Monday, October 10, 2011

BJJ 10/9/2011 - Self Assessing Against Higher Ranks

This one is a two part post, so if you are more interested in my musings than the technical details of class you can skip to the bottom section. Otherwise, continue on!
Kris showed up about 6:30 for the beginner class and so we rolled for about an hour, just working on random stuff. He found a couple of good places to dig up toe holds when I wasn't being careful so I had to start really keeping my feet out of danger all the time with him. He did keep feeding into arm triangles somehow though and we couldn't even really figure out if he was making a mistake or if I was just forcing them well. It was a good hour of rolling though.

Main class was more open guard in no-gi. Starting out with double wrist control and feet on hips you first stretch your opponent out by pushing the hips and pulling the wrists (PROTIP: When you are grabbing the wrists grab in the depression right above the hand where the bones of the wrist are just above the hand. There are nobby bits of bone there that give you a better grip), next push on your opponents knee on the side you plan to attack, then feed your knee up through the middle of your arms and then over to the outside on the side you plan to attack and thread it down under your opponents leg. This puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder and  takes away a lot of your opponents strength on that side to stop them from breaking your grip.
Next move your hips towards your opponent a little so that you can get your other leg alongside their based leg, then lift with the hooking leg and chop with the other leg to sweep your opponent. You can move immediately to a mounted triangle from here.

Second technique is the same setup, but your opponent bases out so that you can't sweep them over, so you take the easy triangle choke and just kick your leg over and lock it up. Your opponent is generally already stretched out pretty bad, so it makes it hard for them to defend before you have to completely locked.

Third technique is the same setup, opponent bases out, but you don't think you can get the triangle for whatever reason, so your non-hooking leg passes over the outside and over your opponents head and tucks in next to your other hooking leg under your opponents leg. You are now sitting almost entirely on your opponents upper arm and putting a TON Of pressure on the shoulder. A lot of us had to tap at this point just from shoulder pressure. Next you free your original hook, and just step over and take your opponents back.
Before you go to the back you can try to finish by pushing your opponents wrist up as if you are finishing an Americana and see if he taps. Some people will, some won't.

Drilling was from that same double wrist grab w/ feet on hips. Everyone pretty much immediately broke grips on me, which was fine. I worked my tournament game with scissor sweeps and triangle chokes, rarely branching out to other things. Passing guard I was working more on getting low and tight when passing to keep my opponent from having space to work to defend.

Rolling was a full gauntlet, more of the same mostly, but I got to roll with my instructor Casey and was able to execute a guard pass, hold side control, then take his back, then transfer to the crucifix when he escaped that. I was able to outposition him during the roll. Now, I know he wasn't going 100%, but that leads into my topic for the second part of this. How do you measure your progress against higher ranks, especially black belts?

So I know my instructor wasn't going 100%, but I also know he's not in the habit of just GIVING me guard passes or anything like that. So how do I know whether he was just being more relaxed today or if I was on my game today or if he was evaluating my ability to take advantage of opportunities? The answer is that I don't, and that I shouldn't worry about it. I got to flow through several positions and chain together a bunch of transitions and attacks against someone that I knew wasn't spazzing out on me but who would technically defend things.
I know we're all tempted to evaluate ourselves based on how we perform against higher belts, but that's a mistake. Our evaluation should be in how well we paid attention and remembered the techniques taught in class, and how well we stuck to our gameplan for the class. Did I attempt to implement the techniques I wanted to practice? Did I attempt the move of the day? Was I a good rolling partner for my teammates? Those are the criteria that we should judge ourselves by. Above all we don't want to be trying to guess how much the upper belts are letting us work or how intense they are being compared to their 100% level. That's a recipe for frustration.


  1. I agree that one roll is not an indicator of advancement or progress. However, what I have noticed in my own training is that when I begin doing something often against higher belts (passing guard, keeping side control, knee on belly, etc.), I know my game is improving.

    I remember when I couldn't pass a blue belt's guard, but now I consider it the same as passing a white belt's guard. I also have no trouble passing purple belt's and in a lot of instances, brown belt's.

    When I reflected on my inability to pass a few years ago I realized that I have made a lot of progress.

  2. Absolutely. If you look back and see a trend of increasing success then it's a good indicator, but I see many people fall into the trap of looking at what happened RIGHT NOW TONIGHT and attaching too much importance to it. Especially when it's improvement against a higher ranked individual.

  3. The best way to see how you match up to his level is to ask him to go hard on you next time. Tell him you want to see where your level is at compared to his. If you are still able to do those things when he is going 100%, then you will know that it was your skill. If you are not, then you will know that he was letting you move so that you could practice those techniques.

  4. I think some folks are misunderstanding the point that I was trying to make. It's not about "How do I engineer a scenario where I can assess my progress against a higher belt" it's about avoiding the trap of self assessing using other people as your yardstick and instead concentrating on whether you are meeting your training goals in class. And for damn sure none of your training goals should include "Tap out X person" or "Pass Y's guard" those aren't productive directions to train in.