Reader Question: Is it important for me to learn how to do every technique on both the left and right sides?
Jiu-Jitsu Times: This is a really common question and while there is no absolute right or wrong answer, the simple response is no.
There is a caveat, however. More on that later.
Regarding the majority of our takedowns, passes, top attacks, and offensive guard attacks, we most commonly prefer to attack with one side. In the same way that a right-handed boxer stands in orthodox stance with the right power hand back, grapplers prefer to grip the kimono with their power hand in the collar.
Top judo competitors develop their entire throwing strategy around which side they prefer to grip. It is not common to see an ambidextrous athlete equal on both sides.
While discussing collar chokes, Rickson Gracie black belt Luis “Limao” Heredia said:
From white to black, you should pick a side, in every position. You should pick your favorite side — not setting up from 2 sides. For most of the people the brain works memorizing one thing over and over, one side, one side. Its kind of like writing with one hand most of the time instead of writing with 2.
Having to divide your finite training time to perfect both sides of all of your techniques more likely results in one being mediocre at both sides. Most black belts say that they do many attacks only on one side and have different, complimentary attacks on the other side. The rationale is that it is better to be very strong on one side than so-so on both.
Earlier I mentioned that this “get really good at one side” philosophy did not always apply. Escapes are the exception to the rule.
Because we can not choose which side our opponent is attacking. If your opponent passes to your left and gets side control, you can not say, “Hey bro, would mind moving to the other side? I suck on my left.”
Conversely, if I am attacking side control I can easily move from one side to the preferred side before attacking.
There are exceptions of course. You may be perfectly equal on both sides in your favorite techniques, and a senior black belt instructor in Brazil once said that black belts should be looking to develop both sides.
Generally speaking, though, when you are building your jiu-jitsu, don’t worry too much about drilling both sides of all of your techniques.