Progressing out of the Beginner Stage

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Tech Sergeant
Nov 5, 2005
First and foremost you have to learn the basic movements, but then what? Once you've practiced a few basic techniques a bunch of times and you start sparring what then?

Well, most importantly and often the hardest part to get used to is learning to think about what you are doing rather then just flopping around like a fish on dry land. Which for many is easier said then done.

First you got to decide ahead of time, what are you going to do if something happens. If you get mounted, what are you going to do? If you mount someone what are you going to do? By this time you should already know what the answers are, it's just a matter of getting them to happen when the situation actually occurs.

The problem is, there are hundreds, if not thousands of different situations you can end up in, and trying to remember what to do in all of them is next to impossible.

So what I suggest is starting with the most common, and this might be different for different people. And deciding what to do based on those. If you find yourself outside of those positions you must first adjust to get to the place you want.

For example, let's say we are looking at side mount. There are many different variations on the side mount, based on where your arms and legs are. Pick one, and that is where you will work from. Your first step is to get to that position, once there you begin to work to attack.

This goes for every attack, not just submissions, but positional advances and reversals as well.

Now pick the positions you most commonly find yourself in. For example:

Mount (bottom)

Closed guard (bottom)

Closed guard (top)

Side Mount (bottom)

Now choose one or two techniques for each of those positions and always try to work toards those. Learn how to set them up, and get good at them. As you do you will find yourself in other positions as well, and will need to expand your list.

So as you learn to pass guard you will find yourself in side mount more often, and it comes time to add a couple of attacks from side mount to your list, and your list expands in that way.

Your list will also expand in terms of detailing your position and the set up.

Where as in the beginning you might have a single variation of guard, after several months training you might have 4 or 5 variations f guard that you are working towards and from.

But in the beginning you want to limit what you are doing to a minimum, this way you are forced to think about how to get there, and then what to do once you get there. As opposed to forgetting everything and simply trying to overpower your opponent with no real technique.

However you also want to be as detailed as possible in your set ups. Don't simply list "Closed guard - bottom." Be a little more specific, as in "Closed Guard - bottom, w/ Underhook and head held down."

The key is to be very deliberate in your set ups, but at the same time to have very few so that you can. One technique with a good set up is far better then 20 techniques with weak set ups.

Depending on your level and ability the set up may be as far as you ever get. Take a person in your guard for example. You're goal is to get an underhook and then work from there. Against a more skilled opponent getting that underhook is not going to be easy, let alone maintaining it long enough to do the technique. So you are probably going to spend most of your time simply fighting for that underhook, which is helping you learn your set up, and at the same time, preventing him from passing your guard.

One mistake beginners very often make, and that gets them in a lot of trouble is to NOT set up an attack properly. Doing so opens many doors for your opponent. The more deliberate and correct your set up is, the better off you will be, even if you have only a small number of techniques.

Let's take an example:

I am in closed guard and looking to pass.

1) Control the arms, at the elbows pin the arms and keep them away from the body. Keep your head pressed into your opponents solar plexus.

2) Bring your hands to his hips, maintaining pressure with your head.

3) Line one knee up with the tail bone, and extend the other leg to the side, still maintaining pressure with your head.

4) Straighten up, keeping your elbows in, bring your head up and back straight, keep his hips pinned to the floor.

5) Pressing down with your elbows inside his legs, keeping pressure on his hips, sit back using your knee as a wedge to break his guard.

6) Bring one hand through his legs and place it back on his hip. Keep your upper body straight and arms locked. His ankle should be over your shoulder.

7) Stack him by driving your weight into him.

8) Move around to the side and pass under his leg while keeping him stacked.

9) Establish side mount posture.

At anytime during that series if something goes wrong you have to start over, from the beginning. While still rather simplified the above is a lot of steps to remember, and only a single technique. 5 or 6 techniques could easily end up having you with over 50 steps to remember. This is not really practical, but yet many beginners try to work with 25+ techniques almost right away, and then wonder why none of them can be made to work.

The answer is simple, they are trying to do too many things, and leaving a lot out of them as a result.

You may even wish to write it out, list the most common situations you find yourself in, choose a specific variation on that position from which you can work from, then choose one or two techniques to work towards once you get there.

Keep the list as small as possible, and expand it only as you need too. If you have been training for a month and have a list of 20 that is probably too much, more likely it should still be fewer than 10.

Whenever it is possible, add more detail to exiting techniques rather then add more techniques. Once you have been training for a while and can pull off those techniques, in detail, and think about what you are doing it is time to add more.

Don't worry about loosing. Worry about learning, that is the key to progress.

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