5/08/2006 11:33pm, #1
Aggression, Relaxation, Tapping and Ego
I was recently talking to a purple belt about what had most improved my performance... Actually he started a thread called I hate 20 year old students after I rolled with him one Saturday and he flipped out because I tapped him a couple times.
But anyway. I decided to condense my answers since I felt they could benefit others. So here they are.
One of the main points I realized was that I had just changed my mindet to allow myself to be more aggressive. While watching all the top competitors at my weight class, I noticed how they're always moving and using their speed to their advantage and never letting their opponent dictate the fight. Aggression, basically. This got me thinking and I started trying to do the same in my rolling. And the results have been great.
I'm not talking about using needless strength or adopting a "win at any cost" attitude in friendly training; I'm just staying active, working to improve position, hunting for submissions, and not giving up in bad positions or waiting to see where something is going to end up. This is a significant change from playing defense and obeying the grappling cliche "wait for them to make a mistake".
While rolling, when I was waiting to see where the match would go and then counter-attacking, I kept ending up in bad situations because I'd let things get locked in before I acted, and since I'm usually smaller and lighter than everyone else, I'd get crushed and stuck in place. Now I'm trying to be one step ahead and avoid getting locked down; I'm breaking grips before they are used against me; I'm working for my posture in every position; and I'm also passing guard and taking top much more instead of just falling back to guard.
I had pretty much the same realization as Andre Anderson writes about in his article, which I'm reposting here since the site appears to be down:Not using too much power is important if you want to develop your technique, but if you want to develop a game you can really use against another competitor at a similar level, you have to be very active in your training and avoid the laziness of relaxing. I am NOT talking about spazzing out, but I am saying that you have to take the fight to the opponent at 100% in training if you want to really improve.Another article that helped change my mindset was Relaxed Intensity by Brandon Slay, a former Olympic wrestler. Especially these parts:
I didn't realize this until after a private with Marcelo Garcia. He told me that I was too relaxed and that I would need to step it up if I wanted to really be ready for a competition. He was totally right. Just giving myself permission to force the fight to go where I wanted it to go made a huge difference in the game. I used to counter attack, but now I can lead, counter, and defend as needed. It added a whole new dimension to my game.
It was as Marcelo said in Arte Suave (a video magazine): "If you aren't attacking, you are defending, and if you are defending it means that you are losing the fight at that moment."
I had developed this really reactive game from the bottom back when I had lung problems from a rib injury. I couldn't really push myself so I had to develop better timing and really wait for opportunities. The problem is that in a 6-10 minute match, those opportunities do not present themselves too often with a good opponent. So I would lose by a couple of points and never really get into the match.
I never really felt like I was stalling though...just that I was trying to be too "effortless". You know how you watch the really good guys and it looks like they are barely moving? Well, I thought my BJJ needed to look like that. But after Marcelo's pep talk I realized that the good guys DONT look like that when they are fighting guys at their level.
Since I kicked up the aggression, my game has totally changed. On top I don't give any space and on the bottom I am constantly moving to my strongest positions. Most importantly, I am not waiting until the opponent gets his grips before I start to escape...Instead I'm not giving him the grips and forcing him to escape mine instead.
Aggressive means initiating the position changes instead of countering your opponent's actions. It means not being lazy, for example, when someone is bearing down on you in your halfguard trying to flatten you out.Some might say, "But, Brandon, you have to be intense," and I would agree with you. Intensity is extremely important, but "Relaxed Intensity" is what a wrestler should ultimately strive for. To accomplish "Relaxed Intensity," a wrestler needs to set goals with his coach, work intelligently each day towards achieving those goals in practice, visualize the thrill of victory and when the moment of truth arrives -- relax and simply execute all you have worked so hard for in practice. This is certainly not something that comes naturally. My teammates in college at Penn used to tell me all the time how tight I was when I drilled. When you drill or wrestle with someone who is very tight, it's hard for you to stay relaxed which becomes frustrating. Plus, when someone is too tight you can always tell when he is going to move or attack because they have to relax before they move. Having the ability to snap into action and be very explosive is the product of being relaxed, not tight. Don't get me wrong; I didn't solve my problem of being too tight overnight. I had to concentrate on relaxing in each and every practice and in each and every match, which lead to higher levels of energy and explosiveness.But this is only one side of what I feel has helped me improve. This next realization might seem contradictory, so just realize that everything has a time and place. It's simply this:
Staying relaxed in the sport of wrestling is so important, but I don't want you to become a wet noodle. As you're relaxed, maintain good position by keeping your head up, back straight, hips in, staying off your knees and staying into the man. Also, keep a high level of intensity. You don't have to act all crazy to be intense. You can be intense by creating motion, pushing the pace, continuing to wrestle in every situation and staying focused on your match and the things you do well.
