Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Fight a Boxer, Box a Fighter

I am a firm believer of variety of techniques

I have attended classes and seminars by high level BJJers. Many of them will tell you the same thing, that they only teach and believe in the basics, because its what works for them. Unfortunately, most of these guys, being high performance athletes can do their moves to anyone, because they are typically big strong guys.

There are no basics that work for everyone. One thing I have realized teaching in Malaysia, is that the students here come in all shapes and sizes. My lightest student weighed in at 40kgs and my heaviest 120+kg.

There will be moves that work for the lighter one that won't work for the heavier one and definitely vice versa.

There is an old saying "Fight a Boxer, Box a Fighter". This exact phrase is used by John Will and Gene Lebell as their basis of their success in their individual autobiographies. This is the reason how they climbed to the top in their fields (John in Silat, Gene in Judo).

What it means, is that you use techniques that your opponent is unaware of, not good at or unprepared for. You don't go head to head with a particular technique, strategy or game if your opponent is better than you at it. 

Every technique, there is a counter. So if you do basics only, the counter will quite easily counter it. Furthermore, different instructors have different ideas what the basics mean. Even a simple technique, say armbar from mount, 10 black belts will give you 10 different emphasis on the same move. So most instructors will say learn the basics, but more often than not, they are all talking about different sets of techniques.

To me the beauty of BJJ is the variety of moves. I try to teach as many games as possible, and the techniques that make up those games, although perhaps physically or attribute wise, I am not able to play those games at a good level.

Roleta's Helicopter Sweep

Thus I have students who play rubber guard as their primary guard, and one particular blue belt plays a mean upside down guard with triangles and oma platas as traps. My purple belt plays a mean Z and De La Riva guard, and another blue belt plays primarily half guard.

The De La Riva Guard

Does that mean that these guards (or othe techniques) are useless and we should only learn "the basics"? Eddie Bravo, Ricardo De La Riva, Gordo and many others would take offense with that.

Eddie Bravo's Rubber Guard

In a class I typically teach my students perhaps 4-8 techniques for a particular position. That is not to say I expect them to remember all of them. In fact I expect them to remember only those that fit in to their game.

This is my montessori way of teaching BJJ. You pick and choose what you want to learn, and how fast you want to learn is up to you.

Two of my students messing around with the twister

BJJ first and foremost requires intelligence. As instructors, I believe our place is to show you the way, give you the tools, but it is up to you which path you take, and the level and direction of your growth. We help you develop your game, answer your questions the best we can. But at the end, there is no "best" game that everyone leans. There is a best game for you, that only you can develop.

There's always the flying rubber guard!

Sam Wee is the head instructor for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) at the KDT Academy (, Malaysia and has been teaching BJJ since 2003. 

1 comment:

Charles Wong said...

Great words of wisdom Coach! I for one love to experiment and try out different techniques to find out what work best for me.

While I agree that we cannot dispense with the "basics", I observe each individuals have their own game. And this is why BJJ rolling is so exciting to watch.