There is a very good brown belt at the gym. I train with him nearly everyday, and we have a friendly rivalry going... It isn't really a rivalry, mostly it is him trying out new sweeps and me getting choked. Anyway, I use him as a reality check in my ground game. In any pursuit, the distribution of skill looks very much like a negative slope... really you don't know a negative slope? Grrrr... positive slope increases from left to right, and negative slope DEcreases from left to right, back to the point... You have a ton of people in the beginner skill levels, fewer at intermediate skill levels, and the fewest at the high skill levels. In Martial Arts, those at the right of the slope need to figure out a way to train with those on the left of the slope, and STILL improve their technique. How is that done?
The method I use is two fold, first I am looking for very specific techniques to perform. These techniques are typically things I have identified as areas I need to improve, or new techniques that I want to perfect before attempting them on greater skilled opposition. For instance, this week are am working on omoplata sweeps from closed guard. These sweeps require a bit of setting up to do, and if executed incorrectly can lead to loss of position. I want to get them to a point where I am comfortable enough to throw them on like I throw around my other sweeps.
The other part is to attempt to execute each position change, pass, and submission as perfectly as possible. This is MUCH harder than it seems. Many times lower skilled practitioners will let you get away with sloppy or muscled technique. You have to resist the impulse to take the easy sloppiness, and work for the perfect movement.
Anyway, I like rolling with this brown belt because our games just so happen to diametrically oppose one another. For the time being, I am a "top" player. I work to put my opponent on their back and pass their guard. Once passed I work the three main superior top positions (side control, north south, and mount) looking for my submissions. His game is centered upon sweeps and submissions from the major inferior bottom positions (guard and half guard). So, when we roll his natural inclination is to get to half guard and work the sweep, my natural inclination is to put him on his back and work the pass. What happens is we end up doing a lot of 3/4 guard and partial passes.
3/4 guard. One leg is up on the opponent's back while the other leg is not passed, but pinned underneath the opponent.
It usually ends when I get too greedy and attempt to muscle a pass and I get swept. He takes the back and it is me defending chokes until he gets one or until time runs out. I am currently working on being patient and executing very tight sweeps... It goes slowly.
Today, after working my omoplata sweeps on the lower belts, I faced this particular brown belt for the last go of the morning. I decided that this time, I would be the one who would get to guard, and put him off his normal game. I very very rarely attempt to do this kind of thing with skilled guys. I am not at all comfortable with my guard game. I much prefer the half guard, because the sweeps from half guard are sneakier, and they lead to my strengths, passing and attaining the top.
Because it is such an unusual move for me, I surprise the brown belt and attain guard. As he sets posture and starts his pass I notice something... His head is low to my chest and his left hand is not pushing down on my right hip. Instead his hand is resting against his abdomen as he is attempting to dig his elbow in to my thigh muscle to force my legs open. Anyone who has ever been in my friend Mike Martin's guard knows this is a mistake. All you need to do is give a little push on the elbow, and bring the right leg up and around the left arm, BANG triangle choke. So, this is what I do. Push the arm, hips come up, right leg goes over and locks behind the left knee. Again, I have surprised him. He tries to make posture, but I have his head and arm trapped to my chest. All he succeeds in doing is making space behind his legs. I use this to hook my right arm underneath his left leg. I pull on my new lever and get myself in to perfect triangle choke position. Right leg perpendicular and resting on his neck, his right arm across my chest resting on my right side, my left leg locking straight down, with my right foot under my left knee. Perfect. To end the submission I turn his right arm up so that his thumb is pointing at the ceiling and extend my hips, simultaneously tightening the choke, and hyper-extending the arm for the additional submission. He taps!
This was a big deal for me, because it was the first time that I caught this guy. It also could mark for me a change in my game. I don't necessarily need to be looking for the top position anymore. I can start to search for guard and the inferior positions if the opportunity presents itself. This will greatly expand my game, and make me much less predictable. Perhaps if I can threaten the guard positions, it will make this and the other brown belts think twice before slipping in to their comfortable sweep setups, giving me the edge I need to pass and reach the superior top positions that I am most comfortable with. The main thing that it teaches me is that I need to be able to switch tactics when I meet up with someone who may have a game to counter my tried and true moves. If I can do that, I might actually have a chance at improving my game to a point where I believe that I deserve the belt that I wear.