"My biggest improvements have come after I stopped caring about tapping."
It was only when I stop caring about tapping that I really start trying new techniques and positions, playing new games, working on my escapes, etc. This is how my game grew and why I'm always trying new things. If I worried about tapping, I'd still be holding closed guard trying to collar choke someone's chin for 6 minutes straight. This mindset has helped me really open up my game and find what I think is FUN instead of worrying about "losing" (if that's really possible in training).
Luis Gutierrez of SBG has written a lot of training philosophy that has effected how I think about BJJ. I'm trying to find some specific quotes, but here's an example that will give you an idea of how unserious he feels you should take training:
Let everyone tap you occasionally and then nothing is new whether you are trying or not. No one will ever know if they won or lost as you have given away both.Luis' attitude has really affected me -- how he feels that all training should just be play, and that there is no real "losing" when you are training with friends and trying to improve yourself and them. I'll see if I can find more of his writings to share since I really enjoy them and have found they've helped me improve my performance.
This way, everyone is trying hard but not with an end in mind, just more and more attempts at anything they can get.
In other words, we play as if it's a pick up basketball game. Win or lose, you know you will go again and again and again to the point that only fun matters.
I can't say I've got a perfect handle on all of these points -- aggression, relaxation and letting go of ego -- but it's all been good food for thought and helped my game, so I figured I'd share.
Last edited by Aesopian; 5/08/2006 11:38pm at .
5/08/2006 11:59pm, #2
Strangely enough I've been coming to this same realization in the last couple weeks. One of the things that I notice most (and forgive me if this isn't one of the points you're making) of the time, once someone's guard get's "mostly passed"--if that make sense--they give up instead of continuing to work to avoid a worse position. I've been making a conscious effort in the last couple weeks to avoid this issue as best I can. More on how it pays off in the coming weeks.Originally Posted by Osiris
5/09/2006 12:20am, #3
Per Aeso's suggestion, here is a copy of the PM I sent him when I first read his post:
Holy ****. That thread is like you stepped into my head. I didn't have the same references you did, but I've recently come to some of the exact same conclusions.
Never do that again.Shut the hell up and train.
5/09/2006 12:42am, #4
Exactly what jnp just stated.
This whole last week I've been mulling those exact same realizations.
I have a whole new repect for Aeso now.
5/09/2006 12:51am, #5
I've been hitting up some other grappling forums with this and I had a beginner ask me how I felt intensity and relaxation would apply to him, since he still doesn't have enough experience or know enough to tell how he's supposed to do either one right. So here's what I told him:
One thing to consider is what you mean by "intense" and "relaxed".
You can be "intense" by muscling moves, straining, fighting out of everything, being brutual, etc. Or you can be intense by pushing the pace, staying ahead of them, not letting them establish control, preventing attacks and defences before they are a major problem, actively working out of bad positions, etc.
You can be "relaxed" by just waiting for them to do something, only capitalizing on their mistakes, not working to keep good position or posture when you're losing it, etc. Or you can be relaxed by keeping your composure (especially in bad situations), only using as much effort as needed, not getting frantic, knowing when to give up on a failing technique and move on, etc.
So it all depends on what you mean. I don't recommend the first way of being "intense" because you'll just stop yourself from learning good technique. I do recommend the second way of being intense since it'll help you have some "game" while you're developing your fundaments and rolling with guys better than you.
Likewise, mistaking "relaxed" for "passive" or "motionless" wouldn't help you either since it too can lead to sloppy technique and bad habits. But I think it is VERY important to learn as soon as you can how to keep your wits about you in bad positions and intelligently work out of them, and not get so excited when you're doing well that you start making mistakes.
