Monday, October 11, 2010

You are only as good as your last opponent.

First of all I need to say how great the academy's temporary location is.  It's not convenient for me and the mat layout can best be described as hazardous, but it somehow makes it feel much more awesome that it's above a tyre and rims shop down a side street.

It was my first evening training in a while though and going up against Dieter, who I hadn't rolled with for ages showed me that you need a lot of variety.  Because he smashed me in a variety of ways.  There is a saying in chess of "you can only get better by playing people who are better than you".  And this is completely true with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.  Whenever I have the opportunity to roll with those who are much more experienced than me I come out of the session feeling like I have learned so much.  Having someone highlighting every issue with your game by capitalising on it can be demoralising, but it is also such an important part of learning.

If you only ever rolled with people who couldn't show you what you were doing wrong, the you're never going to make corrections or improvements to your game.  But when someone destroys you and subs you once a minute for the duration of your sparring, you realise quickly what mistakes led to that in an effort to avoid the pain again.  Then you get the chance to make a whole new set of mistakes, or have existing ones highlighted by another sparring partner.

To be sure it's nasty to be so utterly thrashed by someone, but it's far better to have a glaring issue with your game highlighted in some sparring than in a comp.  And at least someone in your club should be willing to take time out after the roll to discuss it with you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

When is nothing the right answer?

I've been talking and thinking a lot about BJJ gameplans recently as try and design a plan which I can reliably train and then execute.  As I trial new ideas, refine techniques and learn from my mistakes and mis-steps I have come across a point which has puzzled me.

Is there ever a situation where the right move to do nothing?  This was prompted by a roll with Ben on Friday where he caught me in a knee-ride setup for an armbar, which as soon as I started to defend I realised was also a choke setup.  If I defended one, I'd be giving up the other.  And so I've been thinking hard about these "no-win" scenarios.  In training, it is obviously the best time to try something, make mistakes and learn from them, but what about in a competition?  Do you stall and defend and hope that you've mentally been tabulating points right?  Or do you just go for it and hope that the other person makes a mistake?  Obviously there are many different scenarios to be had, and if you were clearly in the lead then stalling would be the preferred (in terms of winning) choice.  

Assume for a moment that you find yourself in a similar "no-win" setup in competition.  You know that roughly a minute is left and you are behind on points.  Is it better to go for broke and risk it now, or wait and hope that your opponent gives you that bit of space or opportunity?

During some other rolls with people I've been able to win the positional battles, but their submission awareness and defense has been great and I've not been able to even go for, let alone apply a sub.  Stalling in a controlling position is never the morally right option, but it is a great way to win a fight.  But when your opponent has such good defense that chasing a submission is putting your position and lead at risk, is it better to choose to just stall?

I don't know what the right answer here is.  But I think I know what I'll be trying.