Self-Directed Training and Breaking Through Barriers

If you are an consistent reader of my blog then you know that one of my biggest challenges since arriving here in Rio has been finding a new way to learn BJJ.

You see, here in Brazil, learning BJJ is much more self-directed than where I am from. In the U.S. we often spend half an hour or more learning technique and sometimes we will do 20 minutes of drilling the same move then move into another 20 minutes of drilling a different, but related move. After all that, we might roll for about 20 minutes.

Here in Brazil…well, not so much. In a one hour class we typically do about 5 minutes of stretching, 5 minutes of technique (one technique for 5 minutes) then 50 minutes rolling.

That is a pretty stark contrast. First, let me say that I am by no means complaining. Actually, that’s not entirely true. At first I did complain, at least in my head. I was frustrated that I wasn’t learning anything and that we were just rolling all the time. Then, after about three weeks of this kind of thinking I had one of the “attitude adjustment” sort of realizations: I have been telling myself for two years now that dumping your entire lifestyle and starting over at 44 years old was going to require some MASSIVE flexibility in my thinking and a willingness to learn new ways and manners of being. Yet, here I was after just three weeks in Rio, and I was complaining that things weren’t the way I wanted them to be. Complete crap!

It was at that moment that I realized that I had a great opportunity to learn a new way of being, a new way to think about my training and a new way to learn Jiu-Jitsu! It is a really exciting feeling! And it has been a GREAT experience both for me and my Jiu-Jitsu!

First, I started by creating a goal, my OWN goal! To find an effective, yet not too physically demanding method to pass the De La Riva guard. Then I went online in search of some expert advice. I found this video and thought it looked like it fit my goal. It passes the DLR and does so without fighting the opponents STRONG legs ( or so I thought).

It turned out that I could not make this pass work. For weeks I went into class everyday and worked this pass. I got swept, swept, and swept. Over and over again! After a couple weeks of this I started getting pretty frustrated again. I was ready to give up. I remember thinking…”Maybe this is a pass only Marcelo can pull off”? So I went in search of some alternatives, and found this:

So I went in the next day ready to give this new pass a try. Well, what I discovered is that, if you don’t get that grip right on the pants you’re going to get triangled. And I did get triangled. Over and over again.

I have known for a while that grip strength is not my best attribute and this pass reaffirmed it. But…While I was trying to make this work my brain somehow made a connection between this new pass and the Marcelo pass I had been trying for weeks. I noticed that while I was trying Kurt’s pass I had better luck when I pushed the knee way down before moving forward. Thinking back to the Marcelo pass, I realized that I wasn’t paying much attention to my opponent’s knee while executing the pass. I went back to the Marcelo pass. I focused on my partner’s knees. Yep! I was getting swept when he was able to raise he knee up towards his hips!

I started trying different placements for my thigh when back-stepping out of DLR. A lot of things didn’t work, but one thing did! When back-stepping out of the DLR it is really important to be sure your thigh is above your opponent’s knee, that is to say that your leg must be between his knee and his hip, not between his knee and his ankle.

This didn’t fix the pass by itself, there are a lot more details that had to be added and the more I worked on this pass, the more it became something all its own. In the end, I was starting to make this pass work but it wasn’t really the Marcelo pass and it wasn’t really the Kurt pass: It was MY pass and it was working! Better still, I began to see how it could transition to completely different positions.

At this point, I use this pass to transition to one of five variations, two of which transition to two different half-guard passes. It is really a cool feeling to break through these plateaus, and it is especially cool to know that YOU are  LEARNING Jiu-Jitsu and that you are being taught, well, by Jiu-Jitsu itself!

From the time I had two stripes on my white belt people were asking me…”What kind of game do you play”, or “I play a sweepy type of game, how about you”?

For all these years I have been answering…”You know, I’m not really sure what kind of game I play.” Or…”I’m not really sure what my game is.” But now I am starting to get an idea. I’m surely not ready to define it yet, but because I am discovering ways to do things on my own, without following step-by-step instructions from my Professors, I am really starting to understand myself, my capabilities and my BJJ a little better. For me, this is probably the most exciting thing about BJJ. Self-Discovery!

Find some time to struggle through a discovery this month, I promise that it is worth it! For me, I am hitting the gym tonight to keep working out those details: There are still some problems with a lot of bits of these variations, so…gotta go!


4 thoughts on “Self-Directed Training and Breaking Through Barriers

  1. Pingback: Yolo post two de la riva passes | olddudesbjj

  2. Great advise. Sometimes we forget to try things that work for us and our strengths and make the appropriate adjustments. Great post!


    • Thanks Michelle! One of the things I have truly begun to realize is that BJJ is the perfect allegory for LIFE. Life how we SHOULD be doing it! Know ourselves where we are, visualize where we want to be, understand our limitations, then discover a new way to do things that circumvent those limitations and brings us to that place we want to be. OSS! Thanks for reading!


  3. Pingback: Final Days in Rio de Janiero | YoloBJJ blog

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