One of the things Jojo specifically advises me to do is to "impose your game." One of the biggest holes in my game is that I tend to be passive and react to what my opponents do, rather than have them react to me. This often results in me being put in some dominated positions before I can even really attempt to do anything. For example, Jojo noticed how I would let opponents reach deep into my lapel/collar and start from a severe disadvantage before even starting to do anything. Thus, I realize how critical this is for me to do in order to truly level up my BJJ; so much so that I have actually made this my chief new year's resolution.
I believe I can pinpoint the source of this problem. I am one of the lighter guys in a school of both highly aggressive and highly technical grapplers. I am consistently surrounded by guys that are bigger, stronger, faster and more advanced than I am which makes for some great (and oftentimes, painful) learning experiences for me - if you don't believe me, just look at my teammates in the picture above! So, whenever we roll, the game I am usually required to "impose" is one of survival. Particularly when I was still a white belt, whenever I was mounted, side controlled, knee on belly-ed and so on, I was always just trying to hang in there and survive. Even in the rare moments where I found myself in a dominant position against my opponent, my position often felt tenuous and that I would lose my advantage quickly. On top of that, mentally, I felt that I was supposed to "lose" against these higher level guys when I would roll with them. Further compounding this is that I am not aggressive by nature - a problem I have had since my high school wrestling days, so it really takes a lot for me to get that spark. Sounds like a perfect storm for getting smashed on the mats, right?
However, thanks to Jojo and the same guys that would pound me on a daily basis, my BJJ and aggressiveness have really evolved over the past six months. Jojo and my teammates have really encouraged me to be more aggressive (without sacrificing technique, of course) and make my move first, and let the chips fall where they may. If I lose position or get tapped, that's OK - at least it wasn't for want of trying. Teammates would tell me that "you need to believe you can beat me" and would tell me if I attempt to take a position on something, go the whole way with it. Another piece of advice Jojo gave me was to think less and just let my game flow. He would often see me waste precious seconds going through moves step-by-step in my head. and told me to let my instincts kick in. Again, this wasn't an easy thing to adjust to and I'm still getting used to it.
But sure enough, I found myself gaining advantageous positions, and even taps, against guys I never thought I would be able to do so against. Of course, there were plenty of times where I'd get steamrolled no matter what I did! While I still find myself necessarily in survive-mode many times, I also must evolve that to a point where I can escape and counter more effectively. Surviving only delays the inevitable and not nearly as productive as trying to escape danger and improve my position. All in all, thanks to Jojo and my teammates, this aspect of my game has undergone a productive evolution these past few months and I hope I can continue to develop it.
Other than that, I am winding down a good week of training in preparation for the tournament on Saturday. There was an added variable thrown into the equation by work that affected both training and possibly my participation in the competition but I will find a way to make it work and fill you guys in more when all is said and done. Hope you enjoyed the post and thanks for checking in.