The Positional Sparring Prescription

I recently wrote about positional / situational sparring and what it is. Now lets talk about some specific times to use it for what ails you.

I will say for most people trying to improve skill I think this type of training should likely take up a majority of training time when in a skill development stage. But there are some times when its specifically useful for certain circumstances. Id like to discuss some of them and the when and what of how to apply it.

When I was but a wee white belt at the end of fundamentals classes we always did live training from the position we worked on. For example if we where learning triangles we would do submit or escape rounds starting from the trap triangle. I would stay after class and get one of two more rounds of this end of class training in with any willing partners rather than leave or go into full live rounds like most of open mat which normally followed or during the short break that was between classes. I was lucky, having come to jiu jitsu first from firearms training the idea of breaking things into discreet skills (the draw, the reload, split times, shooting and moving) and working on them is isolation was just how I was used to practicing. For many people this wasn’t so. A lot of schools do not practice this way either. I have visited schools where we did a great sequence from the feet for the class and then at the end live rounds starting from guard. Not to disparage those schools, many have great people and high skills levels. But I contend this is simply not the most efficient path to improvement nor the best use of time.

Putting general curriculum development aside lets look at some examples of how to use this tool and why.

You have a neck injury: Starts in double seated guard, leg pummel to desired winning entry position. This was me for about 9 long months when I couldn’t have contact with or turn my head.

Recovering from a leg injury but can hold closed guard: This is my friend Jesse right now. Closed guard bottom starts , sweep, submit or stop if opp gets to standing.

You’ve gotten good enough that most people don’t pass your guard most of the time: Start in bottom side. Seriously not a giant fan of practicing “allowing” people to pass your guard. That’s not good practice for them or you. But starting there? Or starting off the pass? Now that’s good work! I’ve seen plenty of people with amazing guards but once they get past have shit escapes simply because they just aren’t in those positions often enough.

Your a small person always getting smashed: So hows a small woman supposed to work on her pressure and top game when every dude at open mat has 50 lbs on her? Ask to start in a top pin with larger opponents. They should be working on technique and escapes anyway! Ask you opponent to play guard! Great way to work your passing, top pressure and great opportunity for that larger dude to work on his bottom game against what is likely more movement than other people in his division give him.

I wish to make a side note here for the women, as this is one of the reasons I wrote this post was for you. If you find yourself with men who either go too light not wanting to hurt you, too hard because they cant take being beaten by you, or just don’t know how to interact with a woman physically in a way that’s not sexualized please speak up. You are in a male dominated sport, and its likely unless you are in a large school that most of your partners will need to be men most of the time. Many of them mean well but just don’t know how. Clear open communication is always in my opinion the key to any type of relationship regardless if its friends, lovers, or training partners. Speak up for your needs. No man worth a damn is going to take offense to you asking them to play guard, or tell them you take more pressure. Many of my training partners are women and I ask plainly if they need more pressure, and often times the answer is yes! It will likely be a relief to them to hear what you need.

These are many examples based on personal circumstances. Injuries, size disparity, looking to round out your skill set. But there are many ways to use these tools for competition prep beyond simply hard rounds under the rule set. If you want truly targeted training take a look at video of matches for YOUR DIVISION and find what are the common positions. What are the common scenarios. If I was a featherweight in IBJJF I certainly would want to learn how to defend the bermibolo even if that wasn’t my personal offensive move! Black belt adult no gi? Not being comfortable in leg entanglements or with knee reaping and heel hooks would not be the best preparation. MMA? Not a bad idea to understand the inverted game but maybe more time focused on front headlock and single legs.

Be inquisitive, be creative, become Antifragile


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