‘Level Up’ Your Jiu-Jitsu Game

On an internet message board devoted to BJJ, I saw a question that asked “What took your game to the next level?” There were a variety of different answers from training with a specific instructor, changing gyms, starting with the gi and so on.
I thought about the question in regards to my own time when I was purple and brown belt, eventually leading to black belt. The thing that took my own jiu-jitsu to the next level was focusing on guard retention and recovery for a several month period when I was a purple belt.
Why did that make such a difference in my overall game to get better at a single part (and not a submission or specific style of open guard)?
While I developed some specific skills for guard retention and recovery, there are a few other important reasons that may not be obvious at first.
1) It removed a bottle neck in my rolls.
If we review the video of a roll where I got in a bad position and ultimately submitted, the match turned at a certain point. That point was often when my guard got passed and I got pinned in side control.
When my guard retention improved, I was spending less time in positions where I was carrying my opponents weight and not getting as fatigued. I was getting submitted less because I was spending less total time where I could be attacked.
2) I had to develop some supplementary skills. Not only Granby rolling (inverting is not an option for me), working from and feeling comfortable in turtle, more attention to using various grips and hooks to make my guard more difficult to pass.
I had to learn a little more about leg entanglement (e.g. De la Riva, single leg X guard) to slow down and control standing passers.
3) It freed up my overall game. It made my overall jiu-jitsu better because I was not as afraid to take chances attacking from guard. Ordinarily, I might have been hesitant to attack a sweep or submission that I was eager to try because I didn’t want to risk getting my guard passed and wind up stuck on the bottom. Better to play conservative guard.
Once I improved my guard retention, I was trying more things when working guard, and my guard ended up getting more dangerous for my opponents.
Your game may go to the next level in any number of different ways. In my case, it was focusing on an improving a specific area of guard retention.
I turn the question to you now; what took your game up to the next level?


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