Photo: William Burkhardt- BJJ Pix
By Guillaume (Gile) Huni, BJJ black belt and head instructor of Kimura Academy in Belgrade, Serbia.
Back when I was in my early 20’s I used to love sparring and beating up my older training partners that were in their 40’s. They were mostly slow and had terrible cardio. Fast forward 20 years, and now I’m that 40 year old guy now with old injuries and slow(ish). I still compete and do alright, but I know that I’m past ‘my prime’ and after in my late 40’s my body will start to slow down way faster. This means that I’ll be forced to adapt and evolve my jiu-jitsu game or else keep having a hard time facing more athletic young guns in training and competition.
Thankfully I’ve set up a plan which I will share with you.
There is a guy who trains with me, I won’t reveal his name but let’s just call him “Mr. Half guard”. He is someone who is not fast, has almost no stand up, has average strength, and is not explosive. On the other hand, he is very strategic, very defensive, patient, and has a whole game revolved around a position in which he is a master: the half guard. I’ve seen some of our younger and athletic guys get caught in his spider web and have their whole game rendered completely senseless when they spar with him. What he does so well, is slow down the game, and let his opponents do all the work. He will wait patiently for a mistake then capitalize with a sweep at the right moment. The reason that he plays this game is by necessity as he realizes that he can’t compete with the others with his muscles and speed (or lack of), but he can with his intellect.
So let’s break down the key concepts of this style:
1. Protect yourself and awareness.
2. Make your opponent do all the work.
1. Protect yourself and awareness: One thing that a lot of people take for granted is having a good defense. It’s more popular to learn a fancy guard pass or submissions. Try learning how to shut down your opponent by being aware of what he’s doing and DEFENDING EARLY. It’s like the famous saying, how do you defend a rear naked choke? Don’t get there in the first place. You need to have awareness and protect yourself at all times.
2. Make your opponent do all the work: Staying calm is a must. It’s is when you are completely panicked that you gas out in a fight. Control your breathing and do not rush. This is where the defensive style comes into play. Rushing to achieve a sub or position can cause you to lose position and possibly the fight. Why try to match the superior strength and endurance of a younger opponent? It is a losing battle. Let them do the work, get frustrated, screw up and then sweep or improve your position. It’s a bit like watching Anderson Silva fight MMA. He won’t hit you unless you attack him. He’s a counter puncher/kicker. Watch this video of one my instructors from France, Black Belt, Hugo Fevrier. He is one of the most patient and strategic guys I’ve seen in competition. He almost always does the same thing. He waits till his opponent pulls guard, passes slowly, when he is in side control, uses a lethal technique which consists of putting his elbow and knee in your ribs, to open up either an armbar or a choke. Watch this video of one of his fights.
3. Baiting: when you get your opponent stuck in the position that you’ve mastered (full guard, half guard, top or bottom) you have to be patient and work all the little secret techniques that you know will have an effect on your opponent. I remember sparring with a 40 year old black belt from London at the Carlson Gracie academy (Simon Hayes) a few years ago. His specialty was fighting on top in the opponent’s close guard. He was a master in the single under hook pass and he would nail everybody with it. The thing is he would bait the opponent by putting his right arm inside the opponent’s legs so that he would go for a triangle. But Simon was a master at placing his body in such a way that he would already be working on a pass before the opponent could close his triangle. He usually finished with a choke or guard pass. This is a move that he drilled and trained for years and he mastered it.
In this video of Simon at the Europeans you can see what I mean: FFWD to 3:15 to see the baiting and the pass, and submission.
4. Capitalizing: When you see that your opponent falls for your trap is when you have to capitalize with your go to moves (a submission, a sweep or a pass). This is where timing is key. You acquire this skill from years of practice and feeling the right time.
One more thing I’d like to add. With age, the first thing you lose is speed but the last thing you will lose is power. When you feel that you’re slowing down, you can compensate this by focusing on a good strength and conditioning program. If you ask me technique, strategy, and strength is a very good combination to have in your jiu-jitsu style. With those 3, who needs speed…
Learn from the most successful closed guard player ever with Roger Gracie’s closed guard system, totally explained in this 4-part series
- Lock on airtight submissions that work at elite levels, including cross chokes, lapel chokes, arm locks, and more.
- Roger Gracie is one of the most dominant grapplers in history, with 10 Black Belt World Championships and 2-Time ADCC Champion – and he did it with old school Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.