I heard a podcast a while back where the well known competitor and instructor Ryan Hall said, “Jiu-jitsu is not a collection of moves. Jiu-jitsu is how to move.”
I thought that was tremendously insightful, but some of you reading this may be asking, “What does that even mean?”
If I may interpret Hall’s comment, I would say that while we first think of BJJ in terms of specific techniques, the real secret to jiu-jitsu is how those techniques are executed.
For example, are you just attacking directly with your sweep, or are you using a push / pull and action / reaction set up?
When you attempt to pass your opponent’s guard, are you ploughing straight ahead and forcing the knee cut, or are you using movement and angles to create the opening for an effortless pass? This is how you are moving…not merely applying a technique.
I noticed that many blue belts encounter a plateau in their game development at some point a year or more after turning blue. If they have been around the academy for two or more years, they have an impressive arsenal of techniques. I know many blue belts who are active competitors. I can even ask them about some technique that I’m not familiar with. These blue belts know tons of moves!
So why the plateau? Because knowing more moves only works for so long. As your training partners gain experience, their defense of the most common attacks has risen and they know how to thwart that triangle you formerly had so much success with.
Is the answer to learn even more, newer, never-before-seen techniques? Do you need to scour Keenan Cornelius’ YouTube channel to see what new move he has devised?
Not necessarily. Think about the last time you rolled with your instructor. Did you tap to a double reverse ninja knee bar, a straight arm lock, or triangle?
I’ll wager that you were submitted by a technique that you were well familiar with. What happened was the black belt tricked you and used some of your own defensive reactions against you to create an opening.
As a blue belt who might be mired in this plateau, ask your instructor how he set up that move that you already know. Listen for the subtle details of how he fakes one move and then catches another. Pay attention to the correct timing to execute the technique instead of trying to force it.
A good place to start is trying to use action / reaction to apply to your best techniques.