Training: Differences Between Positional Sparring & Drilling

A note on the differences between sparring and drilling resistance:

Positional sparring is fine and fun if you have some working knowledge of a position, but if you haven’t acquired decent form and understanding, we’re entertaining what legendary basketball coach John Wooden called ‘lots of activity with very little achievement.’ ;o)

Some things to remember about drilling versus positional sparring is that drilling is cooperative in nature, with specific speeds and feeds repped to build optimal neuro-muscular conditioning.

Taken the preceding drilling definition to the extreme with high reps, you have conditioning drills that build BOTH form and conditioning, but form and understanding must come first, otherwise we’re back to activity without much achievement.

Positional sparring by contrast, is chiefly uncooperative training with agreed on parameters. This is of course essential too, building a different, more holistic timing than drilling, as well providing us with information on what needs attention and possible future drilling.

In closing, think of Sparring as a Fork and Drilling a Spoon:


Cross-Sides Bottom Defense: Identifying Top-Side Advantages

Used to think of Cross-Sides bottom as a one dimensional either/or position, but am playing with a more dynamic approach to posture. Still, the first step in any defensive position is starting with the specific mechanical advantage the top player has:

The truth is, in most cases, we can bridge and shrimp with the legs, and use hand-fighting, pummeling, and framing to act as a sort of Guard. What the top player does have, that they did not while in actual Guard is the ability to transition through walking, rotating, or changing elevation to a Knee-Ride.

Xande Ribeiro demonstrating rotation as well as ‘walking’ @ 7:49-8:00 and ‘elevation change’ to knee-ride @ 5:42:

Rickson Gracie teaching rotating transitions to nullify frames, control, mount, and submit starting @ 0:53:

Will dive more into what we have on Cross-Sides Bottom to counter and re-counter the aformentioned mobilities, but again the first step is analyzing what advantages the top player has gained by passing Guard, where we had legs and feet more actively in play to hinder mobility through connection to create drag.

Mindsets: Training For Mastery

Entering a phase of training positions for mastery of positions as opposed to honing what I hope will be competitive tools.

This mindset is probably behind practitioners who really embrace tedious, detailed, and repetitive training, as they’re working on their Art, something both measurable and beyond measure.

Have talked about focusing on process versus outcome quite a bit in the past, but was coming at it from an angle of trying to get away from focusing on outcome, instead of being the process.


Cross-Sides Top Domination: Underhook Killer & Dissecting Escapes

Have been breaking down Cross-Sides Top, and a very simple observation made yesterday is when the bottom player is able to get to his/her side, they kill your ability to nullify shrimping with an underhook.

On the other hand, when flat, a bottom player can still shrimp when underhooked, but their shrimp range is extremely limited plus they’re carrying all your body weight. Hence, they’re easy to track.

In terms of solutions, provided your training partner doesn’t have a frame, you can flatten them back down by manipulating the spine via the chin/neck, just understand the tracking power of an underhook is significantly reduced if they get to their side, and even more so if they get a frame or underhook.

Roger Gracie countering Mario Sperry getting to his side with an underhook of his own with head chancery/chinstrap and leg weave @ 10:06-10:11:

Training: Speed Vs. Trying To Go Fast

‘Speed’ happens when you’ve repped (drilled AND live reps) a position long enough to where you’re using a minimum of energy and don’t have to think about the movement, it just happens.

‘Trying’ to go ‘fast’ is a result not taking the time to understand the mechanics of where you’re at and where you’re going, as well as making the transition itself as effortless as possible through slow mindful reps, of which speed is a natural result.

Cross-Sides Bottom Defense: Tipping Points

I’m a visual learner which you really have to make work in Jiu-Jitsu because it’s a kinesthetic art.

Still, you can come up with some cool analogies and reference points using anatomy as a guide. One such observation occurred last night working Cross-Sides Top:

Using the spine as a reference we noticed the tipping point for reversing the top player is when their weight shifts past spinal center-line. This situation can happen a number of ways as demonstrated below, but probably the most common is overcompensating to keep the bottom players far-side shoulder down:

Pedro Sauer shrimps and pushes hip to get his shoulder up from shoulder and hip control, and when the top player drives to put the shoulder back down, he’s naturally over this center-line:

Carlos Machado walking his opponents weight into position from head control @ 0:58-1:17:

Rener Gracie getting his opponent to walk into him by faking guard recovery attempt from head control @ 1:33-1:45:

As bonus there are three different things going on above: Faking, Forcing, and Re-Directing based on structure. What approaches are the most technical and why?

Training: Testing Mental Reps

With the exception of a highly intentional mental rep versus a half-hearted physical rep, I don’t believe visualization or watching film makes up for physical work, because when working physically we’re working mind AND body…

Another analogy is we’re going to pick up things in drilling that we’d miss just studying film, in the same way that sparring makes of aware of things that wouldn’t arise if we limited ourselves solely to drilling and instructional/competition footage.

This being said, to test the utility of mental reps, plan a session where you watch film of something you are going to physically drill as much as possible, versus the standard 2-4 times where people ‘think’ they have something good enough to ‘try it.’ Next, notice the difference this makes, if any when you go to drill.

Also, if you don’t have access to watching what you want to drill, try to visualize it, or visualize to get even more mental reps in than just watching film:


Study: Filtering Your Game Through Principles

Love the Zen based idea of comprehending the whole of Jiu-Jitsu through one position and/or understanding all positions via an understanding of principles.

Don’t know if the above is possible, but the larger point is the direction it gives the mind.

To the idea of principles, came across this article on Rickson’s Jiu-Jitsu Global Federation site recently, that listed Leverage, Base, Weight Distribution, and Posture as guiding Jiu-Jitsu principles.

Full article here:

Off the top of my head I’d add Uniformity (Natural Body Movement), Energy Efficiency, Timing, Distance, Connection, and Survival (not getting submitted or ktfo).

Anyways, something I’m going to be more vigilant about is filtering my Jiu-Jitsu through each of these principles and prioritizing accordingly.

How do your favorite positions utilize each if any of the preceding principles?

Bring some science to your training:

weird science

Cross-Sides Top Domination: Pimpin’ The Pause

Xande Ribeiro hinting at pimping the pause principle @ 5:41-5:44:

What makes Jiu-Jitsu unique is it’s rooted in patience and waiting for the right time to mount offense:

‘Pimping the pause’ is basically weathering the storm right up until your opponent stops moving in order to recover.

Although haven’t explored this fully, a place I’ve used this concept a lot is mounting at the top of an opponents bridge, so as mount happens the bridge is on the decline with it’s power receding. Here we’re pimping the pause within a movement.

Going even more subtle, have heard Chris Haueter talk about moving as a person exhales so your timed to mount, pass, submit, as your training partner draws breath. Talk about invisible!

To recap, pimp the pause when an opponent stops to recover after a burst of energy, at the top of of a movement, or on the exhale. In short, it’s the same principle applied differently.

Also, don’t wait until sparring to try this, rather use it as an integral drilling concept holmes.