I moved away from VA about 6 months ago and recently came back to visit.  While visiting I talked with Andrew about how I can better my BJJ.  I felt like I was not able to stop going to my “A” game.  I was consistently playing the same game and while I was getting “gym wins”, I could recognize that I was not growing.

Andrew listened to my concerns and offered me some great advice.  Open up to advance.  Playing just your “A” game all the time doesn’t get you tapped, but if you are not tapping you aren’t learning.  It’s just ego keeping you from advancing.

Upon my return to my new gym, I made it my focus to shelve my “A” game for a bit.  I made myself 3 rules to follow when rolling.

1.  Work from Bad Positions/Submissions –  This one is somewhat self explanatory.  Instead of stalemating for 5 minutes with a training partner by denying the guard pass or submission attempt, I gave up  passes/bad positions/submission attempts to my training partners to give myself the freedom to get uncomfortable and work from them.

2. Work Open Guards in which I do not feel comfortable –  I don’t like Butterfly Guard and Spider Guard.  Really, I understand their benefits to some extent.  Upon further introspection, I noticed that when I attempted these guards; I often get passed or shut down.  This created a Pavlov response where I did not use them for fear of losing position.  This was ego, pure and simple.  It “felt” bad to get passed or lose positon.  Now, I am attempting to solely use these two guards to play when I roll.  I can’t say that it ALWAYS works out this way.  Occasionally, I revert back to my “A” game but when that happens, I let 1. above happen and work from there.

3. Let go of my need to “win” during training.  Really, this one just means finding “wins” in a different way.  For example:  If I hit a spider guard sweep during a roll, that’s a win!  Regardless of what happens during the rest of the roll, it’s a win if I walk away having executed at least one successful attempt at trying new options.

 These lessons so far have not yielded immediate progress, but then I didn’t expect them to do so.  I do feel re-engaged. My rolling is fun and interesting again.  Now, when I roll I am excited for each opportunity to see how things will progress.  The challenge has really put me back on the hungry path that I felt as a whitebelt.  That moment when I hit a sweep or transition that I have been struggling with makes all of the challenge worthwhile.  I also feel as though my eyes have been opened even wider as a student of BJJ.  Techniques that seemed stale are now interesting and dynamic.