Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Importance of Repetition

Repetition is a key factor to mastering any movement or technique. However, we tend to forget how important it really is. Every sport requires constant repetition of movements. If we look at basketball for a moment you can see just how important repetition is. When you are first learning to shoot a foul shot in basketball your coach can show you how to shoot the ball properly but that does not mean you will make a basket. Once you know how to shoot the ball properly it is then up to the repetition of shooting the ball to build the other elements that, when they all harmonize, will put the ball in the basket...

The technique of shooting the ball is only one element of actually making a basket. A player needs to understand force management. How much force should they use to make a shot from the foul line or eventually the 3 point line? If to much force is used they will over shoot and if to little they will under shoot. They need to know exactly how much force needs to be used. A player would also have to understand posture and alignment. Accuracy is dependent on force management, posture and good alignment. 

After many repetitions the player will eventually develop a good foul shot. Now they need to figure the same elements out from every angle and distance of the court to be able to apply them without thought at any given moment to be a good shooter. It's pretty amazing that we can even do things like that but repetitions build muscle memory and that's what it takes. To go even further, the player now should start back at the foul line with a defender in front. Sure they can make a foul shot but can they make it with a defender? This adds the elements of timing,set ups, and balance to the equation. They should start drilling the shot over and over with defenders now. Once they get good at that they should work it from every where and try new creative drills in order to ensure that when the game time comes, they can make that shot.

A players coach can only tell them so much before he says," Now just stand at the foul line and start shooting.". In jiu-jitsu it is the same way. You have to constantly be repeating your movements over and over again to get the feel of it. It is one thing to know how to do it but to get the feel for it is essential. You have to understand force management, posture and alignment just to succeed in a cooperative drill. Then after you develop the feel for a technique you need to begin drilling it with aliveness to learn the timing and balance. Lastly, you will then drill it with resistance to understand how to set it up and link it to the rest of the game. 

If you skip out on the repetition of your techniques, you will still be that player who knows how to shoot a ball but can never make a basket. What good is it to know how to shoot a ball if you can not make a basket? In class, your instructor teaches you the moves and you rep them and drill them but you need to be constantly doing that on your own as well during open mat sessions or whenever you can. The down fall of jiu-jitsu is that live sparring can be so much fun that we choose to do that instead of doing focused drills when we should be. Repetition drills are what better your game in the end. You don't have to just keep repeating a move over and over again. Once you can make 5 out of 5 foul shots you can start adding different elements to the foul shot to make it a better drill at that point. So when you learn a new guard sweep, it is important even after you get the basic idea of how to do the move, to keep repeating it over and over again until you don't have to think about the steps anymore. Understand your force management, posture and alignment. Once you smooth it out you need to add some movement with your partner to develop timing and balance. Eventually, add some real resistance to learn your set ups and pace of the technique. If you do these things and become more and more creative with them as you excel in the move, you will reap the benefits of repetition training and EXCEL MUCH FASTER in your BJJ GAME!

Here is an old video I made back in 2008 demonstrating this very idea.

How to Get The Most From Your Training Partners

If you have read my home page or e-mails you will have gotten a general idea of what I am about to explain. In this blog I am going to go a little deeper into the concept of how to EXCEL QUICKLY in your jiu-jitsu game NO MATTER what LEVEL training partners you have. Generally in Jiu-Jitsu, there are 3 basic levels in comparison to yours.

1. Lesser Skilled
2. Equal Skilled
3. Greater Skilled

When a lesser skilled partner is rolling with a greater skilled partner, realistically, the lesser skilled partner is always practicing defense while the greater skilled partner is working offense. Of course the greater skilled partner can allow the lesser skilled partner to work offense but an allowed offense and an allowed defense will never be the same as that which has to be forced.For instance, I can allow a lesser skilled opponent to be offensive on me and I can learn and gain from that experience but it will never be the same as when my opponent is forcing me to defend. On the same note an offense that is allowed will be the same as an offense that is created and established by enforcing your will on another. 

When two equal skilled partners roll or drill, the offense and defense goes back and forth and the end of the match is unpredictable. This is great for the emotional or mental part of the game. The roller coaster of action often causes a lot of thoughts to cross through your mind as you roll and it helps to mimic how you will feel in competition. This trains you to stay focused no matter what the situation. If you roll with a higher belt it is not as emotional when you get tapped or put in bad situations because it is expected. So in short, 

- Rolling with a greater skilled partner builds your defense
- Rolling with a lesser skilled partner allows you to practice your offense
- Rolling with an equal skilled partner allows you to work both and often creates more of an emotional roller coaster.

Some people say that you should roll with higher levels all the time if you want to get better but I think all three are equally important.

Because this is the natural flow when rolling it is important create drills that can break this natural flow when paired up with unequal leveled partners. Here are some different situations that may occur when training.

Situation # 1
You are lesser skilled and paired with a higher skilled partner.

When it is your turn to pick a drill it would be silly to practice something like mount escapes against a partner who can hold you there all day. They have two options. One is to hold you down all day and the other is to make you work and eventually let you out. Neither one of those options really benefit you. It would be much smarter for you to put the greater skilled opponent in a more vulnerable situation so that you can make them work a littler harder and so that you can engage a little more. A good option might be to start in a submission and try to finish it. You should at least start in a solid offensive position.

Situation # 2 
You are greater skilled and paired with a lesser skilled partner.

As a greater skilled partner you can look at this in two different ways.

