Gameplanning for BJJ Competition

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Game Planning for BJJ Competition

Professor Tyson LaRone

There are many elements that go into success in competition when it comes to Jiu-Jitsu, or any other martial art for that matter. Many people who compete find themselves scratching their heads after a tournament trying to figure out why something happened the way it did. For example, someone may be notoriously difficult to hold down in side control within their dojo but then in a tournament match they’re easily taken down and smashed there for five minutes. It may also work out positively, where they submit two opponents in a tournament with the same technique that they haven’t hit on any of their training partners in months. Measuring up what you do in the dojo to how you perform in tournaments takes time and repetition just like learning new techniques, ie. doing plenty of tournaments but a lack of consistency or continuity can also come down to poor or non-existent game planning.

Game planning for competition rides the fine line between art and science and can be difficult, but here are some basic guidelines that can help:

  1. Begin at the beginning. “Get a rear naked choke” isn’t an effective game plan because every match starts with several feet between you. You can’t start on their back or teleport there, so don’t get ahead of yourself by thinking primarily about the submission. A gameplan should start with how you want to close the distance and engage the opponent standing.
  2. Be specific. Having a game plan doesn’t mean you can control everything that happens in the match, but you should have a clear idea of what your ideal match would look like from beginning to end. A basic template would be Initial Contact/Tie-up – Takedown – Pass to Final Position – Set-up – Submission. There’s some variability if you pull guard or if perhaps you take them down right into the position you want, but you get the idea. Your plan should include all of these pieces.
  3. Plan for the most likely variables. The intricacy and sheer amount of jiu-jitsu techniques make as many possible matches as there are grains of sand on Earth. You can’t possibly plan for everything, but you should be aware of the most likely deviations you’ll run into and still be able to keep things fairly simple. For example, if your plan begins with Collar Tie – Single Leg Takedown then you should be aware that you’ll likely end up somewhere between squared up with their open guard or knee on belly if you do get the takedown. If your eventual goal is to mount and armbar, then you should drill ways to get there from each of these major possibilities.

Overall competition is nerve-wracking for pretty much everyone, at least at first. That’s part of what makes it worthwhile, as the ultimate test for what you have learned. An effective game plan can be a great way to focus that nervous energy and make it work for you. If you don’t have a game plan, you’re more likely to be reactionary and that not only puts you a step behind but also means you’ll waste more energy on impulsive actions that don’t pan out.

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