Wednesday, March 15, 2017

How Not To Become a Crappy Black Belt

In BJJ you have various things that you need to be learning and doing at the various belt levels.  Your ability to learn and execute these things will determine your success in competition and in the gym.

As a white belt you job is to learn base and apply it to the basic movements of Jiu-Jitsu.  Whoever has the the best knowledge of base in a white belt competition will be able to overcome the majority of his opponents, because they will be able to execute their passes, set up submissions and counter the other guy's game.  Even if your opponent knows more than you do, if you have a better base you are much more likely to counter his movement.

As a blue belt your job is to deepen your knowledge of base and the basics, but add endurance and stamina.  Put two Blue Belts with equal base and knowledge in a match and the one with better endurance is going to win.  At Blue Belt you will be smashed and smashed and smashed.  You will need to learn how to defend and keep going.  You will learn how to attack and chain those attacks together.  Base is always important, but keeping your movement rolling is the key to success at this level.

As a Purple Belt your job is to develop a game.  You should already know what positions seem to work well for your body type.  The idea now is not to focus on those positions and drill so that you feel absolutely safe in those positions.  Then progress on to some very specific movement in those positions that you get some "signature" submissions from.  From there, instead of just looking to "escape side control" you are moving to escape side control in to a sweep/movement that will put you in to my game.  You see this in upper level matches, their movements are dedicated to directing their opponents in to their specific game.  

At Brown Belt you refine and solidify your game.  All focus is toward that game.  You explore new moves and other movements for the sake of defending them or using them to focus your game.  You hear the complaint, "You always use XYZ pass to XYZ submission."  Your drills are designed to put you in bad situations, so that you can escape, and progress directly to your game.  Your game movements are drilled to the point that even though someone may know exactly what you are going to do, they can't stop it.

At Black Belt your game is at the point where it is as natural as breathing.  Your flow is always, naturally, moving you into and around your game.  Your drilling is for the various "branches" of counters and movements of your game.  Instead of hitting XYZ pass to XYZ submission, you hit XYZ pass to XYZ submission, then flow seamlessly in to XXY submission because XYZ was blocked in one way or another.  This is natural movement, no thought was required to move submissions they just appear.

Where did I go wrong?  At purple belt, I didn't develop a game.  Sure I have positions and stuff that I really like and that are my "go-to" but...  I have too much fun with new positions.  I keep trying them, drilling them.  It means that my execution isn't where it should be.  A good black belt is able to teach the positions, but also has their specific game that is attuned to their use and their body.  A good black belt says "Ok, we are going to go over lasso guard to triangles." when their game is closed guard to top position to mount submissions.

My problem is that because I want to try so much stuff all of the time, I really have no defined game.  I get beat by those that do.  When I run in to someone with a specific, refined game, I get served early and often.  
So, what am I to do?  Well...  I need to build a game.  I need to focus on it.  I know what my game should be, I just need to take the time and drill dirll drill.  But...  I don't want to.  I want to practice all of the new stuff, while tying it together with the old stuff.  I want to drill  a cool way to get to the berimbolo off of a traditional half-guard pass, and I'll throw in a kneebar just for fun.
I am a hobbyist.  I'm 43 years old.  BJJ is not only my exercise and workout, but my decompression and fun.  I'm not competing anymore.  I really don't "have" to create and solidify a game at this point.  BUT...  If I do want to represent my school and my belt when I train other places, I do need something to execute... 

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