Anyone who trains with me, takes my classes, or takes privates from me knows 2 things about me. One is I talk a lot, probably way more then I should, and two I’m big on basics and repetition. Everyone and I do mean everyone should drill the basics regularly to become proficient with these base techniques. Build a strong foundation and you have a strong house: this applies to all facets of life and all facets of martial arts, fitness, and diet as well. The problem I face regularly while trying to instill this mindset is that people in general become bored very quickly. Everyone wants to learn the kill but no one wants to learn how to hunt. Teach a class with 10 submissions and everyone leaves happy, problem is they have no idea how to actually set up and apply the subs in live rolling or competition.
I believe it is extremely important to drill positioning, set ups, and transitions regularly. An arm bar is an arm bar is an arm bar. Now how many positions can you set that arm bar up from? When that arm bar fails where can you transition to? Can that transition set up another arm bar, or maybe a completely different sub, or maybe just get you into a dominant position from which you can launch a new attack. The key to finding the answers to all these questions is to drill, drill, drill and then drill some more until going from position to position becomes a natural part of you game, something you don’t need to think about, second nature.
Flow drills are an excellent way to drill transitions, get repetition, and help you build that ability to know where to go when you partner is moving. Another thing is to drill the set up for a specific submission without the finish. I notice lots of students rush through the set up to get to the submission and struggle to get a finish that a partner is letting them get. Why is that? Because all the little details in the set up put you in perfect position to finish the submission, without the details the story is weak and the ending sucks.
So if you want to improve your game drill the basics, get in as many reps as you can, and pay attention to all the details along the way. Don’t be in such a rush to finish the arm bar that you forget to lock up the arm in the first place. Oh and one more thing, work both sides. Most everyone has a strong side and a weak side. I know some who claim to be fully ambidextrous but I’ll reserve my comments on that. Personally I like to get a move down on 1 side first then move to the other side, some people prefer to go side to side. Do whatever works for you, but be sure to work both sides for a well rounded game.
I wrote this specific to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu however this approach works in any setting. In boxing if you can’t throw a proper punch, regardless of what punch it is (jab, cross, hook, etc.), how are you going to use those punches to set up other punches? If you don’t focus on proper foot work (and DRILL it) how can you have a built in defense and strong offence? You can’t…
So don’t forget, repetition is extremely important: drill, drill, and drill, than drill some more.