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Advice From A Champion

Posted: April 19, 2017

I was reading through the new issue of Gracie Magazine and found a short article where Roger Gracie explains how he became so much better at bjj than everyone else. For those of you who do not know who Roger Gracie is I’ll tell you a bit about him so you understand why you should listen to anything he has to say about training and progressing in bjj. He has 15 world championship medals with 10 of those medals being 1st place. He is also the only competitor to win the Absolute Black Belt division at the Worlds 3x. To top that off he won his division at the 2005 ADCC submission grappling tournament submitting all 8 of his opponents-a feat that had not been previously achieved. To top it off Roger won the 2009 Mundials (Brazilian for World Championships) super heavyweight and absolute divisions by submitting every one of his opponents from mount with a simple cross choke. Most of the top bjj competitors consider Roger to be one of the, if not the, best bjj competitor of all time.

Now that we have introductions out of the way we will dive back into the main point of this article:

The first thing Roger spoke about was the importance of defense and watching how your opponent uses his defense. If you watch any of Rogers matches you will see he can escape any position making him impossible to submit (Although Roger has a few losses in tournaments he has never been submitted in a BJJ competition). He also explains that whenever he competes or spars he pays particular attention to his opponents defense against his attacks. If his opponent effectively uses a move to stop his attacks repeatedly he takes note of that technique and will incorporate it into his own bjj game. This is a really interesting concept in bjj since most of us do not think in this way. Most of the time when a competitor finds their attack is not working they quickly decide that the move does not work at a high level of competition or completely focus on figuring out another attack. If you could instead focus on what your opponent was doing to block your attack you could start using it in your own game and become instantly better than you were. If all of us focused in this way we would learn a lot quicker and have a much better understanding of jiu jitsu. Roger also does this with his opponents attacks. Every time his opponent manages to break through his defense he tries to take note of the move his opponent did. He will then incorporate that attack into his game increasing his repertoire. This is also the exact opposite of how most of us train. In general when an opponent breaks through our defense we focus 100% on trying to figure out how to make our defense better rather than trying to learn the technique used to defeat our defense. I am by no means saying you should not try to increase your defense but I am saying you should try to learn the attack used against you while trying to increase your defense so you can kill two birds with one stone and learn quicker.

I tapped out a black belt so that makes me a black belt, right?

Posted: April 19, 2017

I have run into so many people that believe if they tap out a higher belt they should receive that same belt. Although this is sometimes true, most of the time it is incorrect. We need to first understand that the art of brazilian jiu jitsu and submission grappling is more than just trying to tapout all of the higher belts and receive your black belt as quickly as possible. There is so much to learn in bjj and it takes years to even begin to understand the art. Looking back into my own training I realize now after 10 years of training I am only just beginning to scratch the surface of understanding this art form.

There are many reasons a lower belt may tapout a higher belt. The higher belt may be having an off day, your bjj game may just be well suited to beat the upper belts specific style, you may be a lot younger/stronger/more athletic/ heavier than the upper belt, or the upper belt may be working on parts of his game that are newer to him. I can remember multiple occasions as a blue belt where I managed to defeat purple and brown belts. I even managed to tap out my instructor 3 times in a row a week before he got his black belt, but I would never say I deserved to be a black belt at that time. I happened to find a weakness in my instructor’s game and was able to grab the same foot lock 3 times.

One of the biggest differences between lower and higher belts is the understanding of movement and how it relates to our art form. A lower belt takes longer to learn new moves because he will not completely understand the motor patterns required to do the movement and will not have a deep understanding of why the move is used. If you were to show a black belt a newer move they will be able to understand it and start using it almost immediately. An example of this is the day after I caught my instructor he asked me to start in the same position I caught him the previous day so he could see what I did. He worked on a few escapes and later when we sparred again I went for that same foot lock and never came close to getting it. My instructor’s understanding and level of jiu jitsu was so much higher than mine he was able to figure out how to stop me overnight.

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