Not All Submissions Are Created Equal

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Early in my study of BJJ, I was giddy with excitement at how many possible ways one could strangle, lock, crank, and choke an opponent. I recall a grainy video tape (yes, I am old school) where a Shoot master out of Japan showed innumerable variations on how you could twist your opponent up, each more mind boggling than the last.

Fortunately, I had the guidance of Carlson Gracie student Marcus Soares – at the time a fifth-degree black belt, now an eighth degree red-and-white coral belt. As my brain was swirling with possibilities of all of these advanced submissions, he would have a look and diplomatically explain that the move was low percentage.

“This move is not so good. Very easy for a good guy to escape. Just pull your arm out. No more submission!”

That is to say that the move could easily be prevented or countered by a skilled opponent. The fancy move was “Fool’s Gold” that impressed at first but was a poor choice to spend my precious training time drilling.

By demonstrating how easily an impressive looking move could be nullified, I could stroke it off my considerable list of “must learn” techniques.

Having an instructor to advise you on what not to learn is a huge advantage to your training. You could spend countless hours and literally years of wasted effort trying to get good at low percentage techniques.

Professor Soares also further reduced the number of techniques that I was trying to learn by asking two simple questions: “What happens if you miss the technique? Did you surrender your position and end up on the bottom?

I thought about it. If I attacked an arm triangle or a head and arm choke and my opponent countered it, I was still on top in a good position.

High reward / low risk.

But if I attempted a sloppy arm lock from top and my opponent pulled his elbow free, I had sacrificed my dominant top position.

High risk / high reward.

Fight strategy should influence your technique selection. How many times have MMA fans witnessed a fighter jumping to guillotine only to have the opponent pull their head out and start raining down strikes?

We see the same “basic” submissions again and again at the highest levels of professional MMA and jiu-jitsu. These are the high percentage moves we should be drilling to razor sharpness. Instead of diffusing your training efforts on many different low percentage techniques, focus on that select subset of the most effective submissions.

Identifying which BJJ moves are high percentage and discarding the low percentage moves will prevent you from going down the wrong roads in your training. This narrowing of your focus will maximize your time on the mats. A good instructor can guide you towards the techniques that are worth investing your sweat into.

Have you ever wasted your training time learning a low percentage technique?

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