For me, I use things that I have learned about. If I have a question about something, I look for information on it. I try to understand it better. I dig into the mechanics of it, the history, the tradition, the current uses, the science, the experiences of others, and so on. That’s what lead me to BJJ in the first place. Research lead to understanding which lead to action.
In BJJ, when I am learning a new technique, I learn the mechanics of it. That way, I can understand how something works, why it works, and what ways to go about applying it.
For example: Side Control Escape to Guard
This technique is based on creating enough space to bring your knee through, under the opponent in order to recapture guard. The mechanics of it include a bridge, an arm brace, a hip escape, and a hip in with a leading knee.
The bridge creates space for space. It bumps the person up. This is actually, by itself, eliminating space. You’re getting closer to the opponent. But, in the entire scheme of the move, it creates space for the creation of space.
The arm brace fills space. If you’re escaping with your arms in a good defensive posture you are able to use them to brace the opponent. You created space for space with the bridge, then as you hip out you fill that created space with a bracing structure of your arms. Again, this in itself is not an escape. If you stop here you’ll likely get yourself into trouble.
The hip out creates space between you and your opponent. It’s extra space because you bridged. It’s filled space because you’re bracing. The further you hip away, the more space is created for you to fill with your leg as you bring it in to establish guard.
The hip in with the leading knee refills the created space with what you want instead of what they want.
When I understand all that, even in its most basic explanation, I can start to put the move into action. That understanding should drive me to action that reflects the information I have about it. This helps me to see what I’ve missed when the move doesn’t work. Sometimes I doing bridge, or hip-out, or bring my knee back in. Sometimes the opponent blocks a key element of the move. That doesn’t delegitimize the move, it simply presents a problem to be solved, which is why other moves are created.
The vast majority of my submissions lately have come in the form of the cross lapel choke. The reason is because I have developed an understanding of the mechanics of it. That understanding lead to action. That action lead to experience, which lead to problems, which lead to analytical thinking, which lead to new strategy based on the original understanding of the mechanics.
So, if you struggle with a technique, go away and do your homework. Learn why a move works, I bet (not that I’m a gambling man) you’ll see it in a whole new light.