Many BJJ schools have some time slots on the schedule each week allocated for open mat.
This is an overlooked but important part of a student’s learning. Sure, the structured classes make up the most important part of your training. However, the way most BJJ classes are set up — with warm ups, three techniques, and rolling before heading home — do not allow much time for some important parts of learning.
Here are three important things you need open mat time for:
1) Sharpening Your Sword
I watched some video of current BJJ kingpin Macus Almeida “Buchecha” drilling his knee cut guard pass at Checkmat head quarters. He is literally world-class at that guard pass, yet we saw him methodically drilling it with his partner.
Check out how Andre Galvao drills to tighten his transitions:
This multi-time World Champion finds time to drill his favorite techniques and keep his sword sharp. You do some drilling in the technique portion of class, but it is not commonly devoted to your favorite positions.
The best time for this valuable practice is open mat time, where you can concentrate on whatever you want.
2) Deconstructing And Putting It Back Together
To truly learn a position inside and out, you need time with your favorite training partners to go to a corner of the mat and figure out positions on your own.
Yes, having a black belt directly teach you a position is great, but you won’t really make the position part of your jiu-jitsu until you break it apart into all of its parts — for example, by asking the questions: “What does each limb do?” and “Where is my bodyweight?” — and understand each detail.
You need to play with the grips and positions and ask your partner, “What feels more effective? When I do it this way or that way?” This way, you will internalize the technique in a much deeper way than merely repeating what you were told.
You need open time to tinker with your positions, to break the move apart and put it back together.
3) Specific Training
Let’s say you have developed an obsession with the knee cut pass. You are determined to learn this pass and make it a part of your “A Game”.
However, your BJJ school has been working on a lot of half guard the last several weeks and you aren’t finding much chance to work that knee cut pass.
Use open mat time to do “specific” or positional sparring with limited objectives to pass the guard using knee cut. If you pass, restart and pass again. If you are swept or submitted, restart your passing once again in the guard.
This focused type of sparring maximizes the time you spend in that important position.
Much of your learning in jiu-jitsu will take place outside of the set classes!