Times Up – Back to Academia

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The new semester begins next Monday. All week I have been attending college wide, departmental and discipline related meetings and preparing my curriculum for my students. My BJJ lifestyle of the summer has already been affected.

Yes, I am ready to teach and head back to the classroom but I will miss my Summer of BJJ. This time I really stuck to my statements and attended, on average, three classes per week. (I initially tried going five times a week but hurt my back on the fourth day of the first week and decided maybe three times a week would be best.) I learned many things over the summer but I think the most important thing I learned was to stop holding back.

I don’t mean being a ‘douche’ to my fellow grappling buddies when rolling by being over-aggressive. What I mean is that I learned that I need to use my skills and make my opponents actually work to achieve a position or submission and not just give it to them. I had a tendency to be a back and forth player. After I dominated a position for a while I would let my rolling buddy back into the game and let them work. A lot of this would be to my detriment when I faced equal or higher level players. I realized that most, if not all, did not have the same mindset (and no one told me they should) and I always paid for my approach.

After a particularly bad day this summer where I played this game and ‘got’ crushed I decided to bring it, yeah I said bring it, to every class. I started using my A game and stopped working my B and C games because I wasn’t getting any better at them. I decided to work off of my strengths and become well rounded in my weaknesses when the moments presented themselves (as they always do). After about a week of this I had an eye-opening conversation. A white belt who had a little experience under his belt told me that my game had really changed as of late. He told me he was “unable to stop” me and then he said these words,

“where we had almost been equal before.”

I was flabbergasted. He’s a nice guy and meant no harm by his words but to me it was a shot in the gut. I thought when I was rolling with people and I let them work their games or didn’t always submit them that they knew I was doing it on purpose. I didn’t think they thought I was just not really all that tough (not saying he said that). I thought about all the times I had tried to be fair and ended up fighting for my life in a roll because of it. I realized that a lot of people thought I was really putting my all into it so they put their all in it.

My wife had been saying for a couple of years that people don’t know I am going easy on them, but I figured they had to know. I stood corrected.

As a result I stopped playing that game. If I have the tap I take it. If I have the position I keep it. I am not malicious but I am on a mission.

As my epiphany gained strength I realized that upper belts who doggedly pursue submissions are upper belts because they doggedly go after submissions. They maintain positions and they pursue the taps until they get them. They don’t give up positions to make their partners feel better.

My game has improved as a result and I have improved as a grappler. I still have a lot of balancing to do but I believe I am on the right path.


4 thoughts on “Times Up – Back to Academia

    leslie said:
    August 26, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I have actually been thinking about this same thing recently. I, too, tend to play and work and not drive for the tap, especially with some newer folks, and I’ve been wondering about when/if to turn it up. But every time I think about doing it, I feel like I’m being selfish, especially because I know these guys don’t really have anyone they can go back and forth with.

    Jiujitsu365 said:
    August 26, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    I know that feeling well. I thought about whether or not I was being unfair to the new guys in my new approach but then I watched other blues and higher belts tapping them out with no second thoughts. I noticed that the higher belts only eased up significantly when they were talking newbies or lower ranks through a roll. When I think back to it I can remember new guys saying how difficult or “badass” certain players were because they tapped them so much.

    I’ve never been one to be driven by taps and I am still not. But I have pondered if ‘being fair’ has slowed my development, rank progress, etc., by being the perennial good guy.

    I thought I was being a good rolling mate but then I wondered if everyone just believed I was struggling.

    Afrorican said:
    August 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I had the same “conversation” with myself recently. I posted to my blog about what I called lazy grappling and I honestly thought I was just being lazy and people probably know my true potential. Earlier today and after reading your post I think you are right. We try to be the nice guy who everybody likes to roll with rather than doing what is probably better for our own development. I’m with you on this one.

    jiujitsu365 said:
    August 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm


    I think there are all kinds of angles to this issue. You’re right that age plays a role in this for many of us (from your blog). Also, trying to avoid injury, concern about endurance, etc.

    I think I am at the stage now where I need to see advancement after more than 7 years of grappling. I spent a lot of time in no-gi (4 years) so I have to wait as far as promotions are concerned, but I do want to see more evidence on the mat. I believe that also has a lot to do with it for me.

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