A Note on Aggression
Since I've gotten back to the Bay Area for the summer, I've been training a lot more Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, trying to reestablish my submission game and really work the classic jiu-jitsu chokes so that my ground attack in judo will be that much more effective.
I had a great lesson with Stephan Goyne, the brownbelt instructor I've trained with for a long time, today. We ended up training in Oakland at Rocha Jiu-Jitsu and then going to K-1 Fitness in San Francisco where he also teaches. Bother were fantastic sessions, and it's great to get to train in solid classes back-to-back like that.
However, the thing that stood out to me today had little to do with the technique, so while I may come back and talk about the north/south position, which I think is very important to developing a good ground game, especially when attacking from the top (as the north/south is one of the best ways to attack one you've passed the guard), I thought it was worth making a note about something arguably more important than technique: Mentality.
One of the guys who joined us today in San Francisco was a guy names Dante in his early twenties. He was a good guy, and had been working out in the muay thai class previously (good striker, it's worth saying). He definitely watched MMA, and knew the basic positions (though, since we were working north/south, he was already learning something a little more advanced, in terms of transitioning to the position).
He picked up the movements quickly and, when Stephan teaches in San Francisco, he usually doesn't bother to take the new guys out and work basics during sparring, he just sort of lets them roll with the senior guys and has us (the guys who have been around a while) work slowly with them). This is radically different from the approach Eduardo, the blackbelt Stephan and I study under, generally takes, which is the jiu-jitsu equivalent of having guys in thailand kick the heavybag for a few days before they start really working with the advanced guys (armbar, collar choke, guard posture, etc.).
Since Dante and I are the same size (about 150ish), we ended up rolling together, and he's an aggressive, active guy. His technique, on the ground, has a long way to go and so I just took my time, worked slowly through positions and let him expend energy. That's a good practice for me, because sometimes I get too involved in the scramble when I should be focussed on advancing the position in a low-risk manner, and so I like working with the aggressive guys, even if they're less technical.
The real problem that I had, not so much with Dante as with his mentality (and his general nubile jiu-jitsu) was when he was rolling with Luke.
Luke is probably 12 or 13, weighs about 130 pounds and is a phenomenally technical, very active and aggressive kid, especially for his age. He competes with my brother, who's a little older, and does very well, and while he doesn't really give me much trouble (not surprising, given I'm six years older than he is), he makes it fun for me.
Dante and Luke, both being very aggressive, went at it pretty hard, and while I was rolling with some other people I was watching them out of the corner of my eye just to make sure everything was O.K.
At one point, Dante caught an armbar on Luke and, because he had never gotten an armbar in a sparring session before, cranked it. The result was a very sore elbow for Luke, and the rest of the night off.
Injuries are a reality of training. I have severely damaged feet and shoulders that make odd crackling noises to attest to that. But it is good to attempt to minimize injuries.
I know that many people see sparring as a way to maximize cardio and simulate a match, but that, in my opinion, is not the purpose of sparring in jiu-jitsu.
Push conditioning on the treadmill, in the circuit workout.
Save the match level intensity for the match.
The purpose of sparring, in my opinion, is to cultivate a level of technical ability. There's nothing wrong with applying techniques at speed, but there is something wrong with attempting to muscle through a submission that you don't really have, as the risk of injuring your training partner (who is, expressly, not an opponent) increases dramatically.
Obviously, it's all well and good to say these things, but it's important to make sure we keep them in mind on the mat. Even if this is just a note to myself (as many of the notes in this training log are), it is one worth writing.
I get strange looks from my training partners in judo when I spin for armbars and chokes from the side control, because the assumption is that, if I'm moving quickly, I'm applying a great deal of force, as opposed to just working the quick setup quickly (which is what I try to do), but I understand that fear that there is a guy on the mat who insists on jumping into those submissions in what should be a relatively friendly sparring session.
So, that's my note for the day.
I do think, though, for those reading this, that I can say Luke really impressed me in the sparring up until that armbar with Dante. He submitted Dante two or three times using solid collar chokes and a triangle he's spent a lot of time working on. The kid's going to be a phenomenal grappler someday.
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