BJJ / Grappling Strategy: Attacking v Stalling

Learning from the masters: Here with John B Will
In a recent post, I highlighted the importance of sticking to strong fundamentals. That is the heart and soul of BJJ / grappling. What is important, and often difficult, is striking the right balance between maintaining a good advantageous position (such as side, mount, back...etc.) and going for attacks. We want to attack and make our opponent / training partner submit to a choke, arm or leg lock but we know that by opening up our grappling game we might open a door that allows them to escape the positional dominance we have on them. A simple example is the BJJ player who passes your guard then holds side control so tight that you can't escape (nor can they attack with anything except pressure). For years I called this attitude "stalling" but I now realise that when I shout out loud "position before submission" to beginners that they may indeed interpret that as "be risk averse and don't go for too many attacks!"*

I came to think of this recently when reading (well, I was listening to) Richard Dawkins' THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH. There is a ton of gems in this book but one bit really caught my attention as a link to the beautiful game of Jiu Jitsu: Flight Distance...

Talking about how modern day dogs and wolves share an ancestor, the book describes that the earlier model "Village Dogs" were scavengers that frequented human rubbish dumps. The wolves were scavengers too, but they had a longer "flight distance":

"If you see an animal feeding, you can measure its flight distance be seeing how close it will let you approach before fleeing. For any given species in any given situation there will be an optimal flight fistance, somewhere between too risky or foolhardy at the short end, and too flighty or risk-averse at the long end."

Don't be a flighty wolf, nor a dodo bird!

This also reminded me of a fantastic thing Australian BJJ pioneer John B Will told us a couple of years back (he also wrote a brilliant post about it here):

"Fear of the unknown is programmed in us thru evolution. Back in the day, when the unknown approached, some stayed out of curiousity, and some ran away out of fear. In many cases, we are the descendants of those who ran away. 

In today's world, and especially on the BJJ mat, we cannot allow this attitude to stop our exploration. Experiment. Climb out of your comfort zone. Don't worry about failing because once you tap, you can try and try again!"

Now I know that I wrote a very popular article about how tapping hurts as part of my series of The 5 lies of BJJ (you can read them here 1,2,3,4 & 5) but you have to remember that I still recommended that you tap, tap and tap often and you ain't gonna do much tapping if you get to a safe position and then just set camp there without experimenting!

Homework: Every time you get to side control top (my example but you can change that to any other advantageous position in Grappling) you must attack with submission attempts, even if you know that can result in you losing the position. If you're stuck for ideas, here are a few beautiful suggestions by none other than Emily Kwok:

*I'm not quite encouraging reckless abandon. I talked more about position before submission here


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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