The ideal game in BJJ is that you are equal top and bottom.
Because central to the philosophy of BJJ is that you can defend yourself against a heavier, stronger opponent. And often that means you will be fighting from your guard or half guard.
This is neat in theory, but more difficult to do in practice for the reason that we often play to our strengths in training and can easily neglect other areas.
These are three grapplers who need to develop and equal top and bottom game.
1) The Big Guy
So often in rolling, a bigger guy is able to use his superior size and strength to get to the top position. Most of us want to fight from the dominant top position so we can not impugn a big guy for going to the top.
The hazard is when the big guy meets someone as big or bigger and finds himself in the unfamiliar bottom position.
This big guy finds out in a hurry what his smaller training partners understand: you have to be able to deal with an opponent who can put you on your back!
2) The Former Wrestler
It is difficult to convince former wrestlers that it is okay to develop techniques for fighting from ones back.
It can be even tougher for them to overcome instincts to stay in the top position no matter what, especially if they experience success in rolling using their potent top control.
Similar to the big guy, what happens when they are the second best wrestler in the match?
Remember Kevin Randlemam vs. Randy Couture for the UFC Heavyweight title? It was two high level wrestlers bringing their strengths to the fight. In the first round Randleman succeeded in putting Couture on his back. Couture revealed that he had prepared for that scenario by training a lot from his back, and he nearly submitted Randleman from his back with an arm bar.
Conversely, Randleman was not nearly as comfortable fighting from his back, and in the second round found himself on his back. Couture was able to stop a relatively defenseless Randleman from the top to take the title.
There are big guys with a dangerous guard game (think Frank Mir) who are doubly dangerous because they can fight top and bottom.
3) Guard Specialists.
The opposite to the two previous examples, the guard player has developed a game from his back with some dangerous attacks, sweeps, and retention.
However some of these guys have become too comfortable just flopping to their backs and neglect to develop a passing game. They never bothered to learn takedowns instead counting on starting all matches from their comfort zone.
What if your opponent has a great guard also and brings you there in the match? Are you prepared?
My former instructor told me “the ideal in jiu-jitsu is to be equal top or bottom.”
How is your balance between your top and bottom game?