Thursday, 30 July 2015

How to improve your BJJ Training

Every JiuJitsu Student wants to improve their skill level and reach their full potential. Everyone has different goals and ambitions, they might aspire to be world champions, achieve a black belt or maybe just to land a submission on one particularly tough training partner.

BJJ is a very efficient form of martial art so it follows that if you keep training then you will improve and develop your skills but what if you want to maximise your potential?



The best case scenario:


The optimal conditions for BJJ training where an athlete has unlimited time, money and resources would be as follows :
· 6 hours of BJJ training per day 5 days per week (plus additional strength and conditioning training.)
· Structured one on one session with an experienced coach every day who analyses videos of your sparring matches and videos of upcoming opponents then shows you exactly what you did right and wrong and what you need to work on and improve.
· 2 hours each day practicing the techniques suggested by the coach with a drilling partner under the supervision of the coach to ensure you are performing every repetition perfectly.
· 2 hours of sparring against training partners of a similar or higher level than yourself. Using timed rounds to simulate competition conditions.
· Ideally you would be competing regularly (almost every weekend ) and periodising your competition schedule so that you peak for the most important competitions and use the smaller events as tests and practice matches. The reality:
However, the reality is that BJJ is an amateur sport with very few full time athletes. The vast majority of BJJ students and most competitors train recreationally so the conditions described above are usually impossible. The more realistic scenario is that...
· Most BJJ students are able to train a maximum of 3 times per week due to commitments like work and family.
· BJJ classes are not usually structured in a way that maximises competitive improvement for each student. Most recreational students want to learn new and interesting techniques each time they come to class. If each session was just focused on drilling the few high percentage techniques that win matches it would make the classes boring and after a few weeks students would stop showing up for class.
· There are so many positions and techniques to cover that there is insufficient time to practice all of them effectively. Your instructor may show an important guard pass at four sessions during the month, but if you miss one of those classes then you may only get to practice that important technique for a total of 15 – 20 minutes in one month which obviously isn’t enough.
· Most BJJ students don’t get the opportunity to compete very often. This makes it difficult to determine if they are improving and progressing. Sparring with your training partners is usually not a good indicator of progress.
· Most BJJ students don’t have enough time to attend classes as often as they would like let alone have enough time to do additional strength and conditioning training. How can the average student get the best results from their training?
In spite of these limitations some recreational BJJ players can still get impressive results. It helps if you are naturally athletic or if advanced students give you extra assistance and advice to help you improve. However, what about for the average beginner who wants to increase their rate of improvement? Here are some tips which you may find useful. Take Notes
Make notes on every new technique you learn, this will make it much easier to remember important details. Don’t assume being shown a technique and then practicing it a few times will be enough. Build Muscle Memory
When you learn new techniques you need to build the new complicated movement patterns into your muscle memory. This will allow you to access the techniques when needed in sparring. Here is a useful routine to help build a new technique into your muscle memory.

Coach shows a new technique:


Drill it with your partner in the usual way


At the start of the sparring rounds ask your sparring partner if you can practice the new technique on him for 2 repetitions to refresh your memory,


At the end of class try to get someone who isn’t in a hurry to leave and practice the technique 10 more times,


Go home and write notes on the technique


In the next class grab a partner and practice the move 10 times (this may be useful for the training partner too because maybe he missed the previous class and hasn’t seen the technique)

This method will help you remember new techniques much better than if you just drill it a few times then forget about it and don’t see it again for 6 months. Game-plan
Organise your techniques into a game plan. This will comprise of your ‘go-to’ techniques which you will always try to use in competitions or sparring. Get used to working off your game plan when you are sparring. This really helps because it cuts down on the time it takes to make decisions and speeds up your reaction time. You no longer have to sort through twenty different options of what move to go for as each position will dictate what technique you are going to use. Purpose
Set a purpose for each round of sparring. For example, one submission or guard pass which you want to use or a position that you want to practice escaping. This is more useful and productive than trying to win or to survive the round. Try to choose around three different things to work on in case your opponent makes it too difficult to practice certain techniques. It’s a good idea to not explain what you are trying to do to your partner as he may react in an unrealistic way or be overly compliant to allow you to successfully pull off the move. Just let them think it’s a normal sparring round. Video
Whenever possible video yourself rolling. This is very helpful as what you imagined you were doing during sparring and what you were actually doing can sometimes be very different. Analysing video of yourself sparring will help you pinpoint what you did right and wrong and how you can improve. Extra Training
For most beginners the activity that will give the greatest crossover benefit is to focus fitness and endurance. The simplest way to do this is by getting up 45 minutes earlier in the morning and go for a run. This increase in endurance will help you last longer and think more clearly during rounds of sparring which will help your BJJ improve. This is preferable to just lifting weights to get stronger which may make sparring feel easier but can lead to becoming overly reliant on strength rather than using technique. Goals
Set Goals for your training. Have specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time based goals for your training. For example, this month the goal is to learn two new open guard passes, practice them 200 times and pull each one off in sparring at least once per class by the end of the month. Don’t be too competitive
When practising new techniques in sparring you may risk ending up in bad positions or you may get submitted. Don’t let this deter you from attempting new techniques and don’t allow your ego to hinder long term improvement. Use the information to determine where you went wrong to improve for next time. Choose your training partners
Practice your new techniques against less experienced partners until you are proficient at them and then try them against more challenging sparring partners. If you try to use techniques that you have not yet mastered against experienced opponents you could easily get shut down and miss the chance to practice anything. Keep track of your progress
Finally, keep track of your progress and monitor what is working, what is not working, how many submissions, guard passes and escapes you are successfully pulling off. This will provide an idea of whether your training is moving in the right direction and what you need to change or do differently.



Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Getting Better Faster

Speed up your Learning Curve with Isolation Sparring





Finding Better Ways to Train


Throughout my martial arts training and especially since I’ve been coaching I’ve been interested in investigating more efficient ways of training. I’ve never been convinced by people who say ‘this is the way they’ve trained in Japan/Thailand/Brazil etc. for 100’s of years’. Interestingly this doesn’t happen in other sports. Golf coaches don’t stick to the same coaching methods that were used in 15th Century Scotland, Soccer and Rugby coaches don’t use the same training methods that they used 100 years ago so why should training for Martial Arts and Combat Sports be different.



In my opinion a lot of traditional training methods such as (in the case of striking sports) doing 30 minutes of skipping, endless rounds of bag-work and then live sparring are inefficient. The majority of people who train in this way will not enjoy the training, they will not make any progress and will eventually drop off and quit. If only a tiny percentage of the people are getting any measurable results it indicates that there is a fault in the process.



Using techniques against Resistance


Another problem is that students spend a long time learning techniques and are often able to perform these moves perfectly on the punch bag or against an un-resisting partner but then as soon as they try to spar it all goes out the window.

One alternative which can be fun for the new student is to not spend too much time practicing technical skills and just do lots of sparring to get used to the speed and pressure right from the start. This often leads to the student not spending enough time actually practicing and perfecting techniques and instead relying on instinct and athleticism. They may also fall into the trap of becoming over reliant on their favourite techniques and avoiding their weak areas. This can leave huge holes in their game which may be easily exploited in the future by more experienced and well rounded opponents.

Speeding up Reaction Time


Another major problem that students experience in sparring is remembering which technique to do at which time. At the end the round the student realises that they could have used a specific technique which they had been practicing for all of last week. Too many techniques and positions at the early stage means there is too much to think about which slows down the students reaction speed and decision making.

The best way I've found to overcome these issues and to bridge the gap between practicing techniques and then using those techniques in sparring is to use a concept which I borrowed from the Straight Blast Gym. It is called Isolation training and involves zeroing in on just one aspect or skill and focusing on improving it under sparring conditions.

Isolation Boxing Sparring


An example of how this works can be seen in boxing sparring. A group of students have just spent the class working on their jabs and then moved onto slipping jabs, head movement and counters. Now if they go straight into boxing sparring it is likely that everything they have been working on will go out the window, they will be throwing lazy jabs and forgetting how to slip. The alternative is that we go into 'Jab Only Isolation Sparring'. I have found that this leads to much better results as there is less to think about and allows the student to just focus on and perfect one aspect of their game.

Isolation BJJ Sparring


There are many variations of these types of drills, some of the most successful that I have used in the past are BJJ positional sparring drills. A good example of this is the side control sparring progression drill. One person starts off on top in side control and just has to maintain the position while the other tries to escape, as you progress you can add other variables to the drills such as the person on top cannot use hands, person on top has to switch position every 5 seconds, person on top has a specific objective such as getting to mount or knee ride position.

Other good ideas for BJJ drills are sparring from just one specific type of guard e.g. De la Riva guard then going back to the start as soon as either partner achieves their objective which could be getting a sweep or passing the guard.

This idea can also be useful for getting students working on finishing submissions and escaping from submissions at the same time. One student starts with the submission such as a Triangle Choke semi locked in. He then tries to finish the submission while partner works on escaping. If either of them are successful they just reset and try again or reverse roles.

Benefits for Both Training Partners


The great thing about training like this is that it's beneficial for both partners rather than just one person doing the techniques while the other is the dummy. Also, training like this can be better than sparring if there is a big difference in the skill level between students. In a sparring situation the less skilled person would never get a chance to do any attacks of his own and would just spend the entire time unsuccessfully defending attacks.

There are infinite options for these types of drills and are only limited by the imagination of the coaches and students. It is important though that that you don’t just do drills for the sake of it. Ask yourself is this drill developing a skill which is transferable and effective in live sparring and competition . The objective is always to improve real fighting ability rather than to just get better at drills which look impressive but ultimately have no crossover benefits for real fighting ( which is where many traditional martial arts styles have gone wrong in the past)

Don't Try to Win The Drill


Also, within every group of students the majority will see the benefit of the drill and have 'lightbulb' moments (‘oh yeah I do struggle to regain half guard/check kicks/move my head… this drill will really help’) but there will always be one who tries to ‘WIN the DRILL’ by finding loopholes in the rules rather than using the drill the way it was intended. So make sure everyone is clear that the objective is to learn & develop skills rather than just trying to win. Like the person in this clip.