Last Friday was the 13th. It was also one of the best days of rolling I’ve had in a while…go figure.
With school and work (and injuries) lately, my jitz time has really taken a back seat to that bastard that gets in the way of hobbies…”life” I believe it’s called. Due to this loss of training time, I decided that I’m going to try nothing on the mat that is familiar to me. I’m going out of my comfort zone, side-lining the ego and maximizing the time that I do have. I was going to try new positions, variations of old positions, and try for submissions that usually fall under my “low success rate” category. If I was rolled, I wouldn’t resist it – solely to work on my escapes…escape techniques that I hardly ever use.
Surprisingly, it was one of the top 5 training days that I’ve ever had. It was like starting again from day 1 (minus the instant tap-out from a higher belt). There were 5 of us – odd man out would jump into the rotation between rounds and we just went at it, and it was elation. It was a feeling better than that moment where you wake up thinking you’re late for work and then realize that it’s Saturday morning and you can lay back down. It’s was better than saltine crackers after swimming. Better than…than…putting three periods between words…and getting away with it.
Every once in a while you have to break away from your game and visit the weak points. Nobody likes to do it because you lose…big deal. The freshness of the game opens new windows and here’s why:
There are certain things that come with advancing belts. Once of those things is to improve upon your personal jiu jitsu game and tighten up and polish techniques that you are good at and that you have a high success rate with when attempting submissions. Within that however, you may neglect techniques that you haven’t used in a while which makes them stale and probably a little lonely and jealous since they are devout of your attention.
By having these days where you ignore what you’ve refined, you’ll come across gems. For instance, my side control has always just been ok. I have been working on my passes, open guard, mount techniques and side control escapes for years and not much else. I gave up on my actual side control when it’s level had reached “good enough”.
On Friday, I made it my point to revisit ol’ side control and improve on it. I hadn’t worked with it in-depth since pressure on the opponent became a main focus of mine. Now that I visited the side control basics again with pressure in mind, I could actually feel my game get stronger. I could also feel the air coming out of my opponent in that “urrghh!” sound we all love.
A good example is rolling with Steve Spencer. He’s a guy that I always have trouble with. He’s a big strong dude with the flexibility of a liquorice-based twisty straw – a deadly combination. His favorite move is bridging me off of mount, getting in north-south and choking the piss out of me. There was nobody better to practice side control on than Steve…short of an epileptic rhino with anger problems that is.
Now I’ve had pneumonia and held down breakfast longer than I held down Steve (that’s not too long just so we’re clear). But the difference was that now I was pinning him and seeing what things he would try in order to get out of my control. I had no desire to try for a submission. I was trying to find my safe spots and refine my technique…which I did after him escaping multiple times. I did notice something different from the norm…the more we got into this situation and the more he escaped, the harder he was breathing…I was getting better.