The Wrestler’s Battle

Chael and Michael don’t know each other but both signed up to the same Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy on the same day. Chael wrestled throughout high school and college; when he graduated, he wanted to continue grappling in some capacity. Michael played team sports throughout high school and only became interested in jiu jitsu after he graduated college.

The Beginning of the Journey

Both students had different expectations for their first jiu jitsu class. Chael was excited to continue grappling and eager to showcase his wrestling skills. He wasn’t too interested in the fundamental lessons. Chael knew how to grapple and wanted to get his shot to challenge the other students. Michael, on the other hand was nervous and expected to be beat up by the rest of the class. Although new to the sport, Michael was open to absorb everything that was taught. However, he found it difficult to practice many of the techniques because he was unfamiliar with the maneuvers.

After a few classes, both students had the opportunity to spar. Chael easily passed and dominated Michael’s guard. In fact, Michael didn’t have get the opportunity to play on top because Chael refused to fight from his back. Chael strategically used his background in wrestling to also dominate the other white belts. He avoided being on the bottom with the blue belts because of how uncomfortable the position made him feel. Chael viewed jiu jitsu only as an extension of wrestling and tried to incorporate as much of his background as he could to beat the other students. Michael, on the other hand, was able to develop both sides of his game because his other partners were willing to play top and bottom positions. Although Michael was uncomfortable with most positions, he was willing to struggle to develop his entire game.

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Time went by and both students earned their blue belts. Sparring between the two became more competitive as Chael began to find it more difficult to pass Michael’s guard. At times Michael gave up passes, but only after he attempted to sweep or submit Chael. Michael continued to learn and develop his entire game to become a well-rounded blue belt. However, at this point in their journey, Chael still maintained an edge because of the background and development of his top game. He avoided sweeps and submissions by minimizing risks and played it safe. He also refused to play guard with the other students even at the contention of his professor. Chael was more concerned with his position in the school’s hierarchy than the development of his jiu jitsu game.

A few years passed and both students earned their purple belts. Both competed heavily in tournaments around the state. Michael was a solid purple belt. He had a good guard and was dangerous with submissions from every position. He was able to strategize against every opponent with the help of his professor. He could take his opponent down and work to pass, play guard, or just go with the flow. Chael was also a solid purple belt.

He was an excellent passer, but he would often lose to an opponent who was better at him in wrestling. Chael was only able to use one game: takedown and work to pass. Pulling guard was never an option for him so he would regularly lose to good wrestlers. Chael’s guard was comparable to that of a high level white belt. Only then did Chael start to understand what his professor was trying to tell him from the beginning – that he needed to fill the gaps in his game. Chael could have taken several steps to improve his entire game by shifting his perspective on jiu jitsu. In doing so, it would have allowed him to be far ahead of Michael because Chael had started with a well-developed top game from wrestling. It is much easier to go into battle when you are ready to take the fight in any situation than if you are limited to one game.

1- Take Away the Urge to Win

You may have a successful pedigree as an amateur wrestler – winning many conferences and state level championships – but jiu jitsu is technical in a different aspect. Some of the techniques that you learned from wrestling may help you beat your training partners in jiu jitsu, but that could be because of the inexperience in your training partners. Lower ranked students may not know how to respond to your attacks, but the same techniques may not work on intermediate level grapplers and could get you in trouble with advanced practitioners. Take a step back and learn to use proper techniques that can be used from the white to black belt level.

2 – Be Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Start From Your Back! Being on top is comfortable for you. You’ve experienced this your whole life in wrestling. Playing guard is the most unique aspect of Brazilian Jiu jitsu. No other martial art allows you to efficiently fight from your back and win a fight. At some point you will face a better wrestler who takes you down or a jiu jitsu fighter who is able to sweep you to your back. How will you respond? A jiu jitsu fighter must be well-rounded in all positions, so it’s time to develop your guard.

3 – Don’t Look Back

There are points that when you will reach great frustration; especially when you struggle against someone that you are certain you could “beat” by reverting to what is familiar to you. Fight the urge to retreat to your old game. Doing so may help you beat your current opponent but will lead you right back to the same predicament when you face a more advanced player. Use this opportunity to learn how to strategize with intention and determine the proper technique to use given each situation.

4 – Open Your Mind to a New Start

Keep an open mind for every situation that you face. You will learn some concepts that may be foreign and completely opposite of what you learned in wrestling. But remember that you are only adding more tools to your toolbox. More options will allow you to deal with a greater diversity in jiu jitsu styles. Don’t forget that jiu jitsu is different than wrestling. The rules are different as is the martial art. Learn to adapt to new situations with an open mind.

5 – Enjoy the Journey

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. There is no end in learning the art. It requires time and dedication, much like any other endeavor that we decide to pursue. You must be happy to pursue it. Each detail, grip angle, analysis of a combat situation will help you improve your game. If you approach jiu jitsu in this manner, you will be far ahead of other students who pursue the sport. Your wrestling background will be useful when the situation demands it. You will develop much quicker than a person with no wrestling background. But if you try to use shortcuts to get ahead in the beginning, you will find a burden of consequences in the future. Do your best to cover the holes in your game.

Enjoy the journey, embrace the grind, and love the process. 



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