Trial Lessons

Confidence and Survival

Survival is the guiding light of jiu-jitsu. It is the foundational principle of jiu-jitsu, and the way one survives is by conserving energy through efficiency, being comfortable and patient while defending, and making the most of offensive opportunities through perfectly executed technique. Speed, agility, and strength may make you a formidable fighter, but being able to weather the storm and survive anything is how you triumph in the world of jiu-jitsu.

As Ryron Graice explores in the below video, everyone who trains jiu-jitsu has certain strengths and weaknesses when it comes to how well they can execute certain techniques. For example, some people may be black belts when they’re in guard, but they become purple belts when defending from side mount. Everyone’s game is a little uneven, and part of the challenge of growing as jiu-jitsu fighters is making sure you improve across the board in a way that benefits your overall game so that you are better at surviving. Ultimately, you want to be able to defend from mount, side control, back, and guard. In other words, all four basic positions in jiu-jitsu.

Uneven Growth and Fear

Being able to defend from a variety of positions is not only good for your defensive game. It will also benefit your offensive game because you’ll be more confident when attacking. As Ryron explains, he often finds that even experienced fighters may be overly cautious when they’re rolling because they are too worried about being countered. This fear isn’t just about losing control or being put in an inferior position. Instead, it stems from the fear that their defensive game isn’t strong enough to keep them from being subbed. As a result, they end up in a kind of holding pattern once they’ve established control. If you’re afraid of being on the bottom, it limits your jiu-jitsu.

Believe it or not, this is something that often happens with more experienced fighters. When you’re a white belt, you spend a lot of time on the defensive because you’re new and most people in the gym are better than you. As you get better, you inevitably find yourself spending less time in dangerous situations or getting subbed. Eventually, you may only rarely have to practice your defensive techniques. In other words, you may be a black belt when you’re on the offensive, but you may still be a purple belt when it comes to defending.

Confidence and Survival

This kind of blindspot in your training will ultimately hinder your jiu-jitsu game. If you’re nervous about being in an inferior position, it will limit what you’re willing to do while you’re on top. Conversely, if you’re comfortable being on the defensive because you know your game is strong, if you know you’ll be able to survive no matter what your opponent throws at you, you’ll be fearless. Once you know you can survive, once you know that your ability to defend and escape are at the highest level, it makes your offensive game better because you’ll be willing to seize any opportunity when it presents itself.

“I’m not super fearful of being swept or submitted because, if I get swept and they side mount me, no big deal,” Ryron says.

Stay on the Defensive

Of course, that level of confidence doesn’t come without first learning humility, and one learns humility in jiu-jitsu by getting submitted over and over again. It’s not fun. It can be a big shock to the ego, especially for more advanced fighters who have worked tirelessly to become the best they can be. However, as Ryron sees it, getting submitted is a gift. It’s a gift because the person who bested you during that one instant showed you a hole in your game that you know to fix.

This is why Ryron recommends even black belts purposefully stay in an inferior position for four or five consecutive minutes while rolling. Let weaker and less experienced fighters take you into more dangerous territory than you would ever allow yourself to go, and then see if you can get out of it. Ultimately, you will learn to defend against virtually any attack and find ways to escape even the most secure holds. When your defense is that tight, you’ll not only be unbeatable, but you also won’t have to worry about being countered. More importantly, you’ll be more willing to exploit even the smallest mistakes made by your opponent.

As Ryon says, “If you don’t lose, you can only win the fight.”



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