I was training with two of my Brown belts in class. One has a very fast, threatening game, is very good with mobility, quick chokes, hooks, sweeps, etc. The other has a slower, more methodical game of piece, by piece, step by step to attack. I trained with both of them that night, and worked a defensive attack strategy.
My fast paced Brown belt worked a lot of attacking. When I train with students, I always look at the worst position or what is the biggest flaw they to work on. Most BJJ students have problems with the side mount and north south position. The reason of course has to do with frustration, pace, breathing, panic, stress, irritation and inability to relieve a drowning feeling. This can be very frustrating. I remember when I was a white belt; the worst position was training with my instructor Master Carlos Machado when he got the side.
I still remember my first time training with him. What happens is the frustration, then the panic, then the adrenaline levels being over taxed, and whammo…you fade out.
What many students attempt is going back to their original, primal instinct, a panic escape, or an ability to try the original escapes that don’t work anymore.
To me, BJJ is about training and developing. When you think you know everything, you never learned the true meaning of BJJ. If you think you can answer every question on BJJ, or have everything solved, it will end up backfiring. Research and constant exploring new ideas and techniques are the answer.
When we have one good escape, we at times use it for the homerun move. But what happens when it doesn’t work? This is where you have to dig into your bag of tricks. It’s the constant learning. In past articles, I mention learning new ideas constantly, and of course you can learn by watching students develop ideas, practicing strategies, and for me, training with my higher-level students is the best training session for new ideas.
Examples of strategy
What are examples? Some students have more flexibility, some have a better strategy, and some have faster speed and better athletic ability. I have good genetics, speed, agility, strength, power and ability to adapt. Those are God given, and I am very grateful for them. The problem is if I relied on my attributes rather than techniques, my game would deteriorate. So what points should students focus on?
- Learn from lower level belts. At times, a white belt can be cannon fodder for seniors, but this is the wrong idea. The best strategy is to work techniques that are fundamental techniques against white belts. Basic arm bars, triangles, kimuras, sweeps, side, mount, back positions are great. Why? Because no matter what, you always should review your fundamentals. Always.
- Work your bad and weak points. If you are bigger, stronger, work your bad positions. If you have a strong top game, work your guard more. And not just sweeps. Many work some guard to reverse and get back on top. Develop strategies to finish from the guard, not just stay in guard position for a minute and get out. Explore the duration, the time, and the endurance and hip movement. The submission setup and combinations should be attempted.
- My training strategies.
When I train with students, first an instructor should NEVER try to hurt students, attempt to prove them to be inferior or try to make an adolescent point. Your students are your students, and they are the ones you have to protect, and just drill with them, get them in moves that they learn something from. Same thing for observing students. If you have one that seems to neck crank, or injure students constantly, they need to be spoken to, or they will end up being a liability at your school.
- Training with my students.
Ok, so lets look at a few videos of me training, and some ideas on my strategies. Some of the sparring matches here are usually starting from a type of defensive position, (guard, side mount, back mount) or have a strategy to set up a submission and eventually developing better angles of attack. Many times when attackers are attacking, it doesn’t mean you just need to hold on and defend. You can also pick flaws. When one is attacking, he is not paying total attention to openings and vice versa.
Let’ look more into these strategies.
Video 1 Failed sweep to counter leglock
Match 1 Toehold diversion to elbow lock
In this video, I am sparring with a student from one of my association schools. The strategy is to just flow. He is holding his guard very tight, so rather than shake the leg or go to the mount, the objective is to prescribe a response. In other words, make your opponent fight hard to set him up with his strength. So when I do a red herring toehold, immediately I knew he would defend and try to escape. The goal was to get him to react so I could go to the mount and finish with an elbow lock.
Match 2 Guard pass diversion to leglock
I am training with one of my black belts that have a very good defensive game. Here again I am pushing the pass but mainly with weight. The goal is to get him to over defend the pass, which allows me to setup a submission to submit him.
