Today, at the gym, a young grappler asked me a question he’d obviously been wondering about for a long time.”How long did it take until you had grappling all figured out?”I told him that although I started grappling (in the context of Judo) almost 30 years ago, I still didn’t have grappling all figured out…”OK, OK,” he replied, “but how long did it take until you were satisfied with your ability?”
“I’m still not satisfied with my ability” was my answer.
Now I wasn’t just being coy or deliberately dense. I’ve been a black belt in BJJ for a while now, and have trained in lots of other grappling systems. But I really am not satisfied with my ability, nor do I have it all figured out. Nor should I be satisfied!
There is ALWAYS something to work on: whether it be incorporating a new technique into your arsenal, or refining a technique that has recently stopped working for you, or working on a weak part of your game.
In fact, I can guarantee that as long as you’re still testing yourself on the mat with actual sparring you’re always going to have strengths and weaknesses. Pick a random subset of your grappling skills – mount escapes, half guard sweeps and triangle choke entries for example – and it’s inevitable that one of those areas is going to be less developed than the other areas.
Sometimes it’s reassuring to beginners to know that grapplers, fighters and competitors at the highest level also deal with this! Marcelo Garcia has areas he’s weak in (at least relative to the areas that he’s great at). Rickson Gracie is better at some things than others. And some aspects of Georges St. Pierre’s MMA game lag behind as well.
But always having something that you suck at (or – more correctly – suck at relative to your other skills) is a good thing – now you have something to work on! If you don’t know what to work on in your grappling development, then take what you’re worst at and work on that! (Often your fastest progress comes from working on your weakest link).
If you’re entirely satisfied with your game, and if you don’t have any areas that need refining, then you haven’t actually reached perfection. You’ve just stopped growing.
Complacency is death!