1.  Create a scenario with the lesser skilled partner that allows you to work on that specific technique in a live drill. This will give you the ability to relax while focusing on the technique you wish to improve on. If your trying to improve on a new technique it may be very difficult to stay within the parameters of that technique against some who is equal or greater skilled. With a lesser skilled partner you can really take the time to study and enhance your technique even in a live drill. 

2. Limit your options so that you are forced to work harder.
A good example of this might be a guard drill where your lesser skilled partner is trying to pass your guard and you are unable to use your arms. Grab your lapels and tuck your elbows and try to sweep or submit your partner without using your arms while they try to pass using all they have. This will benefit both partners because you will have to work harder to defend and your limitations will allow for you partner to be more active in passing your guard. You can create many drills like this. You could simply roll and only allow for yourself to do one submission. Preferably a complicated one. 

Situation # 3 
You and your partner are equally skilled.

In this situation you can do just about anything because there is always the possibility that you can escape or that you can finish your partner given any situation. One thing that I think is always a good option with equal skilled partners is positional drills. When two opponents are really close in skill it is often hard to establish and maintain really solid positions. So in this situation it is always a good time to practice drills that focus on establishing and maintaining positions.

These are just some brief ideas to get you thinking about how to get the most out of your training partners. These ideas are meant for mainly mixed group sessions such as open mats that allow for some freedom in your training. They are made to help counter what happens naturally when you are paired up with a different level opponent. If you are purposeful in your training you can always gain from ANY training partner and they from YOU.

Base Development

Balance comes in many forms. You can stand on one leg, do a hand stand, balance on a stability ball, ride a unicycle, surf, balance objects on your hands or get trapped in someone X-Guard or De La Riva Guard! Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a handstand. It's important to practice balance in as many forms as you can in order to develop a true sense of balance.

Did you know that one definition for balance is to be in a state of rest when two points are equally distributed over a point of leverage? When I first discovered the idea that Balance = Rest it helped my Jiu-Jitsu TREMENDOUSLY! It's not that you are NOT working. You are always working but eventually you learn to work in a manner that is more subtle, efficient and restful. Maximum results with Minimum effort. This is your goal in jiu-jitsu.

I use this example all the time in class when I am trying to explain core movement in jiu-jitsu so I figured I would go ahead and blog it. When you are grapping it is absolutely necessary that you keep active. You do not want to be over reactive and chaotic but you must always be working. When I use the term "working" I want to be clear that I don't mean burning alot of energy or using a lot of force. What I mean is to keep moving forward, keep pressing toward a goal. Your goal, however, is to do this with minimum exertion. As an example, I say it is like balancing a broom stick on your the palm of your hand. I am sure we have all done this as kids. You take a broom stick or any big stick and vertically place it on your palm. Try to balance the stick and keep it from falling off your palm. You can't use anything other than your palm to balance the stick. At first, you end up running all over the place trying to keep that stick from falling. The reason is that we wait to long to respond to the stick as it begins to lean. This causes us to over react in order to make up for the timing. As you get better at balancing the stick, you are eventually able to stand still and even keep your hand pretty still with out having the stick fall. This is because you are learning to feel the stick and your senses pick up on where and when to move your hand. You also learn not to over react but to be very subtle in your movements. The more subtly you can move your hand the easier it will be to keep the stick balanced. All though it looks like your not working, when you are good at balancing the stick, you are actually working a lot. You are just not over working and using more energy than needed.

This is jiu-jitsu. The gentle art. Always working but only as much as needed. Never over reacting. Never forcing. If you learn to use your hips like you use your hand when you balance a stick you will develop very dominant grappling ability. Your ability to stay active with your hips and use them to control your opponent (as your would control the stick) will allow you to use minimum effort to hold people down, to scramble or to attack.

It is important that we do exercises like balancing a stick that allow us to practice balance and sensitivity. Stability balls are great for learning core balance. Doing hand stands will really help you understand balance and the right type of work ethic. The truth is that when you are balanced you are not working in the sense of burning a lot of energy. When you learn to stick a hand stand it is almost as if some one is holding your feet. They feel locked into place and all though you have to work subtly to keep them there, your not burning a lot of energy. Balance is strength. When you have good balance you feel strong. Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a hand stand. Just because you can do a hand stand it does not mean you can balance a stick. Try it all! Learn to balance as many ways as possible. I GUARANTEE it will BOOST your jiu-jitsu game!

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Art of Grip Fighting

While the concept and intent to grip fight goes a long way within itself, there is also an art to grip fighting. If you have read my e-mails you know that my # 1 rule is that when you stop grip fighting, you lose. Plain and simple. The moment you stop grip fighting you will lose the immediate situation at hand. In turn this could cost you the whole match.

Grip fighting can be exhausting. While it can be exhausting on your fore arms I don't even mean so much the physical exhaustion. Grip fighting can be mentally exhausting. You have to stay focused to grip fight. Sometimes I will be grappling with people and they start of putting up a good grip fight but eventually they fade and lose focus. Once that happens they lose.

Having specific systems in place in different positions helps you to be a more efficient grip fighter. Here I am going to show you one way I like to grip fight from the top guard.

You can apply grip fighting strategies like this in every position or situation. I once did a special 90 minute workshop just on grip fighting strategies for my students and it made a HUGE difference in the WHOLE feel and level of their game when I would grapple with them afterward.  If you are not currently focused on the intent of grip fighting and grip fighting strategies, you need to start implementing it NOW!