Video 2 Combination attacks
One of my students is attempting to pass. I attempt a hook sweep, but whizzer the arm when sprawls. He focused for a moment, keeping note if I am trying to go to the back or elbow. He attempts to roll, but when I set the whizzer up, the reaction is usually to go back to the guard or roll. The roll is easier, however when an opponent does that, there is a footlock counter with my legs. Again, setting up one move to set up another.
Video 3 Counter armlock, counter anklelock
One of my Black belts has a very good, flexible game, fast and dangerous. He attempts a kneebar, so I roll with the kneebar to set up an ankle lock. Whenever you are anklelocking an opponent, they usually defend. However, the defense to my ankle lock was the strategy, not the anklelock. The armbar was the goal.
The second round on the same video has a favorite defensive move of mine. When someone is attacking the back, there is a specific angle to setup a footlock. You cannot simply cross the ankles, you will probably get choked out, and you have to keep defending the choke attack. This is the strategy to defend, while setting up another attack. You will see this in another video below.
Match 1 Kimura from sweep
No gi, which I do enjoy, enables me to open up more hooks. I am sparring with one of my purple belts, which obviously have a good x type guard and has won tournaments. The goal is when they develop the sweep, to just hook the arm not try to finish. Setting up is the goal for the finish, not a greedy finish. Those if you miss the time you miss the whole move. Note I do not lift the arm; I push off of it, and roll to Kimura.
Match 2 wrist control to shoulder lock
The second match shows me hooking his leg, and semi sweeping. Note that I already have hooked his arm before the sweep. The goal is again to form another shoulder lock.
Match 3 sweep to hidden foot lock
The third match shows my X type inverted style guard sweep. The goal again is to obtain the grip of the position, which obviously is his legs for the footlock at the end. Different finish but similar strategy to above footlock and below on other matches.
Match 1 Invisible leglock counter
I am training with a student a week before he received a Brown belt. Training with people who have wrestling bases relies on a strategy to wrestle, hold defense, but develop a counter. I was playing guard, top, etc., for a few minutes and then played side control defense. Those who are heavier, and aggressive on side control can be threatening, but you must watch defensive and counter at the same time. Obviously his side is aggressive, so I decided to step it up. I develop a movement to swing specifically to trap the half guard. The goal is not half guard, as I am pushing him to try to pass, but notice my legs are not locked tight. What he is attempting is to control with a darce type setup, and preferably his intent is get a cutter type choke. The goal is a very specific and very technical footlock from half guard. Most people who try it, it seems to fail. You can’t see exactly how I do the leglock in the video. The submission is actually faster and much more leverage than a simple ankle lock with the arms trying to squeeze with the legs. It doesn’t work for most who try it that way, because the majority of the leg lock leverage is actually from a different body part. One small squeeze is what submits the student. And no, it is not simply crossing the legs and trying to stretch his foot out. It is actually a very detailed, and hard to imitate move. I have had students try to figure it out, but it was a special development I stumbled upon training as a Purple belt.
Match 2 guard defense to setup shoulder lock
This match is with one of my black belts. He has a very tough passing game. You cannot just submit opponents like this easily. They defend well, and can adjust along with their physical attributes. My goal was to manipulate a defense in one direction, while intending to submit from the other. Black belts are one or two steps of offensive and defense from a goal. He has great top game, but the goal is give a lazy hook sweep to simply bring him back to the ground to set up an attack on one side, and then convert to the other.
Match 3 Back defense to footlock
My student is a tough Brown belt (Purple belt in video) that has endurance, technique, athleticism and aggression. He attacks well, so I am playing defense of the back. The goal is to protect the neck and eventually commit them to the attack while setting up double ankle lock. This lock is different from the usual defense when an opponent crosses their ankles. Although you cannot see it in the video, the angle is different and the cross is setup in another way.
The goal in Jiu-jitsu is to study all angles. If you have a weak guard, work the guard with good instruction. If you have weak topside, work on top. If you cannot escape well, practice your escapes. At my academy, senior students play bad positions or positions that are not perfected. This strategy and humility to try new ideas is what makes a student not a good Jiu-jitsu practitioner, but an excellent mentor in the future.
Absorb and think,
Professor William Vandry
P.S. March 2 at our next Association clinic in Austin, I will definitely develop more counter attacks, see you there!!