07
May
09

Rolling with higher belts…

I have been extremely lucky in that for most of my grappling training I have been able to train with a Black Belt, and good friend, and the impact that is has had on my game is incalcuable.

That being said, I think special thought must be given when training with higher belts, or it is easy to fall into some habits that can adversely affect your game.  For example, when we first began, I was obviously on the defensive from the moment we slapped hands….wait, that’s not accurate, I was in survival mode from the moment we slapped hands.  As we trained more and more, my game became more and more defensive, regardless of the opponent, and I’m sure I wasn’t much fun for my friend, either.

Lesson #1 – Training with higher belts are a great addition to class and training, but should not replace class and training.

The next lesson I learned is really an extension of the first, and that was to keep moving.  I am a large, former powerlifter, so as I learned to defend myself it was possible to turtle or hold closed guard for example and stall our training (note – this was not waiting for an opportune moment, this was holding on for dear life before I tapped).  Again, I gained little, and could not have been much fun.  We started getting around this by using very short matches, back to back, so if I lost guard I didn’t suffer for 5-10 minutes.  The end result of this was not only that my game got more active, but also that I found myself in better positions from time to time, rather than merely extending my time to submission.

Lesson #2 – The purpose of rolling is to test your skills and improve, and sometimes that will mean tapping more often.

As I’ve continued to improve, and become more active with my friend, I find myself having my next epiphany in that I am now able to get in to positions to attack (pass guard, gain dominant position, submit) but that when I get to these positions I tend to stop.  The ironic thing about this is that I always complain that my buddy can anticipate my moves and is a step ahead, and now when I get a slight lead, I stop and wait for him to catch up!  Essentially, I’m assuming the move won’t work, and while I am trying to adjust and improve, so is he…and he’s better at adjusting than I am.  The end result is my thinking “I was right there” rather than “I tried and missed  / was defended”…in my mind that is  HUGE difference.

Lesson #3 – Believe in your attacks.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not tapping my buddy anytime soon, but we’ve been close a few times and when we have it’s because I sprung an attack without hesitation.  Did I pay a price after?  Absolutely, but I was going to pay that price regardless!

To make myself clear, I am not advocating taking chances, no flying armbars from me.  I’m talking about playing your tight “A” game, and when the opportunity arises, trusting it.  You’ll both benefit.

Below is a video that I thin illustrates to some degree my third point.  It is between Guilherme Mendes and Andre Galvao, I believe when Mendes was Purple (he is now an up and coming Black Belt competitor).  What I notice in this video is that Mendes gets to some solid positions and waits (especially early in the video) and Galvao has the chance to recover.  I could be wrong, but at least it helped clarify things for me when I saw the video.

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