Sunday, September 06, 2015

It's all about the sub

Yesterday, my Jiu Jitsu instructor, Anthony Lange, got five of us out in a type of shark tank drill.

  • Five guys are in, on the mat.
  • Everyone else forms a queue.
  • First five guys in the queue pick a guy on the mat and start grappling. Both are trying to get the tap.
  • When you tap someone, it is your choice whether you stay on the mat for another opponent, or you make the other guy stay in. 
  • If you are the one not staying in, you go to the back of the queue
  • When you reach the front of the queue, you take the place of the next person to leave the mat and grapple with their former partner, trying to get the tap.

Repeat until time runs out.

You could also leave the first five guys on the mat for the whole period so each of them wrestles multiple opponents for the entire period, no matter who taps who. This would be good competition training, especially for sub-only tournaments.

This drill probably isn't that uncommon. But I hadn't done it for a long time. Most of my rolling has just been rounds of various lengths but usually five minutes, where a lot can happen but there isn't really any pressure to finish. I have been working fairly heavily on various open guards and linking them together, especially hooks, X guard and single leg X guard, and sweeping my partner from there. Either that or trying to pass to side control; especially with lower belts I have often been allowing them to work escapes so they get to have some fun and practice some techniques rather than just getting smashed.

The positional sparring drills we do are generally in a guard, one guy trying to pass, the other trying to sweep or submit. This can be done with other positions as well, escape or submit ... or retain the position.

Upon reflection after this session, I realised I found the unfamiliar necessity to submit somewhat confronting. I had become so used to sweeping and positional control as the aims of my rolling, that I had been not been pursuing or getting submissions very often. I would rarely go for the back. If I achieved side control after a pass, I would often just sit there for a while and hold the position (often to get my breath - I am 60 years old and just about everyone I roll with is younger, often half my age or less). I didn't really fight to retain strong positions because, well, it's all about flowing with whatever the other guy does. It's just training, who taps who doesn't matter. Or so I told myself.

With the new drill, I had to get submissions. And I did - I got the back multiple times, several chokes from there, a head and arm choke jumping over from side control, an Americana, I dogged an armbar for a minute or so before switching to a kimura after the guy rolled, another spider web armbar, even got most of the way to a crucifix - from which I switched to the back when it became apparent I wasn't going to be able to finish it. I got at least twice as many submissions in the allotted time than I would have normally.

I may be deluding myself here a little, but maybe I've become reticent to put the temporary hurt of a submission on my training partners because I want them to like me. And maybe that's because I'm too worried about getting submitted myself, despite my alleged penchant for flowing with the go, because if I sub them they'll want to come back harder at me. Though really, it could just as easily go the other way and they could become fearful and tentative because they know I'm out to sub them. And I could become a Lord of the Mat.

OK, that may be a bit OTT - and besides, it's Kali, a female deity.

It is possible to be a more aggressive, submission-oriented grappler without putting my training partners at risk, and I feel I need to do this. If I take more risks (like going to mount instead of side control, giving up a strong guard to attempt a submission) I may get submitted more initially, but I'd like to think that being more prepared to go for submissions may put my partners more on the defensive, and more likely to make mistakes which may give me more opportunities for sweeps, passes ... or alternative submissions.

Jiu Jitsu. You have to constantly check and adjust your mindset to progress. It can be like peeling away layers of self-deception to reach the truth. Like the more esoteric forms of yoga. And what my first kung fu instructor, David Crook, might have termed "Polishing the Mirror".