Positional sparring in bjj

Positional sparring in bjj – bridging the gap between drilling and live rolling

So one thing I’ve seen a lot in both training and teaching is that many times people won’t try to use what they’ve just been drilling in class. It makes sense as most people want to win and in their mind they will work on that technique “later”. I’ve been there and I’ve thought the same thing. My perspective only changed when I started teaching. I got frustrated that I would spend all this time working on the lesson and then when it came to sparring, it was like the class had never happened. So I dug around a little bit and decided to give positional sparring in bjj a try.

In the past I had done a decent amount of positional sparring in bjj but it was usually just starting sparring in a certain position. Once the position changed, the sparring continued. The problem with this is if training partners of unequal are matched together then the lesser skilled partner is going to get much less practice. For instance let’s say your side mount control from the top is not very good and your partner is a Houdini of escapes. Well you will probably only be able to hold him for a few seconds before he escapes and if you continue training for that you may not even get back in the sidemount position for the rest of the match!

This is where controlled and short interval positional sparring comes into play. The idea is to keep a competitive resistance and allow one person to control and/or finish the position/submission and the other person to escape. After a minute you switch places. You repeat this three times then switch to a new partner. What this give you is many reps with resistance on a variety of opponents who have different experience, instincts, strengths, and skills. But it’s important to stay disciplined in the parameters of the drill. Oftentimes people will just keep rolling after the position is lost. You need to start right back where you were and keep repeating for the allotted time. This type of positional sparring in bjj will help bridge the gap between regular drilling and live rolling.

You can watch me ramble about bjj positional sparring here.


positional sparring in bjj

Learning BJJ from big guys

Learning BJJ from big guys

So big guys have a bad rap in BJJ for a long time. I think it may stem from the idea that Helio and Carlos Gracie were relatively small guys and they fought the big scary guys. Thus they decided BJJ was for the small to defeat the big and people still seem to hold a big guy’s bigness against them. The irony is almost everyone I’ve ever met in BJJ uses whatever they’ve got. Strong guys use their strength, flexible guys use their flexibility, long guys use their length, etc. But nothing is frowned on more than a big guy being big. I think learning BJJ from big guys is a great idea and I’d like to explain why.

Now before I sound like some bitter big guy, please know I’m more medium sized myself (6’1″ and 175-180lb). To some people I’m big, but compared to most of my main training partners, I’m definitely small! But there’s a reason I train with these guys: they teach me a lot! Learning BJJ from big guys has been a huge help to me and it could be for you too.

Here’s a few reasons why:

#1 – Big guys like to conserve their energy. I’m not pointing fingers here, but most of the big guys I know don’t like to waste their energy. While this might be tough if I wanted them to help me mow the lawn, this a good thing when it comes to BJJ because they learn how to be more efficient! I always learn a lot from my bigger training partners as to strategies on when to move and when to stay put.

#2 – Big guys keep things simple. I’m not sure why this is, but every big guy I’ve ever trained with has a very simple game. When someone has a simple game, it’s usually much easier for them to teach it because….it’s simple. I’ve watched some instructors spend 20 minutes explaining the different grips they use on one technique. I don’t have time for that complexity in my life and my little brain couldn’t handle it if I did. And since most big guys conserve their energy well, their game is about making their opponent work much harder and giving that opponent a few bad options to choose from in every position.

#3 – Big guys learn a practical bottom game. Since most big guys are quickly shamed about their bigness, they will usually play on the bottom, especially with a smaller opponent. As we already discussed, most of them like to conserve their energy and keep things simple. This leads to a very practical bottom game that usually involves half guard. This most likely because it’s the easiest guard to get and is a very sweep oriented guard.

#4 – Big guys have a lot of experience playing the top game – When going against people of equal skill level, a big guy, once he gets on top, tends to stay on top. While this is usually the source of most smaller guy complaints, it’s also the real key to why learning BJJ from big guys is so valuable. Big guys end up get many, many more reps in top positions (usually side mount) than other people at the same skill level. This leads to true expertise in these positions.

Most of my game is directly stolen from my big guy teachers. Often times people need to feel me doing the techniques to really believe that they can use them too. Learning BJJ from big guys has made huge improvements for me and it might work for you too.


learning BJJ from big guys

How to survive training rounds in BJJ – especially if you’re an older, higher belt

So this is near and dear to my heart because it happened to me. I was at a school in Texas for about 5 years where we never trained rounds. We just rolled until someone tapped and changed partners at our leisure. I moved back to California and was in for a rude awakening when we started doing eight 6 minute rounds. I was gassed after two rounds and was getting demolished by blue belts (I was a black belt). It was demoralizing and really made me question if I wanted to keep training. Granted I was being a little dramatic and had some injuries, but I thought what is the point of continuing something after 16 years if I’m still so bad at it?

Watch the training rounds in BJJ video below to see what I did

Me getting smashed

#1) No we are not pilots in WWI era prop planes. Dr Snow and I both had recent eye injuries and the goggle/rugby headgear combo is the way to go

#2) We are both black belts, he is just a better black belt.

#3) There were more taps than the 5 shown but we didn’t get them on film.


D’arce to 1/4 Nelson turnover, to bow & arrow hoke, to triangle choke

This is a mouthful! The quarter nelson turnover is something Dr. Snow has been torturing me with for the last 8 years. Basically you can feel like you are almost out of sidemount and then you’re ass over teakettle and back flat on your back on the other side. This ability to make the person on bottom burn energy on a fruitless escape is a great way to cook someone who is younger, stronger, and more athletic. Unfortunately I am none of these things….except slightly younger….


Running man sidemount escape to armpit omoplata

I wish I had a more glamorous name than armpit omoplata. Once again, this move has been done to me a ton. Part of Dr. Jeff Snow’s jiu jitsu style is to make you feel like you are doing pretty well…until you’re not. And once you’re not, you won’t again.