A Terrible Thing

Oleg Taktarov once told me, more or less in these words, that “it is a terrible thing to be the best grappler at your school”. What he was getting at was that if you are always the king of the jungle in your sparring sessions then it is really hard to get better.

Now this might not be an issue if you are training at a large jiu-jitsu academy where there are many black belts and brown belts on the mat every training session, but unfortunately not everyone has access to those sorts of clubs. For every student at a large academy there are probably 5 or 10 grapplers training at a small club, in a friend’s garage, or in a rec center.

So what can you do if you are the best grappler among your group of sparring partners – how do you improve your skills? The answer lies in limiting your game. For example try going for one week (or one month) only trying to get to, maintain, and finish from, rear mount. Then spend the same period of time always starting from underneath your opponents’ mount. Then move on to only finishing with the armbar from the guard. I am sure you get the picture by now and can come up with many other ways of limiting your game.

What you are doing here is educating your opponents to give you a hard time. If you think it’s easy to apply an armlock to someone just wait until they figure out that you’re ONLY attacking with armlocks – they will start getting better at all the counters, forcing you to become better at the setups and recounters. Everybody wins, and perhaps someday you will have created sparring partners who are at your level.

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