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.
The second major point Roger made was about understanding technique. Many bjj practitioners learn the movements without questioning how they work or trying to gain a better understanding. It is very easy to collect tons of movements in your game, but know very little about each. Learning a technique by watching it is very useful and allows you to learn the gross motor movements, but it is the fine motor movements that can’t be seen by the naked eye that make the move truly work. The competitors that always submit people with the same submission are true examples of this. If you look at Roger’s victories in the 2009 Mundials, where he submitted every opponent with the same submission from mount, you have to wonder how every person could fall prey to the same attack. The reason he was able to put on that performance is he had such a deep understanding of the movement he could finish it no matter what defense his opponent used. He knew exactly how to position his hands, where to place his hips, and how to apply the pressure at all times. I truly feel this is the way to learn bjj rather than focusing on just the major mechanical movements. You need to look into every move and try to understand every little facet of that movement.
The last good point Roger made was that patience is the key to success in bjj. This is true on multiple levels. BJJ is a martial art that takes a long time to truly learn and master. If you do not have patience you will never make it to black belt. Patience is also very important in competition and sparring. If you get into a bad position and freak out you will almost always get submitted. It is important to stay calm and focus on what your opponent is doing. By staying calm you will be able to see the instant your opponent makes a mistake and launch your escape.
The next time you train try to keep the above advice in your mind and see if you start improving at a quicker rate than ever before. Good luck in your training.