Why A Big Arsenal Isn’t Always Best

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2x Black Belt Mundials World Champion Teco Shinzato teaches BJJ at Evolve MMA.

I love the quote by Jean Jacques Machado, “The more you learn in jiu-jitsu, the less you use.
In jiu-jitsu for you to do less, you need to know more.”

Following a private training session with a couple of experienced blue belts, they opened their phones to make notes on some of the concepts and details that we had worked on that day. One of the guys expressed surprise at how much his notebook had grown over the last several months.

He had seen a new sweep that day and had to add it to the already considerable list of techniques that he had accumulated. His training partner expressed that it was great to learn the new moves, but darned if he could remember to use that new move in the action of rolling. How could one remember all of these different sweeps let alone every other technique option?

“The truth is,” I told him, “I KNOW a lot of different sweeps. But I really only USE 6 or 7 different techniques.”

Those select sweeps – out of dozens of possible sweeps one could choose from – are more effective BECAUSE I use fewer techniques.

How is that so?

For a few reasons. Primarily, the reason those few sweeps are more effective for me is that by narrowing my focus to a handful of go-to sweeps, I can make a decision FASTER to hit the technique in the instant I feel the opportunity. The great BJJ thinker John Danaher said in one of his recent social media posts, “Speed is a wonderful attribute in all combat sports, but the most important kind of speed is rarely discussed – Speed of decision making.”

When you are mentally and intuitively selecting from a short list of techniques, your ability to recall and react to the very brief opportunity will be much faster than if you had to pause and mentally scan through your entire catalogue of possible moves.

That fraction of a second you shaved off your reaction time is often the difference between a successful attack and your opponent identifying the threat and stuffing it.

Another reason why using a smaller set of sweeps is more effective is that you know those fewer moves to a greater depth. You understand the timing better. You know how to make the micro adjustments needed to pull the move off in difficult circumstances. You understand how that one technique connects to other techniques in the same position. Since you have repeated the technique Bruce Lee’s metaphoric 10,000 times, you have confidence and full commitment when you hit it.

Early in my Judo training, I was surprised and intrigued to learn that the top international judo competitors really used only 2, 3 or 4 throws out of 67+ in the judo gokyo. But they knew every setup, combination, counter and variation possible about their favorite throws.

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