From my experience, most beginners need to work on being relaxed first (whether they do it in the best way or not) because they've usually got more than enough "intensity". This is usually hard advice to take at first, since they're still thinking "How can I relax when I'm always getting beat?" And I don't really have a pat answer for that. I just know that enough mat time and experience will sort it out for them once they decide to give it a try.
I've found that I go back and forth through cycles of being too relaxed and too aggressive. My game starts declining when I go too far to one extreme, and that it's best when I can strike the right balance. I'm constantly jockeying these factors as they rise and fall, and while they'll maybe never stop fluctuating, it is through this process that I've experienced many of my improvements in training.
5/09/2006 12:55am, #6
Here is a post I made on 06/07/2005 in my first thread.
I am too relaxed. I need to be more aggressive sometimes, not necessarily all the time mind you. My problem is that I am too reactive. I almost always exploit opportunities my sparring partners give me. I need to make my own opportunities. I'm not saying I am going to abandon my style because it conserves energy very well. I just need to be more proactive about offense.Shut the hell up and train.
5/09/2006 1:01am, #7
I had a semi-private recently with Rigan Machado before the pan-ams where he was describing our games to us, and what we need to work on. One of the things he said to me was "You've got a very aggressive game, but when you get tired you open up too much". One of my training partners, Murray, looked at me with an open mouth and I was thinking "Yeah, I can't believe how wrong Rigan got that in regards to being aggressive". After training I remarked that I thought Rigan had got it wrong and the other guys said "Are you crazy? You're incredibly aggressive! When you turn it on I can't do anything except hope to survive." It really is amazing how wrong a person can be about themselves - I always thought I wasn't aggressive enough :)
So I agree, people get into the "being relaxed" mode but are never threatening or putting pressure on their opponent and forcing their opponent to make a mistake. Even though I'm aggressive, it's usually only situational e.g I'm aggressive from my guard and constantly working because being on the bottom sucks. I'm also aggressive when I pass the guard because I don't want to hang around in a bad situation. That doesn't mean that I'm going crazy and leaving openings for my opponent - it just means that I'm putting pressure on my opponent to make him uncomfortable with his guard and his posture and that when I pass I'm the one pushing the buttons, not him. Once I'm passed the guard I'm aggressive in keeping my position i.e. I'm not going to hold side-control half-heartedly and let my opponent escape. I'm going to keep the pressure on him by keeping my side-control or knee-ride.
Having said all that, I enjoy rolling half-pace with trusted partners so I have more chance of seeing patterns and hence I learn a lot more that way. Also, Rigan told me to develop my game I need to work on fighting defensively to not allow the guy to score any points on me, and then go aggressive so I have both aspects covered.
5/09/2006 1:09am, #8
To add to the discussion about being relaxed and intense at the same time, last night I was rolling with a purple belt in my class who is quite good and who likes to pass standing. I must have swept him a dozen times and spoke to him after class about his passing. I told him that he needed to put more pressure on me when trying to pass as I didn't feel in danger. By more pressure I don't mean weight per se, but under threat and feeling uncomfortable. I offered him two examples:
1) Grab the opponent's collar when he's sitting up and drive his head down and to the side. Breaking his posture and putting weight on him limits his ability to put up a decent offense or defense.
2) Stand and drive the forward foot against his butt, killing his hook. It will stop that hook from being useful, and it forces the guy underneath to react and make space, opening himself up for a pass.
Both of these examples will make the purple belt more intense, create more openings for passes and can be done whilst being relaxed.
5/09/2006 1:55am, #9
- Join Date
- Jan 2005
- Lund, Sweden
Wtf, I was just thinking about starting a thread asking how the BJJ instructors on this forum encourage their students to be relaxed without going limp.
It seems that everyone was thinking the same thing.
..competition this sunday. Better go to lockflow and see if they have any good techniques I can use there..
5/09/2006 2:22am, #10
I used to be real timid rolling with bigger dudes. Now, I have no other choice, but to roll with them in order to get better. I am aiming for a tournament next month and for my blue belt. I take these guys on, who probably have some 20-40 lbs on me, and take them on with a greater aggression, but at the same time relaxed and anticipating what their moves are possibly going to be. I really took one by surprise the other day by doing this. ^_^ Nothing like a girl passing a big dude’s guard and taking their back – it is freaking sweet.