One of the best feelings in training must certainly be when that one challenging technique you’ve been trying to pull off finally works. For weeks or maybe even months you’ve been trying to put the pieces of a sequence together; finally the stars align and you pull it off, only for it to become a main stay in your arsenal of techniques.
Jiu-jitsu is an art of innovation. Testing new techniques out and adding them to your game is one of the most fun parts of the martial art. Jiu-jitsu teaches us to Innovate.
How do we innovate in our training? The answer is two fold and surprisingly simple: The Consistency and Rigor of our testing leads to innovation.
These are the 2 things you need to know to become a more innovative grappler…
I’d like to start by sharing a short example from my own experience to illustrate the theme of this discussion:
I remember learning X-guard for the first time. Despite not knowing much about the position, or even many of the details to make the technique work, I really liked the position. For months I struggled to get it to work in training; repeatedly having my guard smashed, passed or stepped over like a smelly turd.
The more I tried to implement it into my training, the more I saw it beginning to work over time. I also noticed that my training partners were becoming more aware that it was a main stay in my strategy and as a result they were applying more intensity to pass it. As these exchanges escalated, becoming a more rigorous test of my guard and as I began to develop more consistency with the application of the technique; I noticed that I had to come up with more creative ways to not have my guard passed… I had to innovate.
I suppose this is a conversation about how two specific factors can lead to innovation: Consistency and Rigor. The more consistently something is tested and the more rigorously it is tested, the more we have to find ways to innovate to make it work.
Anyone with a sufficient knowledge of a specific technique should be able to execute it on at least a semi-frequent basis. Developing that sufficient knowledge, however, often requires an immense amount of repetition and time spent executing that technique in order to completely understand said technique.
For a technique to become a staple within someone’s game takes far more consistency of use than just a semi-frequent basis. If we observe the top level grapplers or BJJ practitioners competing today, their game plans are often built around a tried and tested collection of techniques that they have honed to a razor sharp edge through MANY years of practice, endless repetitions, successes AND failures.
An in-depth knowledge of a technique takes Consistency to develop; the timing required, the contingency plans, the hierarchy of details… All of these things and more can only be discovered by repeatedly and consistently applying the technique across a wide range of scenarios on a wide range of training partners & opponents.
The first step in innovation is Consistency. Without consistent testing, a technique cannot become a robust tool in your arsenal.
The toughness of the conditions that we test our techniques under is the second crucial aspect of Innovation. This is the Rigor. If your testing is rigorous, you will begin to find the weaknesses and stress points of each technique you test.
As your confidence in a technique grows, employ it in increasingly rigorous challenges. A good guard player, for example, won’t have to innovate if their existing strategies are sufficient for the level of Rigor they face. A practitioner will be forced to innovate when the level of Rigor is elevated above the level they are used to dealing with.
Many would argue that there is no substitute for hard training. The most innovative practitioners have often arisen from pressure cooker environments because they have been forced to consistently and rigorously test their techniques against the toughest of training partners and opponents.
If you want to get better, you need to be willing to test your technique regularly against tough training partners. It sounds obvious enough, but it’s the most genuine and direct path to improvement.
Thanks for reading,