Jiu Jitsu from a Newbies Perspective part 2 4 Sparring Tips (2014 edition)

So carrying on from the previous blog post we have established the importance of identifying the positions we are in and adopting the appropriate postures. You can tell when you have started becoming accomplished with this stage when more experienced training partners, with similar physical attributes struggle to sweep, submit or advance up the positional heirarchy (guard <side control < mount < back control).

The next stage will be to add techniques to these positions. At the Griphouse we have a 12 week rotating syllabus that addresses the fundamental positions and the most common techniques that arise from them. There are many options for those looking to learn new techniques. There are many YouTube videos, DVD’s and subscription sites out there. What these options do not have is interaction with an experienced and knowledgeable coach. Ask questions and take the answers on board. Your coaches are your best resources, you are paying for their knowledge so you might as well use them.

If your coach suggest that learning to pass guard is preferable to falling onto footlocks at every available opportunity, it might be because they have a point. They might also have spent way too long trying to tear peoples feet off to the detriment of their own passing game……. not mentioning anyone in particular though……yeah ok It was me.

Drilling side control escapes might not be as sexy as drilling a De la Riva tomoenage sweep, but in the initial stages its almost certainly more beneficial. All those guys pulling of amazing, ninja highlight reel sweeps and submissions are all truly amazing at the basic stuff that makes Jiu Jitsu such an effective combat sport.

4 Sparring Tips for the Newbie

At the Griphouse we want to get our athletes sparring as quickly as possible. Usually this is in the form of a drill with a specific goal in mind. Everything in jiu jitsu must work against a resisting opponent. Below are some tips to get the most out of the experience.

1. Win the Small battles.

If you have no previous combat sports experience and can walk into a jiu jitsu school and dominate everyone, you have probably not walked into a very good school. Jiu Jitsu is devestatingly effective. If you do not know the principles behind the art and you are on the ground with someone who does, you are in trouble. Watching a big guy getting dominated by a much smaller, more experienced athlete is so common it does not even bear considering as something unusual.

With that said when you start expect to be submitted a lot. Expecting to chain techniques together like a mundials champion is unrealistic. Instead focus on winning the small battles.

  • Try  to avoid being submitted, mounted, sweeped etc within a round.
  • If your guard has been passed focus on maintaining solid side control posture and escaping back to guard.
  • When in guard work on preventing your posture being broken by your partner.
  • Concentrate on breaking all of your opponents grips.
  • If your stuck, cant move and are being thoroughly crushed try to work on controling your breathing and finding your happy place (super important, the jiu jitsu athlete must develop being comfortable being uncomfirtable.

By assaigning goals to sparring you will find your round more productive and enjoyable. Winning the small battles will prevent the ego crushing that can sometimes put off those new to the sport.

2. Relax and get more mat time.

With  matches lasting up to 10mins and sparring classes often lasting over an hour jiu jitsu is an endurance sport. Then why do we see new guys latching onto a training partners gi and turning purple like a powerlifter trying to deadlift a gigantic personal best. Trying to do any activity above 80% effort or so usually results in a decrease of technical proficiency and a subsequent decrease in performance.

Its the common problem with new guys they try too hard. Very little can hold back technical development like trying way too hard. It will also negatvely effect the amount of training you can do. Holding your breath and squeezing someones head for a 6minute round really limits the amount of mat time you can get in.

Every situation is an opportunity to improve. If your guard is passed its a great time to work your escapes, if you pass it is an opportunity to work on maintaining side control.

3. Think about whats happening

I like to think that jiu jitsu is a perfect art. It’s our application that is sometimes lacking. If a training partner is preventing you from applying the armlock your coach just showed you, try figuring out what the problem is before abandoning the technique.

If you spend enough time on any technique you can make it work for you. Take for example the flying armbar this requires a lot of technical skill, athleticism and an almost suicidal disregard for your own safety. But because it’s cool spending tonnes of time on it isn’t too hard and it seems to land with a lot of regularity.

Try to address why a certain technique isn’t working. Slow your game down and analyse it. Is it a grip that’s stopping you? Is it counter movement? Maybe you are in the wrong position to implement the technique (this falls under identifying the position mentioned previously).

I have had so many ah ha moments that have stemmed from a desire to make a certain technique work. This is after many years of giving up on a technique as soon as my training partners were able to defend it.


The simple fact is that the guys who are really good train a lot.

The athletes that are consistent and work hard always seem to surpass the guys who seemed to have all the advantages early on.

In our next part I will address some points on effective drilling and technique development.


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