Tonight, I spent more time on top trying to pass half-guard than I would have liked. Passing the half guard should be something that I can do with some consistency--if for no other reason than I spend so much time defending it.
This is the belt of survival. It is the belt where the focus of your training must be on escaping from most of the inferior positions (the mount, the guard, the side mount, the wrestler's cradle and headlocks). Having the ability to escape from most inferior positions is paramount to having the ability to get on top of a person, positionally dominate them and making them tap. I know that there are a number of submissions from inferior positions (not necessarily the guard), but these submissions require a high level of speed, power and explosiveness. The reason why these submissions require speed, power and explosiveness is because your body, when placed in an inferior position, can not effectively apply leverage. To compensate for the inability to apply leverage, you substitute it with speed, power and explosiveness to effect the lock. (Anyone who tells you any different is either purposely misleading you or very unknowledgeable with grappling! I know that some may argue this point, but I stand by this point.) Not only do you have an inability to apply leverage from an inferior position, you also do not have control of your opponent's body! So now do you see why escapes are so important to building a firm foundation in grappling?
When you can easily escape the tightest pin (from just about anyone), you will find yourself on top more often. When you find yourself on top, you have more chances for submission. However, you should not jump right into submission just yet because you have not developed the skill to hold someone down with finesses and ease. I have seen too many blue belts begin their journey into submission too soon and often become frustrated because they just can't finish their opponent. They get so close, but they often fail at finishing their opponent. This usually leads the blue belt to seeking out more and more submission techniques. He thinks that the "new" and "sneaky" techniques will make him more skilled at submissions. However, what he doesn't realize is that his inability to finish his opponent is directly related to his inability to positionally dominate him. The blue belt feels good when he has escaped a hold down and has landed on top. However, he also feels like he has ONE SHOT at sinking in the submission. He knows if he fails, he will end up on his back and have to fight for the top position again. So, he usually stalls, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake so he can hopefully capitalize on it.
Once the blue belt has a firm grip on positional escapes, he should then move on to positional dominance: which is "the ability to control an opponent." When the blue belt can readily escape from most of the bottom positions, he should focus his training on learning how to control his opponent with greater ease and finesse. Although anyone can control their opponent if they can use all of their strength for short periods of time. It will take some time before a person can effortlessly hold down their opponent.
Once the blue belt has a good grip on these two aspects, he should then begin to develop a few good submissions. Still, he should not be consumed with them because there are still a few more areas to train before a lengthy period of time should be spent on submissions. (Yes, yes, yes, I know that submissions are the more enjoyable part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am not saying that you should not train them at all. However, all I am saying is this, "Don't focus on them quite yet. Wait until you are a high purple belt!")
The blue belt should have a large repertoire of positional and submission techniques. However, his depth of knowledge of these techniques is very limited because of his experience level. And because of his limited experience, he will still require a good amount of speed, power and explosiveness to effect most of his techniques. This is to be expected.
Another interesting thing happens at the blue belt level: the bar of performance raises itself to highly competitive levels. I remember when I was a white belt, it felt OK to tap to everyone because hey, I was a white belt. However, once I was promoted to blue belt, many of the bigger, stronger and more talented white belts began to set their cross-hair on me. What once was a shared journey of joy and frustration suddenly became field of itchy trigger fingered snipers. Many of the white belts who were once fellow sojourners now wanted the privilege of being able to say, "I made a blue belt tap!" It seemed like overnight the game of Jiu Jitsu suddenly became very competitive. Well, if you think the game was interesting at the blue belt level, wait until you hear about the highly regarded purple belt!
Dan Inosanto was right: "When you're tired, you're not strong, you're not fast, you don't have good technique. When you're tired you're not even smart." I'm trying very hard to parse between situations when I know what to do, but feel I can't do it for one reason or another (read: fatigue), from those situations where I don't have any idea what to do next. Five days into the third week of post-layoff "pre-training", there are an annoyingly high number of situations in the former category relative to the latter.
The conditioning will come--I'd like things to happen sooner. But I don't see myself competing until September at the earliest. That gives me at least five weeks to get my act together, conditioning-wise. Next week I'm looking to get back to three times a week, taking Stephan's class on Wednesday's. That should help.
But there's no denying that fatigue makes you stupid. It's like your brain becomes a house with rooms you forget existed.
Fatigue also makes you cowardly. You start settling for half guard because it is better than being in guard. You settle for side control because it is better than half-guard.
I've been thinking about it for a few days now. I want to make it a point of trying to get dominant position at every opportunity. Obviously some opportunities are going to work out better than others. And those opportunities, per Harris, will be all about escaping, not merely defending. It's better to get submitted trying to complete an escape than to avoid a submission simply by not trying.
And that goes double for passing the guard.
Spider guard sweeps were the instructional. I'll do the write-up in a separate post.