The ultimate submission

The ultimate submission: We all have our favorite submission holds - in time I hope you develop at least five to six submissions that you can attack from anywhere on anyone - but never lose sight of a fundamental truth in grappling - the ultimate submission is not a hold per se - it is FATIGUE. If you can PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY BREAK an opponent with fatigue he will submit with his MIND first and then with his BODY second. A big part of your skill set has to be the skill of WEARING DOWN AND EXHAUSTING AN OPPONENT SO THAT ALL THE SUBMISSION HOLDS ARE EASY TO APPLY AND TO WHICH AN OPPONENT WILL GLADLY SURRENDER. There are ways to control and manipulate grips, stance and pace that are heavily in your favor so that an opponent is working at two or three times the rate you are. If you can maintain this the result is inevitable - an opponent who is looking for an excuse to quit - your submission hold provides that excuse. When you put hands on an opponent your constant underlying goal should be to create a disparity in work rate skewed in your favor that opens the door to submission later in the match.

Taking yourself to a new level

Taking yourself to a new level - front headlocks and the example of Craig Jones: At any given time our game is certain level. This can change a little week by week depending upon training conditions and the state of our body, but there is a rough level that can be roughly measured by your skill set/knowledge and how you stack up against other athletes in sparring/competition. Once you can to a level that you find satisfactory it’s natural to take stock of yourself and see yourself as having a certain type of game. Both you and Your classmates have a good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are. You see yourself as being good at moves A,B and C but not very interested in E and F. You take that skill set of yours and refine it a little and that’s you. You can do pretty well with this approach - but you will never reach your potential. You have to periodically set projects to add whole new aspects to your game. This is the only way to avoid stagnation over time. Take the example of Craig Jones. Early in his career he was known primarily for his triangle attacks. When he came to America to compete in EBI events he realized he had to excel in the leg lock game. He took that project on with such gusto that he became known as one of the best in the world. Not satisfied, he went on to develop a very powerful back attack in response to opponents who ran from the pressure of his leg game. Watching his development a few years ago i talked with him about the need to develop a powerful front headlock/Guillotine game as a counter to opponents who did not want to engage his dangerous submissions game or who were faster than him in a scramble. Immediately he took the project on. Within a short time he was developing lethal variations of Guillotines, anacondas and Darce strangles. Then tying these back to his already formidable back game and leg game. Now he has one of the best front headlock games I’ve ever seen! THIS is how you keep developing. NEVER SEE YOURSELF AS A COMPLETED PROJECT. Rather than cover up and hide your weaknesses - train them to become your new strengths and ally them to your old strengths.

Identify the problem

Identify the problem: Every submission hold has an escape. Every escape involves a set of movements - but invariably there is ONE movement that does the majority of the work of escape. For example in upper body submission holds from guard involving your legs such as triangle, juji gatame arm bar, omoplata etc - most of the early escapes are postural escapes involving your opponents HEAD rising away from you to create distance and this is the core of the escape/defense overall. Once you understand this as the athlete trying to perform the submission it’s all a matter of building increasingly powerful HEAD CONTROL as the basis of your submission game from guard. Focus upon the most pressing problem pays big dividends in Jiu jitsu. In a word of ten thousand problems learning to focus on the biggest ones first makes a big difference to your performance. Under stress it’s much easier to solve one bigger problem than a dozen smaller ones simultaneously. Develop a clear idea of what the biggest threat to your success is and attack that threat relentlessly - you will soon notice the difference in your performance

Class is never really over

Class is never really over: Its natural when you’ve just finished a tough class to want to get the hell out of the dojo and head somewhere less strenuous. Note however, that the time immediately after class is probably the time when you have the most honest and realistic assessments of your ability and flaws as you still have the feelings of exasperation and frustration at failed moves and the memory of exactly what they were. There is no better time therefore to puzzle out the problems fighter there after class. Often my students come to me with problems right after a rough day of sparring. Sometimes I have answers based on my similar experiences from years ago - sometimes i don’t - that’s fine - then it’s time to experiment and figure it out. The feeling of finishing a tough workout is good, but the feeling of finishing a tough workout AND knowing what you need to do to perform better tomorrow is even better. Use that time immediately after class - it’s a great time for improvement.

Are you ready for the next move?

Are you ready for the next move? If there is one certainty in Jiu jitsu it is that the majority of your attempted moves will fail. This is a simple reflection of the fact that your opponents know the same moves you do and also the counters. Given the prevalence of failure it is crucial that you have mapped out what to do the moment you feel that the move has failed and recovery is not possible. We all spend our Jiu jitsu lives seeking to achieve success, but in reality the smart way to approach things is to seek to recover and exploit failure since this is far more common than success. Here Nicky Ryan has lost control of his opponents knee - a clear sign that this heel hook/knee bar attempt has failed beyond recovery - the only question now is where to go from here. If you are asking the question now - it’s already too late. You must train yourself to ask it before that critical moment.

