“If I don’t know, I will not allow.”
That’s a quote and a guiding principle from Roberto Leitao, a high ranking Luta Livre and Judo practitioner, that was shared with me by my friend Ed Beneville who trained with him.
Regardless of whether it’s a grip, a setup, a guard position, or an angle, if you don’t fully understand what’s going on then do everything you can to prevent it. Once you allow a match to go into an unknown area then you’re in trouble.
A smart opponent will try steer the fight to an area in which he feels comfortable and you do not. Don’t let that happen.
Even if you don’t know exactly what technique he’s trying to use, don’t let him take the next step.
Block, thwart and deny his every attempt to move the fight into unknown territory.
So that’s the general idea, and depending on the situation it’s either the best or worst advice I’ve ever heard.
Now when is this good advice?
It really depends on the context…
If you’re in an important tournament match, or in a sparring match with someone way above your level, or a real fight (knock on wood that you won’t need to go there) then this is the perfect time to apply “If I don’t know, I will not allow.”
Let’s say he’s in your closed guard and going for some weird grip that you don’t recognise: fight, fight, fight to prevent that grip. Maybe it leads to a guard pass that you’ve never seen before, or maybe it leads to a crazy submission – the point is you don’t know where it’s going and now is NOT the time to find out.
If you don’t know you don’t allow.
This principle can be expanded a little bit to include overall strategies…
It’s the old saying, “fight a boxer, box a fighter” applied to jiu-jitsu. Don’t let him to fight in his comfort zone, and instead take him into your world if you can.
Lets say that your opponent is awesome at the spider guard, so DON’T just blithely let him get his grips and then try to fight him. Don’t even go there; change the game instead. Maybe pull guard on him. Or sit back and play the leglock game so he panics, abandons the spider guard, and gives you the guard pass.
Conversely, maybe your opponent is a top player with a crushing guard pass. Don’t play that game: if you end up on the bottom then stand up and get back to your feet every time you end up in guard.
So when is this bad advice?
Even though “If I don’t know, I will not allow” is perfect principle to follow in competition doesn’t mean that you should be doing it all the time…
In fact, it’s the wrong thing to do most of the time when you’re training.
Training is the time to make mistakes, learn new things, and end up in situations that you’ve never been before, especially when you’re going against someone your own level or not as good as you are.
Enter the other person’s world because then you’ll be learning how to deal with and survive against their best techniques.
If one of your training partners is awesome at the closed guard then most of the time let him start there and try to survive. You may end up tapping out more, but in the long run you’ll become a much better grappler for it.
Then, once in a while, do the opposite and see if you can completely avoid his closed guard. This will train you to turn this aspect of your game – avoiding the strong areas – on and off at will. Avoiding your opponent’s A game is a skill like any other, which means you need to practise it once in a while.
“If I don’t know, I will not allow” is a super-useful tool in your toolbox. Give it a try and let me know how it works out!