What Are You Training For?

Flickr / Creative Commpons: Sylvain

One of the most important questions for BJJ practitioners to ask themselves is, ¨What am I training for?¨

Why is this question important?

I listened to a brief video by Kama Jiu-jitsu on old school jiu-jitsu vs new school where Professor Kama explained that there were very few organised sports BJJ tournaments in the early days of BJJ in the USA. Most of the training was focused on self defense and challenges similar to the Gracie challenge. Many of the students were not even sure of the points system.

Sport BJJ has expanded exponentially since the early days of BJJ in North America and many BJJ schools focus almost exclusively on sport BJJ and strategies and techniques around the rules of competitions.

Why are you training? Are you interested in sport BJJ competition? The figures I’ve heard were between 10-15% of most academies compete in BJJ tournaments.

Should training BJJ be the same for students not interested in sport competition?

Not necessarily. Hear me out. Because of the rules in IBJJF and submission only competition, takedowns are not rewarded heavily, so why bother to train stand up grappling? If your opponent is just going to pull guard, then drilling hundreds of reps of your double leg is a waste of time? Your opponent in the blue belt division is unlikely to attempt a school yard headlock on you, so what is the point of drilling self-defense headlock escapes?

Not every student is learning jiu-jitsu to compete. The majority start training jiu-jitsu for reasons of self defense and physical fitness.

Recently, I taught a week of classes on the straight ankle lock. We learned two types of leg positions: the standard ashi garami, which leg lock master Dean Lister says is the best place to start learning leg locks and also the IBJJF legal position. Secondly we learned the forbidden “reap” leg position, which is a more effective control but will get you disqualified in IBJJF rules.

One student seemed confused by the need for two versions of the same ankle lock. I indicated that it was not my purpose to only teach tournament legal techniques, but as David Camarillo says, “help you become a better grappler.¨ As a student of jiu-jitsu, one should be learning how to use (and defend!) legitimate grappling techniques whether they are legal in a certain rule set or not.

Another class I demonstrated how to defend the “can opener” neck crank from inside guard. One student interrupted and asked, “Hey, isn’t that illegal?!”

“Yes it is,¨I said. ¨But someone still might try to do it to you! You need to know how to defend it!” It is illegal in many sports tournaments, but as a student of jiu-jitsu you need to know that it exists and know how to defend it.

Don’t let your jiu-jitsu training be 100% dictated by sports rules.


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