Guest post by James Duscio, a BJJ black belt under Walter Cascao Vital. He runs Cascao Evolution BJJ out of Las Vegas nv.
Everybody starts their Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu journey with their own goals and intentions, and for some that includes the goal of competing in MMA. The question then becomes, when is a BJJ player ready for the cage? I don’t think there is a blanket answer that puts a belt color or time requirement for that moment, but there are some check points that need to be met.
First you have to understand that every fight in the cage starts on the feet. You need good distance management with solid striking defense against the most common punches, kicks, elbows and knees. You need to have a solid takedown game that is set up off of your strikes and theirs. This includes not only traditional stand up range, but also inside the clinch and against the cage.
Second you need a certain level of athleticism. I hate to say it, but its true. Gone are the days when the pure BJJ fighter was fighting an opponent that had a weak grappling game. Now a days they know what you know and with athleticism to back up their skills. Being strong and fast with good endurance is necessary.
Third, you need to be able to defend strikes from all bottom positions and you need to do it proficiently. When you have somebody mounting you with a strong intent and skill to pound your skull in, your defense better be in line or else your instincts might be to give your back and leave you open to get pounded out or choked out.
Last, you need an aggressive mentality. One reason I love BJJ is because you can have a certain level of passiveness and still be effective, but once strikes and athleticism come into play, well that same passiveness can get you hurt. You need to have the mind set that consistently pushes you forward towards controlling positions and then going for the finish. The rounds are short and don’t allow for the historical no time limit wear them down strategies. You need to create the openings and go for it.
To bottom line this, you have to be in shape, because strength, cardio and speed do matter. You need to stay safe from their strikes standing and on the ground. Your takedowns need to be incorporated with strikes defensively and offensively. You need to be able to stay safe from the classic submissions while getting to controlling positions and going for a finish. Hesitation will get you hurt. Start against a similar level opponent and have fun exploring the truest and purest expression of martial arts out side of war, MMA.
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