Explore the Deep Waters…

Photo by: Blanca Marisa Garcia

If you’re not getting submitted in training there’s a chance you’re doing things wrong.  When I roll, I’m not trying to beat my training partners. Rather, I put myself where I am vulnerable and uncomfortable and then I try to find my way out, all while this other person is actively trying to submit me.  I call these spots the “deep waters.” It sucks.  But I am better for it.

When you train you should explore the deep waters.  A major goal that every jiu-jitsu practitioner should strive for is to be completely comfortable in the worst scenarios.  If you’re rolling to “win” every time, there’s a good chance you’ll lose at a competition.

This comes about for two main reasons:

  1. If you do wind up getting caught in a bad situation, you won’t have the experience or comfort in those situations. This makes victory after a momentary defeat unlikely.
  2. Your game will be closed off and tight out of fear of being put in a bad situation, thus decreasing the efficiency of your jiu-jitsu.

Good jiu-jitsu is the ability to impose your will on others and force them to only do what you want them to do.  Great jiu-jitsu is the ability to allow others to do whatever they want but still impose your will on them.  I don’t want to settle for good.

If you explore deep waters you’ll find you get tapped out more often.  Teammates who I know for a fact I could defeat in competition submit me on a fairly regular basis because I let them establish their most powerful and dominant positions and then and only then try to figure my way out.  It sucks, it bruises my ego, but it has made me far more difficult to submit.

Doing this also gives me the ability to break opponents in submission-only competition.  If they have no frying pan or fire to throw me into, what are they going to do?  Because of this I have been able to win matches against people who probably would beat me if I weren’t so comfortable everywhere they put me.  Become comfortable even when you are uncomfortable and you will be able to solve many more puzzles than most.

If you want to be the practice champ, never put yourself in bad positions.  Fight tooth and nail to jockey for position, wasting probably half of every roll. When you get to those bad positions spazz and either get submitted or throw your training partner off of you, possibly hurting them with an errant knee or elbow.

Guess what? No one cares if you escape or get submitted.  The reality is, if that’s how you roll, if you are so concerned about not getting to bad situations in training, you will be completely and utterly screwed if you are ever in one of those situations in a real life or in a competition.

Explore the deep waters and become well acquainted with them.  Learn the nooks and crannies of your own game.  Determine in what positions you are weakest, and work on those until they become familiar, comfortable territory.  Or don’t and lose out on one of the best feelings in jiu-jitsu: the security of knowing that no matter where you are when grappling, you can be comfortable and safe.

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Emil Fischer is an active black belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training at Strong Style Mixed Martial Arts and Training Center near Cleveland Ohio (www.strongstyle.com) and teaching at Ararat Martial Arts and FItness Center. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer and https://instagram.com/emilfischerbjj/. Emil is sponsored by Meerkatsu (www.Meerkatsu.com, discount code EmilKatsu), Eddy's On Coventry, North Coast Cryo (www.Northcoast-Cryo.com) NottaRookie, YM (www.cbdyoume.com discount code COOKIES), Defense Soap (www.defensesoap.com discount code COOKIES) Impact Mouthguards (www.impactmouthguards.com discount code EMILIMPACT), and North South Jiu Jitsu Underwear


  1. Partially agree. It is great to be comfortable in bad positions.
    I think this especially applies to sub only competitions.

    However if possible you want to just overwhelm your opponent and never allow him the chance to score on you or get you in trouble.
    -If on the bottom, sweep for points and get on top.
    -If on top, pass and get points for position.
    -When standing, throw for points.

    When I train these paths to victory I already fail when my opponent manages to pass/sweep/throw me or gets me in a bad position where he gets points and I am in trouble.
    Also the clock runs in the favor of the person that scored first. If I score and I manage to block his output for the rest of the match I win.
    I do not need to submit someone in order to win the match, just score points and be active enough.
    If the sub is there that is nice but one can win just on points as well.

    So yeah, I think it is great to have a solid defense and great escapes. However I think it is even better when the opponent can not score on you or get you in trouble and you can rack up points on him.

    So training in deep waters is great.
    But I think more time should be spend to win the small battles where you can block the opponent’s attacks before they start and you are the one that scores points.


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