I often hear from people distraught about some area of their jiu-jitsu lagging behind.
It might be their sweeps from the closed guard, their submissions from side mount, their escapes from rear mount, or their butterfly guard passes, but in that that one specific area they’re just not as good at as they should be.
Here’s the thing though: there will ALWAYS be areas where you are lagging behind!
It’s true for blue belts, it’s true for black belts, and it’s true for multiple-time world champions.
You simply can’t be equally competent at every single area of your game all at once.
And here’s the good news: if some areas of your game are lagging behind then there are also probably areas in which you are ahead of the curve.
A great example is the rank of purple belt. By the time they are purple belts most BJJ practitioners will have at least a couple of attacks that are black belt level.
For example, when I was a purple belt my kneebar attacks were black belt level. I had focussed on this submission, received the right coaching, and the move just fit my anatomy. It worked consistently against my training partners even though they knew it was coming, it worked in competition, and it worked against higher belt ranks too. The kneebar had become one of my signature moves.
But of course there were other attacks that lagged behind. For example I didn’t find a variation of the guillotine that really worked for me until I became a black belt. So for a while I had black belt knee bars and blue belt guillotines. This sort of discrepancy is normal, and it it applies to other areas too – sweeps, guard passes, escapes, etc. – not just submissions.
Now I’ve been a black belt for a while, and it still applies to me (just because the black belt is harder to get in BJJ than almost any other martial art doesn’t mean that you’re done learning once you get there).
An example of this is the Spider Guard.
My MMA-oriented training partners didn’t use it much, and my top-game focussed BJJ coach didn’t like it either. As a result my understanding of the Spider Guard lagged behind.
But it’s undeniable how incredibly important the Spider Guard is for modern day BJJ
It wasn’t until I started working with my friend Elliott Bayev on the Spider Guard that it started catching up. It’s not at Black belt level yet, but it probably improved a full belt level in the first day that we worked on it. Which was a little embarrassing because there was so much I didn’t know, and very exhilarating because who doesn’t love learning new stuff that really works!
Anyway, the point is that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
And – most importantly – when it comes to those under-developed areas of your jiu-jitsu: don’t panic, this is normal, everybody goes through it! Just keep plugging away, accept the help that is out there, and those pesky areas of weakness will catch up in time if you prioritise them in your training.