Spacing in BJJ / Grappling

To be fair, I think “spacing” has been a part of my understanding of jiu jitsu since day one.  At the most basic level of staying tight when I was in control and creating space when I was being controlled, it was or at least should have been evident that spacing is of critical importance.

This weekend I was thinking of three instances where “spacing” had a dramatic impact upon my game and / or understanding of BJJ:

Learning to attack – I remember when I finally began understanding that there was more to the guard than not getting passed, and I began trying to utilize an active guard, looking for sweeps and submissions.  I improved at a steady pace, but only with the gi, my no gi game remained incredibly defensive.  I don’t remember what prompted it, but one day all the times I’d been told about controlling posture finally clicked and my guard started becoming active and dangerous (versus my peers that is).  I used my long arms to fight for head control and the threat of a kimura sweep to prevent my opponent from bridging too aggressively.  I’ve been training for three years now, and that epiphany described my no gi guard guard for most of the past two years.

What’s next? – As well as my epiphany served me, my game was obviously very one sided.  If I controlled posture, I was comfortable with most people in my guard regardless of their size and experience, but if they could break away I was in trouble!  In the gi, I was able to adapt again more quickly by emphasizing my grips and guard retention, using the transitions to attack…but this didn’t help my no gi game much.  In response, the last month or two I’ve started almost every sparring session sitting on my butt, working my open guard.

Although I’ve improved from this, is was at best baby steps and just as with my aggressive head control my regular training partners quickly leaned to back up and attack while I waited for them to come into range.  To say that this was defensive and frustrating would be an understatement.  At the end of training on Thursday and again at open mat this Saturday, something finally clicked and I started controlling the “space”.  At first it was nothing more than threatening to sit up and attack / wrestle for top position, and over a series of matches I began scooting in / out and working to create angles rather than wait for them.  The result was that I finally “found” the butterfly game I’ve been looking for, I was able to move in and out of half guard aggressively and when I was closed, I had a comfort in opening and attacking rather than fighting to the death for posture.

I have no idea if I’m a slow learner and these epiphanies came early to everyone else, and honestly I don’t care, but I can’t wait to get on the mats again tomorrow and work on them some more!

Oh yeah, I did mention a third moment, didn’t I?  This one wasn’t so successful.  I was working technique and rolling with a friend on Friday night, and we were the only ones in the gym except for Cole Miller and a camera crew filming an interview.  I’ve got an armbar from the mount, and I’m trying to work some new ways of breaking grip instead of my old standards and next thing I know I’ve got what feels like a large spider on my back!  It’s Cole, in his track suit, coming in for the kill!  I escape, escape and escape again (notice a trend here!) and we end up with him playing upside down guard, a position I am pretty comfortable attacking and after seeing Mike Glover’s recent DVD set I was quite anxious to get after it.  As soon as I moved in however, Cole got his foot on my hip.  I got it off and he got the other side, I reached again, he got my cuff and spun into a vicious triangle….damn!  I was completely comfortable until he prevented me from closing the space, and my uncertainty he kicked my butt!  Lesson learned…I hope!

Fight Harder! Fight Longer!

Tactical Nutrition

PS – If you are on Facebook, we now have a group where I’ll be focusing on training and nutrition, give us a shout ( click here )


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April 2009
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