Building a BJJ Competition Gameplan

A BJJ match consists of three phases*:
  1. The initial grip-fight and distance manipulation
  2. Stand-up / clinch fighting
  3. Ground fighting

Ask yourself: what realistic goals can I set for each of these phases of the BJJ match? An example is to say to yourself: "I'll be happy with my performance if I control the distance and establish my grips first (you must specify your grips here)" for the first phase.

For the second phase you could say something like: “once I have my grips, I will immediately attack by...and name your attack, which can be a judo throw, an arm drag or a guard pull of some kind (open guard, closed guard or half guard) or in the odd case a submission attempt". (don't try this one at home)



Finally, decide on your first attack from the ground. This can be a submission, a sweep (if on bottom) or a guard pass (if on top) or even a transition (guard to back, side control to mount...etc.) or even a small combo of the above. My top recommendation here is that your phase 2 and 3 chosen techniques all flow directly from your chosen grips in the first phase. I touched on this in an earlier post but here's the video again where my brother helps me demonstrate what I mean by grip efficiency:



A less efficient example would be to pull open guard from a sleeve and collar grip then start working leg locks or perhaps throw with a tai otoshi then attack the far arm with kimura or americana.
Once you've outlined your basic grappling game plan you should build in a couple of "what if" re-routes. The reason you need those is because you can't imagine that your opponent will just give you all the grips and moves you want and the reason I call them “BJJ re-routes” is because I don't think you should go in with multiple grappling gameplans. I believe it is best, at least for a beginner, to go in with one grappling gameplan plus a number of strategies and techniques that will route you back to it when your opponent manages to derail you.

For example, if your plan is to attack from full guard and your opponent manages to pass to your half guard, I recommend that your next action is to re-gain full guard. You might get it or you might not, but trust me you will feel better afterwards because you will know that you did all you could within that context and the match will transform into a great learning opportunity. This is presuming, of course, that once you work out your plan you go down to the mat and...well, work it out. Below is my first ever BJJ game plan which I used at the Gracie Invitational when I was still a white belt.

White belt BJJ / Grappling gameplan:
  • Defensive footwork: Circle
  • Offensive footwork: lead with right leg, protect lapel with left hand, close distance very quickly
  • Grip fighting: lapel & sleeve (right & left hand respectively)
  • Set-up: Push backwards
  • Attack: Jump to closed guard
  • Set-up: Wrap their right arm with my left
  • Attacks: palm up, palm down choke or triangle

 Can you guess where I got the inspiration for my ground attacks for?
How did I do? I won my first match and lost the second, but felt great during and after. I still remember smiling thru-out the matches because I was mentally ticking off actions on my to-do list. Good luck.

*When you’re as good as Paulo August, you can skip a few phases :)





Georgette said...


A.D. McClish said...

I know next to nothing, but I don't like the idea of having a game plan. I guess the reason is that people are unpredictable. I can see planning whether or not you will do a takedown or jump guard. Be even planning what kind of takedown would be difficult, because so much of it depends on whether the person is moving forwards or backwards, if they know how to sprawl or not, etc. What do you think?

Liam H Wandi said...

I think you should talk to my Libra wife!! :)

She's very good at seeing the other side, and the other side, and the other side still :)

I love what you are saying. That's why I only plan to do what I need to do and I'm very happy with the outcome. I go in and promise myself to attempt a certain grip and a certain takedown. If I get it I get it, but if I don't, I know I tried and I learn from it.