Visualisation

I have had the flu for a week, so haven’t been able to do any physical training. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t done any training.

I am a decently strong believer in visualisation. There are two main kinds that I use in my training.

Visualising a technique in the same way that I would drill it. Drilling creates the muscle memory, and shouldn’t be overlooked (which it is by the VAST majority of BJJ practitioners). Visualisation creates mental memory. You see, when I can’t drill something live, like when I’m on the train, at work, in the bathroom, on the plane, in the car, in bed, etc, etc, I just drill it in my mind. I go through the steps. I think about it so that it becomes something natural.

Then, when I get to live drilling it’s not about trying to remember. I can let my muscles do some work, feel the technique, and create the muscle memory. I don’t have to stop every step and think, “Alright… what’s the next step?” It’s already all in my head. As I drill, and feel the technique I can adjust my mental picture to work with what I’m feeling.

This leads me to my second kind of visualisation.

Because I don’t have to think about a technique while rolling, and I have drilled it enough to not have to worry about the feel, I can start thinking in depth about it.

If you study the games of the best BJJ practitioners in the world you will see that they have extremely deep games based on basic moves.

Marcelo Garcia is a great example. He has a dominant hooks sweep from butterfly guard.

Hooks sweep from Butterfly Guard is a great example of this depth concept. If you study his game you’ll realise that he’s taken one of the most basic sweeps in jiu-jitsu and turned it into a powerhouse. Here’s why:

Every technique has a counter. But, the glory of BJJ is that every counter has a counter. When you know a technique so well that you don’t have to put any thought into it you can start to see how people are countering the move. When you can recognise the counter, you can develop a way to counter the counter.

Garcia’s hook sweep from butterfly guard has an entire series of counters to counters. If you block by posting low with the leg he has a counter to that. If you block by posting high with the leg he has a counter. If you block by posting the arm, he counters that. If you block with posture, he counters. If you block with weight, he counters. He also has developed ways to force you into the posture needed to get the hook sweep. It’s amazing

It’s an example of one of the most basic moves in BJJ being turned into an unstoppable method of sweeping.

Watch the 2010 World Champs. Garcia wins the middleweight division with a hook sweep from butterfly. He’s produced books, and DVDs, and a web site laying out his ENTIRE game, and this basic move still can’t be stopped. Why? Because, he has given it depth.

Roger Gracie has the most devastating cross collar choke from mount in the world. Basic submission turned into a powerhouse through strategic thinking. He’s added depth.

So, in my study of the scissors sweep I have spent my sick week visualising variations, counters to counters, and set-ups from any position. I have focused on the depth of the move. The next time I roll I am going to try my set-up from being pinned in side control. I am going to try my counter to the common counters I’ve experienced. I am going to work on what I do when they won’t give me the grips I want. What I do when they’re postured well. What I do when they counter a counter. This will all be noted mentally, and visualised some more.

All of this has come from visualisation training. Just taking the time to think in depth about a move. I go from seeing a basic sweep from one position, with one set of grips, and one posture, into seeing an entire game plan.

It becomes this immense web of strategy and movement all based on one of the most basic techniques in BJJ.

This is possible because of time invested in visualisation.

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Sweeping with Scissors

The last week has been spent studying the scissors sweep. Basic rundown is:

– Closed Guard. Left hand gripping opponent’s right sleeve. Right hand cross collar grip.

– Open legs. Hip out slightly to the right. Bring right shin across opponent’s midsection. Left leg flat on the mat outside the opponent’s right leg.

– In one motion pull up with your left hand, down towards you with your right, sweep in with your left leg, and guide over with your left shin. Hang on for the ride into mount.

Simple. In fact, in the Will/Machado school it’s known in the white to blue belt syllabus as the ‘basic sweep’.

In my first 8 months of jiu-jitsu I maybe pulled that basic sweep off once. I’m pretty sure that one was an accident too. So, I’ve decided to work on it until I get it. Here’s what I’ve discovered in my last week.

– Still closed guard. But, I’ve adjusted my mindset in the guard. When I’ve closed my legs around the opponent I attack liberally with my hands. When I open my legs my hands turn into the control and my legs become the attacking weapons.

– Cross grip instead of the standard grip. That means that my right hand is getting a grip on the opponent’s right sleeve. My left hand goes up to get a collar grip. This has drastically changed my effectiveness with this sweep. It’s not any harder to obtain. It also assists with the armbar from guard, which opens up a whole array of other attacks. My left hand is the collar gripping hand. Again, there isn’t much difference between a right hand cross collar grip and a left-handed one.

I find the collar grip very important to my game. I like the cross collar choke. I use it to dictate posture. I find it works wonders if people are being tentative about giving up the sleeve grip. One way to get their wrist where you need it is by putting on a choke. They either bring a hand up to defend, or get choked. If I have my left hand deep in the collar, bring my right up, get a decent grip, and pull towards my right the opponent usually has to post on his left hand and defend his neck with his right. When he brings the hand up I simply take the sleeve.

