What Makes A Well Rounded BJJ Player?

With all of the specialization in sport BJJ competition, critics of the new champions of sport will often vocalize their disdain at a lack of being “well rounded.”  What do they mean by this, though?  Is there merit in being “well rounded” vs specializing in 2 or 3 areas of an infinitely complex game?

Here’s a list of seven things that make a jiu jitsu practitioner well rounded.

1.  Having options from all positions on the ground
No matter what your objectives, this one is an absolute must for anyone who wants to succeed in BJJ.  If you don’t have an answer for the most common positions, you are eventually going to end up there and be clueless, stuck like a deer in headlights.   So your deep half guard is sick?  Great.  What about your escape from knee on stomach?  Posture in the closed guard?

2.  Takedowns

Anyone  who has been following MMA for the last ten years or longer has noticed a marked change in the overall strategy of fighters.  There is a new style called “sprawl and brawl” that aims to keep the fight on the feet, specifically designed to avoid the ultra-basic BJJ takedown.  Without some additional judo or wrestling training, or without integrating regular takedown training into your game, you are neglecting a huge part of the puzzle:  how to get the fight where you are strongest.  In the grand scheme, it doesn’t matter if you are fantastic on the ground if you can’t bring the fight there.
Even if MMA holds no interest to you, without takedowns, you are severely limiting your options in sport BJJ as well.

3.  Being able to dominate position
This is one of the first things you should strive to understand when doing BJJ.  “Position before submission” is certainly great advice for anyone getting started in BJJ, but it’s also a mantra for winning fights- and for conserving energy when simply rolling.  Anyone who has ever spent five minutes trying to pass a really good guard knows how much more exhausting that can be than, say, maintaining side control or the mount for an equal amount of time.

4.  Being able to finish the match
If you have all of the other tools in your arsenal, but you lack the ability to finish anyone consistently, your deck of cards is simply not complete.  If you finish a fight or match, you have already won.  No matter how much you dominate the positions, the fight simply isn’t over yet, and your opponent always has a chance of coming back and beating you.  Self defense training values the submission very highly for obvious reasons as well; being able to put an attacker to sleep or break a limb when your life or personal well being is threatened is paramount.

5.  Great defense
Often overlooked by the novice jiu jitsu practitioner (in favor of more “flashy” moves), defense and survival are cornerstones of any martial artist’s toolbox.  If your defensive posture isn’t fully developed, it’s only going to take one opportunity for your opponent to make you submit.  You can bet that your opponents will have those opportunities, too, especially in the highly specialized field of sport BJJ.

6.  Training proficiently in both gi and no-gi
Check out this article that discusses the merits of training with the gi for more information, or this one, about no-gi training.  Whether you’re interested in BJJ purely for self defense, or whether you want to be a sport champion in the gi, you need to have both in order to be truly well rounded.

7.  Understanding the self defense aspect as well as the sport
This article has alluded to the self defense aspect of BJJ in many instances.  Being able to truly utilize jiu jitsu when it really counts builds confidence and actually might save your life one day, but what about the importance of sport BJJ?  Sport BJJ allows you to train at very close to 100% intensity against someone who is resisting your techniques.  Not only will you quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, you’ll also be challenged mentally to come up with innovative solutions to the problems your training partners present to you.

If you didn’t mentally check off all seven items above, don’t fret- there is plenty of time to improve your skill set.  You also will surely want to take my advice with a grain of salt, and improve upon the list as it pertains to you in particular.   Enjoy your training and your quest for self-improvement on the mats!

Bonus:  if you can integrate a “rock vs water” style, you will also become more well rounded.  Read more here.

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