Watching Jiu jitsu

Watching Jiu jitsu: Whenever my students are injured I usually encourage them to come in periodically and watch classes from the sideline. Why? When you can’t train your body - train your MIND. Remember always that the mind governs our actions. You want a faster game in JiuJitsu? That will require a mind that can process options faster just as much as a faster body. The problem is that when most people watch Jiu jitsu they FOLLOW the action rather than try to JUDGE and ANTICIPATE the action. They look only at the RESULT rather than the PROCESSES that brought about the results. When you watch, picture yourself out there and ask yourself second by second what you would be doing in their stead. How you would respond to other fellows attacks and defenses. Get engaged when you watch. The mental workout is every bit as useful and productive as the physical one the athletes on the mat are having.

Looking back at yourself

Looking back at yourself: As much as I encourage students to focus on their future goals and skill development, an important part of that future focus is to periodically look back upon yourself to check for signs of progress. It can be quite a shocking experience to look back at old video of yourself in training. You can learn a lot by looking at old footage and COACHING YOUR OLD SELF. You will of course see a thousand mistakes - you know so much more now than you did then. This simple exercise will reinforce many lessons you learned and crystallize them in a memorable way to help you recall and emphasize them for future training and development. Here, a teenage Gordon Ryan goes through early leg lock training - rough and untutored compared with his current self - but the basic outlines are there. You can see potential and directions for the future. Learn to see the same potential in yourself - take a look back sometimes to help you steer the way forward

Defensive soundness before submission

Defensive soundness before submission: The great cliche of Jiu jitsu is “position before submission” However, in some situations such as ashi garami, conventional approaches to position don’t really apply, since both athletes are in a situation where they can attack each other at the same time. I’m these types of scenarios “position before submission “ gets replaced by “defensive soundness before submission.” The idea is to set your feet, knees and other relevant body parts in locations where they are defensively sound (not open to obvious attacks) prior to launching your own attacks. In this way you avoid the undesirable situation of both athletes attacking simultaneously, in which case victory will go to the faster athlete or the one who is prepared to lose a limb to break his opponents limb. The best way is always that of first making yourself defensively sound so that when you do attack you can do so without the distraction of simultaneous counter attacks. Don’t get into submission shoot outs if you can avoid them. Rather, create situations where you can fire at will without return fire. Focus on defensive soundness first, attacks second

Sharpening your skills is a little like sharpening a knife

Sharpening your skills is a little like sharpening a knife: When a good blade smith has to sharpen a dull knife he takes it through stages. The first stage involves removing steel from the edge to restore the original geometry. He will use a rough stone that removes a considerable amount of steel. This is the roughest part of the process and the one where lack of expertise can immediately create detrimental results. The toughness of the first stone makes it ideal for removing large amounts of steel but comes at the price of of a jagged, toothy edge that does not cut smoothly. This necessitates the second step, where a smoother stone is used. It won’t have such a dramatic effect on the edge geometry since it removes far less steel, but it smoothes out the roughness of the first stone’s work. This process can be repeated several times using progressively smoother stones. Finally the last step is to gently polish the edge with a leather strop. This does not remove any steel and does not make the edge any sharper, just smoother for perfect cutting. Your training cycles should follow a similar pattern. When you begin a training cycle you want to change your game, just as the blade smith wants to change the geometry of a very dull knife. You will have to add new skills, new tactics. This is a rough time, as the new skills will look clumsy initially. Some will prove workable, others will have to be abandoned. Once you’ve decided which new elements you want to keep and you have a basic working knowledge of the moves, you go to the next stage where you have to refine those new moves and smooth them out and make them more efficient. This is done in stages. Working first against easier opponents and building up to more difficult ones. Finally when the moves are at a satisfactory level, you enter the stropping stage, where periodically you practice the moves, not so much to add anything to them, but just to keep them sharp and smooth for future use - particularly when competitions are approaching. Working in cycles like this will keep your game developing and progressing over the years and give you a lifetime of growth in the sport

What have you gained today and what do you need tomorrow?

What have you gained today and what do you need tomorrow? Whenever the workout ends it natural to just relax and joke around and talk about your favorite topics (sex and violence). That’s fine - that kind of behavior builds class camaraderie that is crucial to long term development. But occasionally it’s good to delay the after class shenanigans a little and get a clear sense of what you learned about your game today and what you need to work on tomorrow. There are many factors that go into making a good workout, but perhaps the most important is the most over looked - A SENSE OF PURPOSE. When you go into a workout with a clear sense of WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH - not necessarily today but in the future - you will invariably get more done and make greater progress than if you just show up and follow whatever happens in class. Take a proactive approach to workouts and enter with the expectation of trying to achieve something rather than a reactive approach of just following the tide and see what happens. Substantive Talk with team mates after class is a a great way to start this - then you can get back to the sex and violence afterwards