Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is a martial art that uses various dynamic movements to control and eventually submit an opponent. There are thousands of techniques available at your disposal. The beauty of BJJ is that you can create a game that is uniquely yours.
You have the freedom to pick the techniques that work for your body and personality. This can be both a blessing and a curse. Having lots of choices benefit those who want to build a unique game, but you also need to find time to practice the techniques to make them work in training and competition.
As much as BJJ is a physical sport, it also requires a lot of careful planning to reach a certain level of proficiency. Many people have said that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is similar to chess, and it is true in many ways. Both require a solid understanding of basic principles, as well as tactics and strategy.
One critical detail that is common in both games is the concept of being able to recognize patterns depending on how your opponent reacts. By practicing pattern recognition, you’ll be able to instantly predict the most typical movements, thereby giving you the tools to open up opportunities to attack.
In the context of chess, the easiest way to train pattern recognition is by practicing common tactical themes you’ll see in games. This usually starts by introducing easy mate in one and two patterns. It gradually builds up to the more complex themes that eventually lead to checkmate or a massive piece advantage.
The equivalent of training tactical themes in BJJ is to drill the essential components of a technique (or series of techniques). The purpose of drills is to help you understand how to apply techniques properly. It also builds muscle memory, which gives you the ability to use these moves automatically in sparring.
Think of activities like swimming, riding a bike, or playing your favourite video game. If you’ve practiced enough times, doing these activities become so easy that it’s almost reflexive. As the quote from Zig Ziglar states: “Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”
Drilling Is The Gateway To Accelerated Learning
The next thing we need to talk about is the actual process of drilling techniques. If you want to learn a new technique, the best way to learn it is to break it down to its simplest form. It is imperative that you learn techniques from a good instructor to ensure quality instruction. There is no point in drilling something if you’re doing it wrong in the first place.
Start by applying the technique with an unresisting partner. Be mindful of the essential gripping mechanics and follow all steps as best as you can. In the beginning stages of learning a move, the main focus is to understand how you should position your body relative to your training partner. Don’t rush your movements, and keep an open mind while still in the learning phase.
Once you get comfortable with the basics of the technique, you can now move to drilling with resistance. Study the primary reactions and defenses of the move you are studying and include them in your drills. Doing this deepens your understanding of the technique. It also forces your mind to think in combinations rather than just singular movements.
15 Solo Drills To Help Improve Your BJJ
In this video, multiple-time IBJJF and ADCC champion Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles shows his recommended drills to practice every day. Cobrinha is pound-for-pound one of the best Jiu-Jitsu athletes of all time. He is known for his super technical approach to BJJ and has been a consistent figure in the competitive scene for many years.
One of Cobrinha’s keys to success includes drilling. If you follow his social media channels, you’ll see that he posts a lot of solo and partner drills. He is perhaps one of the most active supporters of drilling among the many black belts you see on Instagram and Youtube.
The 15 drills he mentioned include:
- leg circles
- hip ups
- hip up triangles
- arm triangles for core
- shrimps in place
- reverse shrimps
- retention using underhooks
- stack pass retention
- core guard retention
- closed guard isometric
- kimura drill
- two types of inversion drills
Notice that there are several guard retention drills on the list. Guard retention is one of the most important skills in grappling. A good guard can take years of constant development, therefore working on isolating the movements in drills absolutely help hasten the learning process. The list also includes drills for the triangle choke and kimura. These two submissions are essential to a grappler’s toolbox. Regardless of your rank, practicing these submission drills will surely make your entries sharper.
These drills can help you internalize the primary movements of retention, attacks, and defense. BJJ is a complex martial art that requires years and years of mat time. These drills are not meant to replace live training, of course.
Think of drills as how you’d treat shadowboxing. Practicing these drills will help you become more efficient in your movements. Cobrinha mentions that you can do these drills every day. Alternatively, you can also perform these as your warm-up to actual BJJ training.
Drilling is a big component in your journey towards mastery. Training your body to become accustomed to specific movements will help your techniques flow better, thus making you a more technical grappler in the process.
Remember that your techniques need consistent drilling to stay sharp. Don’t expect to pull off a triangle choke against a fully resisting opponent if you don’t even understand the mechanics of the submission. Drilling helps bridge the gap between knowing and doing. Keep your ego in check when you drill.
Yes, it may not be as exciting as doing many rounds of rolling, but you’ll definitely become a better grappler if you continue to sharpen your weapons.
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