Sometimes you just gotta have faith…
In the video below I’ll share an armlock with you that I’d been shown multiple times early in my BJJ career. And I always thought it was hogwash; that any good opponent would simply twist out of it and I’d end up in a terrible position.
The technique in question was the reverse or cutting armbar, typically applied from the guard but here applied from the top position.
I was always polite about it, of course: when someone taught it to me I would practice it a few times. The whole time, however, I’d be inwardly groaning about how this ‘stupid’ technique would never work on a quality opponent.
Of course I never used it in sparring, and consequently I never tapped out anybody with it, not even the scrawniest beginner whitebelt.
Then one day I was competing in a local tournament…
I tried to throw my opponent with a throw called Tai Otoshi, and when that didn’t work I pulled guard. I then swept my opponent using the omoplata log roll sweep, and got to the top. Once in side mount I noticed that his arm was in the exact position for this attack that I’d written off so many times. Almost in slow motion I shifted my grips, moved my body, and applied the submission. He tapped out right away, and I was kind of blown away.
But my trust in this submission didn’t last.
Before long I’d convinced myself that this was a one-time fluke. A coincidence.
And so, once again, I never even attempted that armlock in sparring.
(Despite my success using it against a tough opponent, and despite my 5th degree black belt instructor telling me it was a good attack, deep down I still ‘knew’ that it wasn’t a legitimate attack).
So there I was, secure in my knowledge that this was an ineffective attack.
Let’s fast forward to the next tournament. In that tournament I ended up fighting a big, strong, aggressive guy. When we got our grips on our feet I remember thinking, ‘holy crap, this dude is strong.’
Somehow I got him to the ground and secured side mount.
Once again I noticed that his arm was in exactly the correct position to attack with this same armlock. Slowly, methodically (and with an overwhelming sense of déjà vu all over again) I applied it. Once again, it worked and he tapped out!
I might be a slow learner, but I’m not completely stupid. It’s pretty hard to write off two successful attacks in a row leading to two tournament victories against big, strong, motivated opponents. I had to admit that this technique worked. And that I’d been a bit of bonehead for writing it off.
Obviously when you’re building your game you can’t concentrate on everything all at once. There just isn’t enough time. And that means that you’ve got to ignore certain aspects of grappling while concentrating on other aspects of your game.
So after a certain point in your development you SHOULD focus on your best moves. Train with a purpose and don’t dilute your game by trying to get good at absolutely every technique, every position and every strategy.
But at the same time keep an open mind…
Have you heard of the “70/20/10 rule” that has helped make Google a multi-billion dollar company? Briefly, it goes like this:
- You dedicate about 70% of your time to your core business tasks
- You dedicate about 20% of your time to other projects that still relate to your core business
- You dedicate about 10% of your time to projects that don’t have anything to do with your core business.
I’m equating your bread and butter grappling game to Google’s core business tasks…
And I’m saying it’s worthwhile to spend about 10% of your training time playing with different techniques and strategies that might seem really weird and wacky at first. I’m officially giving you a ‘hall pass’ to occasionally creatively explore areas that have nothing to with your main game.
If one of the most successful companies in the world thinks that it’s OK for its employees to work on projects that usually lead to dead ends, then it’s OK for you to explore sweeps, submissions, escapes, reversals and other techniques that may seem exotic, impractical, or even foolish.
Being focused is a good thing. But keeping an open mind is good too! Who knows, maybe that ‘stupid’ technique that would never work in a million bazillion years will save your butt someday…
Just like that stupid armlock that I ‘knew’ wouldn’t work saved my butt two tournaments in a row!
Click here for a video breakdown of this specific armlock, including the normal way it’s taught and a not-so-friendly, tournament-only version that puts incredible pressure on your opponent.