After the in-house tournament, I spent some time thinking about the matches I had that day. I was thinking about what I did wrong, what I did right and what my opponent did. For example, none of my opponents tried to jump guard. One thing that popped up multiple times was how forceful my opponents were. It felt like I was performing a move in class, and they were going at it like it really mattered.
My first thought was that I needed to be more aggressive. I remembered back to when I played soccer as a kid. One time on the way home from a game my parents were talking about me being more aggressive, really kicking the ball. I told them I’d just have to imagine it was my sister’s head or something (sorry Jen, but it was true.) The problem was, when I put more power behind a kick I felt like I had less control. The same was true when I played little league football. I felt like I could hit hard or I could hit right. I was worried the same thing would be true in my jiu jitsu game. I could do the right steps, or I could do some of the steps really forceful.
After the tournament I continued to go to the sparring class and wound up against some of the higher belts. One night I’d go against a brown, the next time a couple purples and a good blue belt. As they moved around, set up attacks, prevented me from passing I realized something. They seemed to be in complete control. That is, they weren’t panicking. They might get one hand in my lapel to set up a choke and then they’d wait for me to make a wrong move and get the other hand in, and I’d tap. Or they’d get into side control and as I started my shrimping and escaping, they would transition to another position (seemingly effortlessly.) That’s when I realized that I don’t need to be more aggressive, I need to be more deliberate.
For example, one time I wound up against someone trying to go for an armbar on my left arm. I had just learned the armbar escape and was trying to defend the arm. I had grabbed on to my right arm and was moving my hips around. As I did this, my opponent moved with me and slowly and steadily kept working to free the left arm. He wasn’t yanking on my arm with all his strength, there weren’t a lot of spastic movements. It was if he realized he was in the dominant position and it would take a lot more work for me to free myself than for him to secure the arm, so he rolled with it and waited.
I spent much of my time in sparring and the tournament waiting and reacting to what my opponents do. If I started to attack an arm I did it half-heartedly, almost as if I expected my partner to get out of the attack. I wasn’t attacking deliberately and with confidence. It seems as if attacks have less to do with raw agression and more to do with being purposeful.