“I don’t like leaping around the whole spar. I prefer to get solid grips from the bottom, think carefully, keep them away with my legs, then hopefully sweep to the top and progress with a slow, steady, pressure game. Obviously it is important to still move, e.g., with things like side control transitions. I just don’t go very fast.” – Slideyfoot
I was left with the above comment on my last post. It acted as a great reminder to another aspect of my gameplan against bigger opponents. It’s what I call, ‘Accepting the Bottom’.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was an adaptation of early (pre-olympic) Judo. It was adapted by a small practitioner. He saw what worked so wonderfully in Judo and tweaked things just enough to make it work for a 135lbs guy. One of those tweaks was the Guard.
The Guard was one of the biggest breakthroughs in BJJ (to say nothing of the impact on the rest of the martial arts world).
One thing that Slidey pointed out was that he likes to get solid grips from the bottom, maintain proper spacing, and attempt to sweep to top.
Well, that’s my game too. But, that only comes with an attitude of accepting the bottom.
When I first started I hated being on the bottom. When I got there I would struggle and push and fight. I found that I was always exhausted. My arm would be fatigued. My neck would be sore. I would feel defeated.
Every week my coach would say that small guys at our gym (remembering that we have a lot of bigger men there) tend to get really good off their backs because they always end up there anyway. It took about 9 months for that to sink in for me.
When I started most guys were okay with me playing a top game. They would see me (a new guy) as an opportunity to work on their bottom game. They would pull guard and let me do my thing. After I got better and started putting together a submission or two less and less guys would allow me on top. As I started solidifying mount and back control even less people would let me on top. Now, the only people that let me take top are the guard players, or the ones that are specifically working on the guard. I’m finding it harder and harder to get top, and maintain it. Bigger opponent’s just refuse to let me run around up there. It stared to become a real struggle. I couldn’t figure out what had changed, and what was so wrong with me.
Then, I decided to spend a month working on my escapes. The month after that I spent working on my guard. Those 8 weeks completely changed my game. Not just in ability, but in mentality.
I learned to accept that I’m going to most likely end up on the bottom when I’m fighting bigger opponents.
I would start fights by looking for grips and pulling guard. Like Slidey, I use my feet to push on hips and arms and maintain space. I pull and push with my grips. I keep moving. I look for a scissors sweep. If it’s not there I might attack an arm. I might push for another sweep. Sit up- hip bump sweep- guillotine- arm drag- scissors sweep- attack, attack, attack.
My aim is to sweep. Submission are usually set-ups for sweeps. If I get a tap, it’s a bonus. But, I want the sweep. Why? Because, the acceptance of the bottom doesn’t mean that I want to live there. I still want top. But when I didn’t want to be on the bottom I would never attack. So, people didn’t have to worry about my guard. Before I had accepted being on the bottom I wasn’t willing to attack from there. I wanted to get out. I would escape from guard rather than use it.
Once I accepted that I would be on the bottom I realised that I was saving a lot of pushing and pulling. That means that I’m saving a lot of strength.
This acceptance has turned what I once hated into a significant part of my gameplan. Embracing the bottom is the best thing I’ve ever done in my short BJJ life.
I had a roll this morning and I really, really wanted to be on top the whole time. I’m now very tired and quite sore. Did I end up on top? Not really. Did I get to attack at all? Not really. Did I still spend all my time on the bottom? Yeah, but this time I wasn’t looking to get comfortable, sweep, and attack. I was looking to escape. Did it work? No.
On the way home I thought about it and was given a great reminder that a simple acceptance is half the preparation.
If you know the storm is coming you can defend. If you’re insistant that the storm isn’t coming you’ll probably end up in an armbar… put that on your Facebook status.