to that question: If you had the opportunity to pass, which way are you going to go?
If this were a competition, or a really hard match, you’re probably going to go to that weak side. Chewy advises that in the beginning, you may want to just work the stronger side, because it’s going to be natural, and going to feel comfortable. But then as soon as you can, you want to branch out, and go to that other side. The number one reason for this is that by going to that weak side — the one you are not comfortable with — you almost have to break those moves down and teach them to yourself. You need to figure out why you’re grabbing this, or how does that work. It will give you a better understanding of a particular technique, which will then translate to benefit the weaker side. The more you practice on the weaker side, the more it will develop, and will soon feel quite natural to you without much effort on your part. The key is to develop an understanding of why you’re doing the things you’re doing. Another benefit is that it allows you to attack on both sides. More than likely when you find yourself up against someone they are likely to be weak on one side or the other, so having both sides as an option, allows you to take advantage of your opponent, or training partner’s weaknesses. As a training partner, you are ultimately helping them develop into a better fighter. If people kept constantly attacking their opponent’s non-dominant side, it would force them to deal with the weakness, and get a better defense from that side. But if everybody passes to the dominant side, that’s all the opponent has to worry about.
You will ultimately be an optimum training partner by helping others train a good defense on both sides, and help them become aware of their strengths and weaknesses. On the other hand, you’ll be able to attack and find the weakness, which in the end, greatly benefits you.
In training, start with one side initially, but as soon as you feel comfortable. move to both sides. Doing this properly will allow you the opportunity to attack both sides, and to take advantage of the weaknesses that might be present in your opponent.