When rolling last week I noticed something that I was not overly happy about. I find that I am very rarely going for submissions anymore (the exception being of course the arm triangle, my favoritest submission ever).
Since I like to over analyze everything I spent a lot of time wondering why it was that I am not going for submissions more. If you’ve been training for any length of time, chances are that you’ve heard the saying “position before submission”. I understand this sentiment and could not agree with it more but I think that I am in more of a “position before position” frame of mind.
Some time ago I discovered that a good way to cope when I feel like I am being out-muscled is to concentrate more on position and transitions rather than on submissions (rhyming unintentional but thoroughly enjoyed). I found that I had much more success this way. Instead of going for a submission, having the person get out and then being in a bad position myself I was focusing on getting to top positions and just maintaining that position.
I found that I really enjoyed rolling this way and I was getting better at maintaining positions and controlling stronger opponents. I highly recommend this approach if you are someone who feels like you are at a strength disadvantage. However I think I’ve gotten to a point where I am just content to get a position and hold onto it rather than go for the finish.
I don’t necessarily think that is a bad approach to jiu-jitsu but since I am looking to compete again soon I feel like I need to go for the kill more. I also feel like I’m getting a bit stagnant so I am hoping to shake things up. But I know this is going to be a hard goal for me.
Probably most of you have had the experience of setting up a submission on someone who is bigger and stronger than yourself and having them use that strength to get out of it. This is something that I have experienced a lot. For example, I feel like every time I go for an armbar from guard that my partner ends up getting their arm out and then passing my guard. Some of this is because they are stronger than me. Some of this is probably because my technique is off (just the tiniest bit of course). By deciding to go for submissions I have to accept that I will most likely end up in bad positions more often. This is not something I will enjoy but I know it’s the only way to get the technique right.
I also know that if I want to start hunting for submissions more that I have to take my aggression up a notch. This is something I continually have trouble with for many reason. It’s difficult for me to do something that I think is “mean”. I know this is ridiculous because we are all involved in a combat sport but I still struggle with it. I find this is a particular concern of mine when rolling with women, particularly the new ones. Having been smashed so many times when I was new, I really don’t want to be the smasher who discourages another woman from training.
I think too that there is some fear about being overly aggressive when I am training with the guys because my aggression will lead to their aggression and I am always worried about the ability for me to physically handle that aggression. I don’t think this is ever a concern that I could (or really should) get rid of entirely but I do have enough training partners that I trust that I should be able to take it up a notch at least some rolls.
So I’ve decided to focus a little bit more on submissions when I’m rolling, even if that means I lose a good position or I have to take my aggression to a higher level. I’m thinking of setting a quota for submission attempts for myself at the beginning of the night and not getting off the mat until I’ve met it. If I get to a point I feel comfortable doing that, I might start setting quotas for finishing submissions (starting with 1 a week, ha!). It’s going to be challenging but I feel like I am at the point I can get the position, now it’s time for the submission!
Every month at my gym we host a women’s open mat. They are open to all women and they are quite fun. It’s a great chance for us to get the experience of training with other women. They have not typically been hugely attended with our average being around 6 women, but hey, that’s about 5 more than I am used to getting to train with!
However the stars aligned in favor of women jiu-jitsuers in the Philadelphia area during our November open mat and 23 women came to train. 23 women!!! This was only the third time in my training career that I had seen 20 or more women in one room to train and the other two events I had paid for (not that they weren’t totally worth it).
I really don’t know if I can make the guys understand what a rare treat this is for us ladies. In my gym there is a chance that any class you attend will have 20 or more guys there to train with. In order for us to get that many women we had to host an open mat, mobilize people from other gyms and advertise in women’s grappling groups. We had a couple of people come from about 2 hours away just for the chance to train with some women. One of them, a purple belt, said it was the first time she had gotten to roll with a woman who was her rank or above.
Every time I get the chance to train with a lot of women, particularly women I don’t train with often, I am struck with the realization of how different it is than rolling with the guys. Instead of dealing with being outsized and outstrengthed, I have to adapt to smaller, quicker opponents. I actually found myself getting frustrated at one point and thinking “these girls never stay still!”.
When thinking about this later it occurred to me that this might be how the guys I train with feel about me. I have often heard guys say that rolling with the women is challenging because they are technical and squirmy but it’s not something I’ve experienced a lot since most of my training is with guys. It was really eye opening. I started to understand why the urge is there to just lay on top of someone and hold them down (but I still don’t like having this done to me…I haven’t evolved that much).
I also began to wonder what my jiu-jitsu would be like if I trained with that many women all the time. I feel like I, as well as probably lots of women who train, have had to adapt my jiu-jitsu so that I can deal with size and strength. What kind of game would I have if I trained with women all the time? Perhaps I’d be the smasher? Probably I won’t ever find this out but I do find it intriguing.
As awesome as women’s open mat was, I also find these events to be somewhat bittersweet. Having a rare glimpse of what it would be like if there were as many women who trained as men is a bit of a tease. Rolling with someone who is more evenly matched to you physically is very different than rolling as the smaller/weaker person most of the time. Although I love the guys I train with and enjoy it, it’s really fun to roll with people who don’t have the option to smash you sometimes.
However I know that we are still some time away from being anywhere close to equaling the number of guys who train. In the meantime I will continue to enjoy the challenges that come with training with the guys and look forward to events like open mat where I get to mix it up with the ladies.