One of the tougher white belts that I train with recently asked me a question that I thought was truly profound. This gentleman is very strong and stocky, and is able to easily overpower me if we get into a contest of strength. He was interested in learning how to handle training partners that insist on jockeying for position with him, thus wasting a lot of time and energy during rounds.
I felt that this question is very relevant, as I’ve seen it happen with training partners from white belt to black belt. Someone goes into a roll with a specific position in mind and doesn’t want to let their training partner establish a different position. The same thing happens in competition.
Learn to yield.
I don’t mean that you should “lose” the positional battle. And sometimes, if you feel you are in fact stronger than the other person go right ahead and dictate the position. But if we are pushing each other and I am forced to back up, chances are you’re stronger than me or better at pushing than I am, and I am just wasting time and energy trying to make something happen that won’t happen instead of taking what WILL happen and turning it to my advantage.
When someone pushes me in a linear motion, and I feel that it’s time to yield, I will do one of two things, disengage and reset the engagement to neutral or find a vector in which the other man is no longer stronger than me.
Disengagement to me is simple: step away, run away, back away, whatever, just try to avoid making it obvious. Make the other person stand still for a moment and start to reset your grips. It’s possible that in resetting you may be able to get an advantageous grip or angle and things will be different.
As far as finding a vector in which the other man is no longer stronger than I am, there are two concepts: level changing and angle cutting. If for example I am in someone’s guard and things just aren’t going my way, maybe I stand up, if they are playing some sort of an open guard maybe I change my angle relative to them.
In a shoving match this can translate to dropping in for a takedown or a leg lock entry, pulling guard or positioning your body such that you are at an angle and looking at the side of the other person’s face. It’s kind of hard to shove someone around when they are perpendicular to you with their chest facing your side.
Rather than fighting fire with fire, fight fire with water. Learning to yield is one of the most valuable tools both physically (for self defense as well as competition) and psychologically that jiu-jitsu offers us. You don’t need to be stronger than everyone; your goal should be to be strong enough to supplement your technique, and to have an understanding of using another person’s movement to put yourself in an advantageous position.
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