I'm a blue, have been training five years, 41 y/o 5'2" 135 lbs. I have some of OP's issues, though I have always been a top player and only have serious trouble now that I'm focusing on my guard.
Question to her: what other guards is she playing? I think we agree closed guard isn't best. There are alternatives beyond half guard.... What about a mish mash of open guards... sit up, butterfly, shin on shin, DLR, rDLR etc?
Admittedly, I'm a Judo guy, and even though I'm strongly oriented towards ground work, there is so much variation in BJJ I am not familiar with. Most of time over the years I've been the smaller guy, though, so I do have some experience relative to the OP's situation.
She needs to find an approach that fits with her physical attributes (while improving fitness) that works for her. Good advice in this thread from different perspectives is a good place to start.
Ok, so I hesitated to give an update because I thought I'd jinx myself but it's been several weeks where I've been consistent in my new-found success, so I know it's not a fluke at this point.
First let me say all of your advice and comments were much appreciated! Your ideas really helped and hopefully I'll be able to communicate that to you in this post.
More movement, more reversals, more subs and most important, more fun.
1. I'm now keeping most of my opponents off of my core and hips by properly utilizing my frame and guard retention movement (Jason Scully has a great video on this that I watch at least once a week):
This has allowed for more movement and positional control when I'm on the bottom and thus, I'm not getting smashed nearly as much as I was a few weeks ago.
2. As a result of 1., I am catching way more subs in training than I ever have before. I'm also not having to rely on just a few subs anymore- I'm catching a wide variety of submissions and at times, getting them from unusual positions which keeps my opponents on their toes.
3. Now that I'm not being smashed and making the same stupid mistakes over and over again, I'm having fun in class again. I no longer dread free rolling. There's still so much to learn and I feel re-energized to get out there and keep learning and exploring.
The methods used:
By the advice from fellow Bullies, I took a multifaceted approach to adjust my training methods.
1. Changed my guard: I changed from primarily relying on half guard to using a wide variety of open guards. Right now, I use spider guard, butterfly and DLR a lot. I'll also reap the knee at will if it presents itself- **** IBJJF. If my opponent starts to crush my open guard, I've been throwing up a knee/shin shield and that's helped a lot to prevent them from obtaining head control. I've been very conscious of stopping that damn head control using a crane-like arm block on their bicep. I also cross face from the bottom like a mo-fo now.
2. Being more aggressive: I've really made an effort to stop being complacent or underestimate my opponents. I also attack and keep attacking even if it's just a diversion or distraction for another move or set-up. This has kept my opponents from not settling in and as such I keep from getting 'stuck'.
3. I drill now: I've been fortunate enough to have a training partner whose as crazy as I am to get up and drill at 5:30 in the morning before work (2-3x/week). We've been choosing one tech to drill per session and try to get at least 50 reps in each. It takes only about 30 min to do. I swear, I was seeing results almost immediately during free rolling. It's one of the best things I've done for my grappling and I really wish I would have started doing it years ago.
4. I started a grappling journal: Granted, I'm not terribly religious with it but it still helps. I created a list of goals (short and long term) and a set of methods I would use to try to achieve those goals. After 6 weeks I'll go back and review what goals I was successful at and which goals I failed at. I'll then re-access, re-goal and re-peat!
5. I expanded my top control game: Now that I'm actually getting in top control on a fairly regular basis, I've been able to move on from standard side control attacks. I've started to implement knee on belly if only to distract and I've made a real effort to get on my toes in side control or when I'm in someone's guard. This small change has helped immensely in not getting swept and making movement much easier.
See this video:
I feel my armbar attacks are also becoming more dynamic, utilizing wrist locks to help unlock the hands or going for Ronda Rousey-style armbar entries when my opponent thinks they can turtle up on me (I used to be dead in the water if they turtled). This aspect of my game is still growing and probably needs the most work/expansion- e.g., I hardly go for kimuras, I never darce and I get reversed from mount too easily.
All in all, its been a marked improvement. And I think my grappling partners have taken notice haha. I still have bad days of course, some have been real bad, but I just try to acknowledge what I did wrong and make changes ASAP.
Thank you again Bullies! This community is fucking awesome. period.
When I received my purple belt I went through the same trouble. I'm also about your size and as a female trying to out muscle my male opponents just wasn't working. I'd be so exhausted! So I started trying to relax and follow what they're doing. They have strength; but I have flexibility and speed. I started to become more aware of their body and they were doing as opposed to feeling a grab and snatching it away.
Being a purple belt is essentially your transition period. You know the techniques now it's time to use the strategically. My advice is relax and take the practice and make it better than the last.
Cross training is always a good as well.
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Just read the whole thread. Good deal for the OP! Glad to hear you were able to implement the advice in a meaningful way and find success...and more importantly fun! I only wanted to add one thing to the discussion for you as some food for thought.
As I read the thread, keeping in mind you prefer a top game, yet struggle with bottom positions & getting to the top, I could not stop wondering about how your rolls/matches start. How you get to the bottom; what is happening during that transitional time from standing to mat.
Nobody (forgive me if I missed it) addressed how you are getting from your feet to the mat. Your gripping; takedowns; How people are taking you down? Are they taking you down? Are you starting kneeling?. On the feet is where the mat work starts and if you, as a lighter person want to be a good top player, you will have to start becoming a good wrestler/thrower. You need to start looking at getting to the top from your feet.
I would love to hear more about the beginning of your rolls and not jump to the part where you are already on your back.
Sometimes the other guy pulls guard first, then like anybody else, I just try to pass and submit as fast as I can. I don't think I get swept too easily...I'll have to pay more attention to that tbh. I like to think once I'm on top I'm good to go and can usually find the armbar or kimura fairly quickly.
In the rare cases where we do start from standing, my throws are pretty weak against these guys to be completely honest. Despite Omega's tutelage, I'm pretty shitty at throws and takedowns in sparring situations.
In competitions though, I pull off trips regularly but in my gym I can usually never get 'em in a timely manner :( I'd say a good percentage of the time I either get thrown or try a sacrifice throw (which fails) and that's how end up on bottom.
I think my problem with throws is my lack of commitment to them. I feel 'trapped' or hindered by their grips on my GI and so I don't even really go for it. However my nogi throws and takedowns are equally poor in live sparring and competitions, so I can't blame the GI really. It must come down to a lack of live practice.