Creating a Game Plan for Your BJJ

6 min read
Read how going in with a game plan can be an essential element to your BJJ progress

Creating a Game Plan for Your BJJ

Read how going in with a game plan can be an essential element to your BJJ progress  

Location: Tampa, FL

Part (1)

Having a game plan and starting from your knees are two vital element of BJJ that everyone should know.

As a new Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, it can be overwhelming when you first begin training or rolling. There are so many different moves and positions in BJJ, it can be such a daunting task to know what to do when you are rolling with your partner.

When I teach my students, I always stress to them to have a game plan. It is essential to be organized with your thoughts and know what you want to do. For example, to be a competent practitioner, you should strive for a well-rounded top (guard passing, side control, mount, knee on belly) game as well as a well-rounded bottom game (guard). However, one should note that it is impossible to be good at everything. Rather, the student should begin to pick and choose the techniques that they enjoy doing and the ones that fit their body type and physical attributes and work to be proficient in those specific moves. 

Having a game plan for your BJJ starts right when you begin your roll with your partner. In most BJJ academies, we start our sparring sessions, or rolls, by facing our opponents as we are both on our knees. Many places do this in lieu of starting on the feet due to space and safety considerations, as it takes up more room when people are wrestling and grappling from their feet. Likewise, more injuries may result from practitioners crashing and stepping into their neighbors who are rolling on the mat space next to them. However, by starting on your knees, the student should realize that this is a manufactured position that would not be practical in a real-life or tournament-type situation. As a result, they should not spend too much time staying on their knees and wrestling each other down from that position. Instead, they should develop a game plan as to what to do when they start their training from that position.

When you begin your rolls from the knees, you should have a game plan of either pulling guard or passing guard. Additionally, you can further build upon that plan by deciding on what kind of guard or pass you want to practice. For example, for my beginners, the closed guard is the first guard I teach them. Although this may not be the guard they eventually gravitate towards, the closed guard is an intuitive guard for the beginner. As it is easy to understand how to lie on your back and wrap your legs around someone versus learning a “fancier” guard like the De La Riva Guard or the Spider Guard.  

Thus, knowing that you are going to play closed guard will dictate your movements and grips you make when you start on your knees. For example, a great way to start is to reach your partner’s same side lapel with your dominant hand. Once you achieve this grip, you will step up with the same side leg. In a sudden motion, you will then pull your opponent on top of you as you sit to your butt and roll to your back. Once they land in between your legs, you can close your legs and cross your ankles and begin your game plan for what to do when they are in your closed guard.

Part (2)

Now that you know how to get to closed guard, let’s develop it.

In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, it’s paramount to have an effective bottom or guard game and a top position game. When BJJ exploded onto the martial arts scene in the first Ultimate Fighting Championships in 1993, it showed the world how important it was to be able to defend and attack from the bottom position. Royce Gracie won that night by submitting three opponents- while often working off his back and playing guard.

As explained, there are numerous guards to learn and practice. However, the student should not be overwhelmed by all of the numerous guards, grips, and sweeps that exist. Rather, they should pick a guard they enjoy playing and try to work that guard into all of their training rolls until they feel comfortable using it.

As a result of them learning the closed guard, I encourage students to put themselves in that situation as often as possible, whether it’s through pulling closed guard from their feet or knees or by landing in closed guard off an opponent’s takedown. Once they are in closed guard, I teach them to have a plan on what to do next. First, they should look to break their opponent’s posture by weakening their grips and drawing their knees to their chest to create downward force. After their posture has been broken, the student should look to grab a deep cross collar grip with their dominant hand. With the grip secured, they can then look to reach the opposite collar and finish with a cross collar choke, or if their path is being blocked, they can look to grip the opponent’s elbow and set up a scissor sweep.

Jiu-Jitsu is the most enjoyable sport I know. It only asks of you a little dedication, a willingness to learn, and that mindset to come back the next day. Anyone, I mean anyone, can start jiu-jitsu and if you choose to, or already have, your life is sure to be enriched in ways you can’t even imagine right now and will experience very soon. 




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