– My shielding leg is now a lot more active. I bring it in under the armpit instead of just straight across the belt line. This does a couple of things. 1) It acts more as a barrier until it’s used for the sweep. I keep the knee up until I’m ready to bring it down and across. This allows me to disrupt any pass attempts, and keeps the opponent ‘at bay’ until I’m ready to snap down the posture for the sweep. 2) It gives me the freedom to feel where it needs to be, usually determined by the weight, build, and centre of gravity of my opponent. I start window wiping it down the torso until I feel like it’s in the right spot. 

– My sweeping leg has become a lot more active as well. Remember that once I open my legs my hands become the control. That means I am attacking with my legs.

That brings me to another mindset change.

If I was boxing, and was determined to throw a right hook, and I threw that hook but it was blocked, what would I do? Would I just keep following through with that hook until in got through? No, I would bring it back and find another way in. I would change the angle and throw it again. I would set it up with a jab. I would wait and use it as a counter. I would not just keep pushing on the block until it got through.

So, why do we do that with jiu-jitsu? If we don’t get the sweep right away we just keep pulling and pushing in the hopes that we’ll somehow muscle through their defences. My mindset on techniques, especially sweeps, has changed. If I get stopped at any point during the sweep, I pull it all back and start over. I change the angle. I set it up with something else. I wait until I can use it as a counter. I don’t just try to muscle through.

That brought me to a revelation about my sweeping leg. I don’t just have to sweep with it.

The mechanic of the sweep is that I’m using that sweeping leg to block, or take out the base. The post is being eliminated by my cross grip. Leverage is being applied by my shielding leg. Posture is being broken by my collar grip. But, what if they still keep their base?

Well, what’s worked best for me is to actually just start scooting further and further to my right. I do this until I’m at quite an awkward angle. That makes it so they have to come back towards me with their base. To do this they have to apply their weight to that right knee. The second I feel them do this I simply put my heel to the knee and push.

Post is gone (because it came with me as I scooted around), posture is broken (because of the collar tug), leverage is applied (because my shielding leg is what’s helping create the awkward angle), and then once the base is kicked out…

TIMBER!

So, because I understand the mechanics of a sweep I can figure out how to make them work for me, in my game.

The sweep that I got once in 8 months has, in one week, become my go-to move from the guard.

I lost my keys one week. I kept having to borrow my wife’s. Every morning I would say, ‘Bah, don’t where my keys are.” I would then grab my wife’s off the table and go to work. Every morning my wife would say, “Have you looked for them?” to which I would respond, “No.”

That’s simple, isn’t it? Of course I haven’t found something that I’m not looking for. Sure enough, once I actually looked for them it took me about 5 minutes to find them. 

A couple of months ago I decided to do a study on the guillotine choke. Now, if I were to ask you where a guillotine choke is put on from most would probably say from guard. That’s not a wrong answer, but it’s not an accurate one either.

The mechanics of the technique allow it to be done from almost any position. But, if I believe that it can only be found from guard what is the likelihood that I will find it in other places?

Minimal.

Why? Because I’m not looking for it in other positions. If I’m not looking for something am I likely to find it?

No.

If I never look for the keys that I’ve lost it doesn’t mean that they’re not there. They could be right in the middle of the lounge floor. But, if I have come to believe that you can only find missing keys in the cushions of a couch, I will only look there. I won’t look in the middle of the lounge floor.

So, what if I decided that I wanted to find a certain submission from every position? I learned the mechanics of the technique, understood what was needed to make it work, and just went hunting.

From that ‘couple of months ago’ the guillotine has became my go-to submission. If I just really want to tap someone, I go to the guillotine. It’s become quite reliable. In the past month here’s where I’ve gotten them from.

Head to Head, Closed Guard Bottom, Open Guard Bottom, Turtle Top, Side Control, Half Guard Top, Mount, and Knee Ride. I also have figured out how to transition into them from Side Control Bottom, Mount Bottom, and Back Control.

That’s not counting the same mechanics used from north-south (north-south choke) and the back (gable grip rear naked choke).

My favourite place to get the guillotine is from half guard on top. But, I never would have found out that you could do it from there if I believed that it was just a guard submission.

I didn’t just open my eyes and look around the house when I couldn’t find my keys. I thought about it. I started looking in the places where I know they could have ended up. The couch, desks, tables, chairs. The top of the fridge, behind my bedside dresser, gym bag. Places that they would have likely been.  I used analytical thinking to determine the places it could have been.

It’s the same with the guillotine, and just about every other technique in BJJ. Pick and technique and start seeking it out from everywhere.

John Will writes about this in an ebook he has about luck. It’s a great read. Check out my blogroll for John’s blog.

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