I recently rolled with a guy who I like but don’t roll with very often. He’s super nice but I noticed something about his approach that I’ve felt with other guys around his belt level. I don’t mean to sound condescending in any way. We’ve all been in that stage much like when we first started doing Jiu-Jitsu and we were the spazzing white belt that lashed out during training sessions.
I’ve noticed that a lot of early blue belts have techniques they’re good at, they know what they should be doing in most situations, but still rely heavily on strength. I guess I would pin this more on guys my size and larger. At around 170 pounds, I’m not exactly tiny nor am I big so there is a strength advantage with some of the people I spar with.
During a rolling session you have two clear options that you can take on. You can be the guy or girl who tries to break the lock open by sheer force. You’ll exert a lot of physical energy and you just might break through someone’s guard or reverse a positions but you’re gong to exert way too much stamina in doing so.
I personally like being the lock picker. Like any lock picker who’s starting to go to work, I have to take a deep breath and relax. I often close my eyes and even out my breathing all while in a good defensive posture. I’m patient enough to understand that whenever I’m in a bad situation, like side control for example, it doesn’t spell immediate doom. There are steps that you’re opponent has to then go through in order to finish you. We often don’t see those steps and immediately start fighting off what we think is coming with brute strength.
Whatever position I find myself in, I’m not harping or celebrating how we got there. I’m focused on my breathing, protecting my limbs, and again most importantly RELAXING. I’m not too tense or overly flexing my body in an attempt to hold a top position or escape from the bottom. Closing my eyes allows me to feel the weight and tension of my opponent.
From what I’ve noticed about myself is that when I’m focused on responding to what I see, sometimes my reaction is a bit late. When I focus on what I feel I start responding to tiny movements in the body much like the vibrations of a spider’s web. There are shifts in weight or a release of tension before a bigger movement is issues out.
Something else that I feel or listen for is their breathing. Their heavy breathing can hint at what stage in the game they’re in. It tells me how much subtle or forceful pressure I should apply during a certain segment in a round.
I recommend that people give it a try. Give yourself a round or two a week where you’re not trying to just win but instead studying the details of those rounds. Be OK with the possibility that you’re going to lose for the wins down the road.
Embrace it. It can be the difference between stagnant and moving forward in your journey.