I am always on the look out for new effective techniques, guards, positions, details that fit my game and my body type. I am very selective, but try to remain open to new possibilities. There are no rules of course. Just because not many people play the turtle “guard” in high level competition doesn’t mean it’s off limits.
But I do try to follow a simple guideline. If I see a lot of top-level black belts (with a “style” that’s close to my own) using a certain technique, it’s worth investing in. Sometimes if I see just one black belt using it, it’s enough for me to believe it’s possible to make it work. I then turn off the skeptical part of my brain, and embrace the hope that one day I’ll be able to make it work.
Here’s the problem though… As the title mentions, some of the best techniques are ones that force you take a step back before taking two steps forward. Meaning: the learning process for these techniques will often involve losing position in training and just being generally demoralized by constant failure of the technique.
Alright, so here’s some examples from my own experience in jiu jitsu. First “technique” like that for me was the butterfly guard. Forcing myself to play butterfly and look for the basic hook sweeps meant that I had very few ways of stopping my training partners from passing me. It was incredibly frustrating and the urge to play on top or play closed guard on bottom was really strong. But eventually I started to get the details that make the position work, and my game improved noticeably.
The same happened when I recentle started to drill the smash pass. I was avoiding it because the idea of defeating guard with the pressure of just my hips was very challenging to pull off against good opponents. But I watched far too many black belts pull it off in competition not to take it serious and begin the long journey of trying it over and over in training. Of course, with this one, I didn’t have to pay too much for failing because you usually don’t lose position from a failed smash pass, but still the process is very frustrating, and it’s always tempting to go back to what I’m comfortable with.
My project for the next several months (at least as I see it now) is to embrace the 1 legged x-guard ala Marcelo Garcia. I’m a big fan of the regular x-guard and always prefer that, but it’s often easier to get the 1 legged x guard instead. There are a million of options from there, and watching video after video of Marcelo preaching the power of this position has finally gotten me convinced.
This one will hurt though… because whenever I try it, I often get passed or fail to sweep or just get put in an uncomfortable / weak position. But those are the best techniques: the ones that make perfect sense for your game, and check your ego by making you feel like a first-day white belt.
This new journey, I’m sure, will be painful, stressful, and full of dead-ends, but I hope that it will make me a more complete and dangerous competitor.