Learning BJJ: On drilling and more – Part 2

This is a continuation of my post “Learning BJJ: On drilling and more – Part 1“.

Doing jiu jitsu is learning jiu jitsu. In my mind, there isn’t a clear distinction between “static” training (technique, drilling, etc.) and “live” training (positional training, rolling, etc.). As parts of a fluid continuum of learning, each aspect has its role in developing BJJ skills. There are plenty of other ways you can divide and name these aspects, but the main point is that there is a more beyond the typical “technique, drilling, and rolling”. Trying new training methods and changing the structure of your training might help you gain new insights.

Here is my interpretation of this continuum:

bjj continuum

Technique: BJJ is constant evolution. It is important to learn new techniques; even if you don’t use them, an understanding of them, and the mechanics behind them, will help you face them. There is no rush when learning a new technique. It is better to practice slowly with proper form because cutting corners at this stage will breed bad habits. Ask your partner if the technique feels right and have your instructor watch or feel to give feedback.

Drilling for mechanics: What we commonly refer to drilling as, repetitions of a technique will help reinforce your understanding of its mechanics. Jiu jitsu often requires us to move in unconventional ways and this form of drilling helps with body placement; both yours and your opponents. It still helps to go slow and with a partner of similar size to help understand the physical mechanics.

Drilling for concepts: Behind the movements of a technique are the concepts. These concepts include weight distribution via your base, pinning corners (shoulders and hips), or limiting your opponents reactions using grips/hooks. At this point, it is valuable to drill with a little more resistance and with different partners. Although people can react differently, the fundamental concepts make techniques successful. This form of drilling helps you master the principles behind techniques and learn to adapt to different reactions in a controlled manner. I see this as different from drilling for mechanics because it involves learning how to make techniques work in different settings; at this point, it is on a deeper mental level than the understanding of the physical positioning of a technique.

Speed drilling: With sufficient proficiency and understanding of a technique, it can be valuable to try to learn which corners can be cut and which can’t. There will be times when you have to execute a technique quickly. To match or push the pace, you may have to take 2 steps instead of 5. An example would be drilling leg drags on open guard for fast reps. You may not even want to finish them and just work on entry. This form of drilling is especially good for building grappling-specific cardio and muscle endurance through high repetitions of grappling movements.

Positional/situational training: Starting from a particular position, the objective is to advance or escape, depending on your position. Once accomplished, the position is reset. For example, starting in your partner’s closed guard, you have to pass You partner has to sweep or submit. Training from bad positions, like mount bottom or back taken, strengthens escape and defense. You can also limit yourself in different ways to change your focus. Open guard retention training with no hands develops sensitivity for maintaining good foot position and control.

Flow rolling: Flow rolling is deliberate, low resistance rolling, which encourages creativity and movement by reducing resistance. The purpose is to flow and learn to see openings. You and your partner control a back and forth physical dialogue, allowing each other to explore different moves and possibilities. It also makes a good alternative to traditional plyometric warmups.

Conditional rolling: Rolling under different different conditions or limitations can also stimulate creativity. By changing the rules of engagement, new possibilities open up. For example, rolling with no grips or submissions with the goal of movement in mind, develops sensitivity, speed, and timing. By avoiding a grinding, pinning style, your opponent responds more freely, making reaction and timing even more crucial. There is always someone bigger and stronger who you can’t just hold down. Being able to move and respond is an important part of dealing with that.

Goal-oriented rolling: While similar to conditional rolling, goal-oriented rolling is closer to full rolling. Although you can use all your techniques and grips, the end goal must be a specific submission. Going for only one submission forces you to look for specific openings and is helpful when trying to workshop a particular submission. The same can be done with sweeps or passes. It can also help to tell your partner what you are going for, forcing you to deal with defenses and counters to your desired technique.

Full rolling: At the end of the day, we are only successful if we can apply our techniques against a fully resisting opponent. Rolling is where we put it all together. Nothing beats rounds of rolling or a good shark tank to build grappling cardio.

Competition: Competition presents a unique situation with a point system and unfamiliar opponent. Many people find competitions to be great learning experiences, regardless of outcome. Competition isn’t for everyone, but I recommend everyone try it at least once. It is an accomplishment itself, having to overcome the fear and anxiety that can accompany competition.

Be open to changing your training up by splitting your time differently. Some might find it best to just do positional training and rolling, while others really benefit from drilling. Ultimately, focused mat time will improve your jiu jitsu, regardless of how you spend it.