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Friday, September 24, 2010

Tournament Preparation: Should You Change Your Game?

Anyone who competes in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu tournaments knows how nerve-wracking getting ready for competition is. Most people amp up the intensity of their grappling. A lot of people cut weight. They drill positions and escapes until they're dreaming about rolling out of arm bars and escaping mount, passing guard and choking people out. In all the self analysis that takes place in the months/weeks leading up to a tournament, it is inevitable that you will notice holes in your game. Feeling like you have to fix those things before you go into competition, you might want to change your game.



Say, hypothetically, there is a girl named Allie who plays too much guard. In this purely theoretical situation, Allie might be tempted to force herself to become a top player and change her game before the tournament. Instead of grappling like she normally does, she forces herself to pass guard and not go to her guard...

Ok, pause. Talking in the third person about myself is annoying.

This whole forcing myself to be a top player is working. But it is going too slowly. I don't think I will be able to make all of the stuff I am working on muscle memory before the tournament in October gets here.

It's not that I'm seeing no progress. It's just that, learning this new skill set is making me move slower. I have to pause and think. When I would normally go to guard, I hesitate and have to decide what to do instead. And those hesitations cost me big time when I am going against someone at my level or higher.

I am not giving up on being a top player. Talking to Fabio today, he reiterated the fact that, once I am on top, I need to stay there and not go back to guard purposefully. I'll cost myself points that way. But I don't have to change my grappling style completely.

Once again, I think I went overboard in trying to prepare and ended up making things worse. It's like Fabio was telling me: change in your grappling game happens naturally. When you try to force it, you usually hit a wall.

But for some reason, I keep trying to force that change. The patterns of growth I am going through are normal, according to my instructors. But I keep thinking I have stuff I need to "fix" right away.



The truth is, unfortunately Jiu-jitsu doesn't happen right away. I can become a top player. But I can't rush it.

Today, I played my type of game. And it felt great. I was relaxed. I felt confident. And low and behold, I did end up on top. Just not the way I thought I had to. Sweeps and reversals are more my thing, I think.

I guess everyone was right when they told me that I should just "Go in there and do my thing." But you all know me. I am hard headed. Seems I enjoy frustrating myself by being stubborn. :)

8 comments:

Laura said...

I am also a guard player (closed is my fave). My coach told me about a month ago that I am no longer allowed to pull guard, I have to pass and get on top. He also said that if I have to go to closed guard I can, but I can't start there. At least when training at the gym.

Last weekend I competed and pulled my opponents down into my guard, but I managed to sweep them and finish all the fights with submissions from mount.

So the game I play at home is different from what I use to compete. But what I have been training and practicing has crossed over to my tournament game.

I think you are right, you just need to relax and go with the flow.

Dev said...

Well said, Laura!

1) Don't ever change your game right before a tournament. That's stupid.

2) THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH PULLING/PLAYING GUARD.

3) Absolutely work on other aspects of your game that you're less confident in...AWAY FROM THE TOURNAMENT.

I play guard. I make no excuses for it. There is a 96.7% chance if you and I start standing I am going to pull you into my guard. The other 3.3% is if I stumble while grabbing your gi and pull bottom mount.

My game is positional, which means I rely heavily on my ability to sweep someone versus submit them. Which means I'm pretty confident in my sweeps. Which means pulling guard is WAY higher percentage for me than trying to half-ass my way through a takedown I don't know.

There's a reason SUPER-high-level guys pull guard: it's because they know they can sweep you.

That's not to say don't work on your top game. Do. But there's nothing wrong with getting there from a guard pull.

Family Mat-ters said...

I've tried changing my game too. never works for me - great post. - Jen

The Part Time Grappler said...

Very honest post Allie. I'm a big advocate of changing the game. For one MAIN reason: It's more fun that way.

It's no secret that we, after months of doing something-ANYTHING, develop habits and sequences. We develop our "game" and "personal style" and to be honest unless someone tells us to do something different, we generally don't.

My old coach used to say that as long as you roll intelligently, there are no secrets. You will eventually find everything out for yourself, just like the Gracies did. He told me that his only job is to force me be all-rounded and not dwell on a "game". I take that to heart now.

After all, it's not like the games are not connected. You said yourself that playing your guard suddenly took you to the top game. I've always believed that guard and mount are the same thing (just upside down). Forcing yourself to change your game opens your eyes and gets your body and mind used to different sets of circumstances, postures, pressures and possibilities.

You don't have to change your game. I just think its a great way to widen the experience.

I lost all my matches by advantages at the Manchester Open and Graound Control when I played stand-up and top game but I achieved my objective in both cases:

1. I didn't get taken down, not even by the wrestlers.
2. I forced the other guy to pull guard
3. I dominated the grip fighting.

These are things that became evident next time I stepped on the mat.

BJJ Judo said...

I dont "change my game" just prior to a tournment, but I do work on my "tournament game". I try to prep for tournements by doing what I plan on doing during tournament and practicing against the positions I think I will see.

Georgette said...

I don't change my game before a tournament. (HA-- I don't even HAVE a game, in or out of a tournament-- but that's for another day.)

I envy all you guard players. I started as a top player by default (I suck at guard, so I struggle to get on top) and only this spring started forcing myself to play guard. I only do that at home, only with whitebelts (well, I try with everyone, but only whitebelts fail to pass in the first minute!) and I would not be happy playing guard in a tournament. Two weekends ago was a perfect example-- I actually jumped guard (with a guillotine) on a girl and surprised the crap out of myself.

*sigh* I'd really like to know for sure that someday I will have sweeps I can count on! :)

juliajohansen said...

To me, changing your game before a tournament is akin to being risky with language right before a language test.

What I always tell my ESL students for TEST preparation:
Go with what you know.
Don't try out brand new vocabulary.

Not that I'm a veteran bjj tournament voice, but that's my opinion as a language teacher. And really, right before a test I'd be having students strengthen rather than work on new things.

NinjaEditor said...

"Do your thing" is great advice, but if it's not fully "your thing" yet (top game for you, maybe something else for a different person), you probably won't feel comfortable doing it in competition. It sounds like you are progressing, though! Good luck in the tournament and in changing your game gradually.

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