Your BJJ Bottlenecks

When the rolling starts at my academy, I closely watch the students, primarily to ensure that everyone is rolling safely: no people crashing into the walls or someone going for a heel hook in their first week because they saw it on YouTube.

But almost as important is that I can observe and analyze the students strengths and weaknesses. When I am familiar with my students’ jiu-jitsu, I can offer them specific pieces of training advice for their game.

Most of us have a “bottleneck” in our game: weakness that is exploited by our training partners and results in us repeatedly ending up in bad positions and on the defensive.

This can be an enormous source of frustration to a student who has decent skills but is constantly ending up being dominated by lesser skilled opponents. When we review what happened in the roll, we see a turning point. The fatal mistake on which the match turned from equal to the student being on the defensive. I call this the “bottleneck” in their jiu-jitsu.

Once this bottleneck is identified and corrected, the student can experience an almost immediate surge in their success.

Allow me to illustrate this with two examples:

1) One student had good hip movement and mobility on the ground. He had a decent grasp of the basic submissions but was getting his guard passed far too often by students of less experience. Consequently, he spent the remainder of the match defending side control or mount.

Watching his rolls I could see him being very indecisive with his choice of grips and rapidly switching between ineffective grips. The opponent could easily achieve posture and pass.

The advice to remove this “bottleneck”? I recommended that he stick to a grip from which he could break his opponent’s posture and retain his guard. Within a few classes, the student was spending much more time in his guard and less time caught under side control.

2) Another student was all too willing to put his back on the ground. In scrambles for position he would all too willingly accept the bottom and go to guard.

Sure, we need to develop a solid guard. But If I were to pose the question “If you were to have a roll with your identical twin, who would win? The top or the bottom twin,” most people recognize that the top guy has the advantage of movement and gravity.

The advice to remove this “bottleneck”? Do not concede the bottom in scrambles for the next month. His default was accepting the bottom in any scramble. I challenged the student to try to win the scramble for the top position for the next month. The goal is for him to achieve a dominant top position.

When a “bottleneck” is addressed and removed in a short amount of time, the students’ rolling effectiveness seems to take a big leap forward. They didn’t get that much better in a short period of time. They just removed “the kink in the garden hose” that was slowing them down.

A good coach can help you identify these areas in your game.

Read also: What Do Most Students Dislike About BJJ Class?


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