As the end of the year draws nigh I find myself looking back at how my game has developed over the last 12 months. My first year as a blue belt drew to a close last month and feel that I've developed very well over that time. I've gone from what was, in reality, a game based on around hail-mary triangle chokes and lucky sweeps to one that has a myriad of paths to top control and a wide variety of submissions from each position to attack with. I feel like my Gi control is still lacking though. I'm not much for tying people up with the gi and I probably should be doing more of that. Anyways, aside from that I feel like it's time to lay out my Game as it stands right now.
Destinations: Kimura (Gi and No-Gi), Single Collar Choke (Gi), Triangle Choke (No-Gi)
Kimura - This is really my catchall now. I go work on settings this grip up from wherever I can get it and I've used it sweep, finish, and combo with other attacks like the Omoplata. I prefer to go for it from the top in either Technical Mount or headmount.
Single Collar choke - This choke is still about the only Gi specific submission that I use. However I use a half dozen or so variations of it. If at any point I can get this grip I can at the very least sweep and usually finish from whatever position I'm in. I also use it against the super large guys in order to get top position since hooking it and rolling under them always lands me on top.
Triangle Choke - This is still my bread and butter in No-Gi. I hit it from pretty much wherever I want and finish it most of the time, even when my knee is stacked all the way to my forehead. I'm still working on tuning it in Gi though. The additional grips and friction give me a lot more trouble locking it in and finishing it there than in No-Gi. I'm far more likely to combo off to the armbar in Gi. One of my next goals is to combo it with the single collar choke from above since I'm pretty sure I can make that work.
Takedowns - I'm all about pulling guard. I have a couple of decent throws, but it's so difficult to get people to engage that I generally end up just pulling guard to get things moving. I suppose I should be more aggressive looking for a takedown to a dominant position, but I'm going to have to get someone to drill with me more next year if I want to REALLY improve my takedowns. My primary guard pulling method is to get a collar and a sleeve grip and then attempt a suicide throw, if it works I end up in mount. If it fails I have guard with a decent set of grips.
Sweeps - I like to get the sleeve grip, try a scissor sweep, then if they manage to block it or post to quickly roll to the other side and push the arm across while pulling down on the collar and hipping out to the side. That gets me halfway to their back and usually gives me the single collar grip, the giftwrap grip, or their back depending on how they react. If that fails I generally move to an elevator sweep with a single butterfly hook. If that fails as well I fall back to spider guard -> leg hook -> bicep slicer sweep. I've become less enamored of that sweep recently since all of the guys in the gym know it and immediately posture up really hard against it, however I'm continuing to work it to look for things to chain together with it when they posture up like that. If that one fails is generally time to regain guard and start over again and throw a flower sweep and some triangle attempts into the mix.
Top Game - I've gone from feeling completely bewildered with KoB to using it as my primary attack vector. I like to get to Knee on Belly, then fish for an arm and transition to headmount and work the Kimura, or slide over to mount and then switch to technical mount and work for that same grip. At the same time I'm always looking for my single collar choke grip and the armbar as well as an opportunity to setup a triangle choke on guys my weight. Against anyone bigger than I am I don't give up top position voluntarily and will continue to transition on top until something opens up.
I've spent the last couple of months working on sharpening up my situp sweeps and found that in No-Gi I can fire them off without a problem, but in Gi I tend to be pinned to the ground more often and more effectively and have to rely on my legs to break the stalemate. I'm not able to situp as often in a manner that lets me attempt the sweep. My armbar transitions and combos have improved greatly though and my combinations in general are far above what they were a year ago. My top control, base, and pressure have developed well also.
I think my focus is going to be more and more on combining techniques with the goal of the third technique in the chain succeeding. Hopefully by the time I have a series
of solid, working combinations I'll be up for my Purple Belt and ready to move on to figuring out what to do with the rest of my game. I definitely know enough techniques to have something effective from pretty much any position. I need to sharpen up my footlocks a bit, and work on developing more combinations and better flow. If I can really pour myself into that starting in January then I should have no trouble earning my purple by the end of next year.