The expression “find the sweet spot” comes from the USA national past time, the sport of baseball. It refers to the specific spot on the bat where it makes the most effective contact with the ball. A little higher or lower and the amount of force is significantly reduced.
So it is with many techniques in jiu-jitsu. Each technique, each grip has a sweet spot where your leverage will be maximized and the amount of strength you need to execute the move will be most economical.
Let’s take a look at a specific example to illustrate the concept. I was teaching one of my favorite techniques, the rolling loop choke, and the grip on the collar can be tricky to get.
If your grip is too deep (normally a good thing when it comes to collar chokes) then your wrist will be painfully twisted when you execute the roll.
If your grip is not deep enough, the collar will simply not be tight enough to cut off the blood flow to the brain.
The “sweet spot” is somewhere in the middle. I can’t tell you exactly where. You need to feel it and get feedback from your training partner. Your instructor can’t stand over you and say “you need to move your grip 3 centimeters looser”. You need to get down on the mat and experiment with different grips to find the correct feel.
One of the best ways to develop this feeling for the sweet spot is drilling your moves with a training partner who will give you feed back. Play with the grip until the technique breaks. You will know what is too tight and what is too loose, and eventually find the sweet spot.
Instructor Roy Harris told a seminar that he challenged two of his students to perform 500 repetitions of the triangle choke in a month. One of the students asked him if the correct mechanics for the triangle were with his foot “like this or like that?” Roy answered “Go drill it. Try it 50 times one way and 50 times the other. After 100 repetitions you will be able to tell me what is the best way!”
I believe that just busting out reps with a training partner is essential to learning techniques at a deeper level. Ask your partner, “Does it feel stronger when I grip here or when I grip lower?” You can apply this type of analysis and troubleshooting to any move that you are trying to figure out.
Now that you are aware of the sweet spot for a choke grip, look to how to optimize every other component of the movement. There is very likely a sweet spot to apply your body weight, the optimal angle to apply the force, and so on.
Dissect your favorite sweep to see if you can identify the sweet spot for the angle, grips, and how to unbalance your opponent. You will see the move in a different, deeper way.
This concept also extends to correct timing, which is more difficult to feel and learn. A third-degree black belt who had promoted many black belts said this was the difference between purple, brown, and black belts.
I attended a seminar with the awesome Fernando Terere and had him apply the Brabo choke on me. I was astounded to feel how he instantly found the sweet spot for every grip, angle, and placement of weight. I had never felt a choke like that before!
It made me aware of how we can look to find the sweet spot in all of our jiu-jitsu positions.