Evaluating Your Game Based on Rolling with Killers

Note: By “killer” I mean guys who are MUCH better than me in particular positions. So that might include white belts to black belts.

I spend a considerable amount of time on and off the mat evaluating my game. Every single practice is in fact a process of figuring out details that make a particular aspect of my game work better in a particular situation. For example, any time someone passes my guard, I think about how they did it and what kind of adjustment I need to make in order to prevent that guard pass in the future.

That’s simple enough. The problem comes in with the fact that in some cases it takes time to make such adjustments to my technique. It takes a lot of reps in drilling and training for the details to be internalized. So I have to shut off the skeptical part of my brain that doesn’t give a technique enough time before passing judgments.

The-Black-Night-monty-python-and-the-holy-grail-591464_800_441I had another illuminating experience with (let’s call him) Bob where, through positional training, he armbarred me maybe 50+ times in a period of an hour in the same exact way as I played my favorite guard. I could avoid the armbar if I didn’t play my favorite position and grip combination. But that doesn’t solve anything in the long term. When you see the 50+ submissions, you’re probably thinking “this guy really sucks”. Whether I do or not, I certainly feel like I suck after those sessions. When I get off the mat and walk to work or home, what should be the thoughts in my head? What are my next steps?

I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, but my solution to that has been to re-double my focus on the position. By that I don’t mean I’ll try harder in training. In fact, I’ll try less hard. All the effort goes into learning (online and through questions on the mat) the little details around the position that make it work. While 50 submissions sound like a lot. From my limited experience, and my faith in the gods of drilling, I believe that those 50 submissions happened because of 1 or 2 details that I wasn’t doing. My job is to find those details. They are probably obvious. They have probably been taught to me many times. What I need to do is to re-discover them for myself.

This process is humbling, putting my efforts in the world of academia in perspective.

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