Reflections from Fight to Win

Recently, FTW was in Charlotte, NC. Since that’s HQ for my school we had a ton of guys on the card that night. I was going to make a post on the FB members page for our school but I thought many of these lessons might be more broadly applicable. It was a pleasure to be there and once again our small school caused some big waves. A few consistent ideas seemed evident to me from coaching and filming nearly 20 people I roll with regularly that night:

  1. If you can, keep it standing. So much of modern jiu jitsu is agreed upon interactions. One guy pulls guard, another steps in. It’s important to work your stand up game. You don’t need to be awesome at takedowns. It take serious explosiveness and years of reps to be good at takedowns, but it takes exponentially less time to be good at defending them. Remember your three defenses – hands, hips, and head. Keep distance and hand fight, don’t accept tying up. Learn the movement of a nogi uchi mata, it’s unorthdox and resets a scramble into the possibility of a headlock well. If you get taken down briefly, don’t accept it. Tripod up, control the hands and Granby or GTFO. I’ve seen plenty of high level wrestlers be blown away by jiu jitsu standing defense. Finally, if you are going to do takedowns, make sure the propensity to get subbed on the way down is low. Think knee taps, duck unders/throw bys, ankle picks, double legs with your head in the middle. And as always, arm drags.

2. Do not step in between someone’s legs, or let them step in between yours (without a specific plan). Think both feet in or both feet out. In 2021, some one-dimensional leg locker who’s repped some Eddie Cummings YT entries 1000 times is going to heel hook you. If you do not know leg lock defense make learning it a priority. A PRIORITY. Look one defense up. Ask a partner to rep it with you a few times before or after class. Leg locks should be like every other aspect of the game, a chess match. We saw one of the nogi female matches demonstrate this beautifully. Heel hooks shouldn’t be a secret weapon anymore. We have the internet.

3. Adjust your strategy. This takes much more time and competition reps but it’s extremely important to learn at a mid to high level. So many people get sucked into winning in some subconsciously agreed upon exchange. “Oh I’ve been working takedowns for the last few months, I’m going to take this person down.” Um, no. It’s sub only and you have two minutes left. Try a flying scissor. Pretend to pull guard and come up on a single like Damien Maia. Switch it up.

4. You don’t need to be from a famous school to win. There were so many upsets at FTW. All of the DDS guys lost that night. Does that mean they’re not amazing? No, because to win is one thing, and to win consistently is entirely different. Nonetheless, guys I train with on a regular basis beat big names in the sport. They didn’t let that celebrity get to them. They let it raise them to the occasion. They knew they could win anyway. Belief is the most underrated skill of all in sport.

5. In the end, we’re all friends. At least those of us with any level of sophistication. The reason people who train here in Charlotte did so well is because we all cross train. We like to call our school (Charlotte Jiu Jitsu Academy) Little Switzerland because we try to unite rather than divide the schools. We don’t do gym politics. We have legit OPEN mat. We are HUGE Roll Forever and DDS fans. Ethan taught a seminar at our school literally the next day after FTW (and subbed everyone a million times). We’re all still great friends because in the end, we all are dependent upon each other for getting better – whether it be your regular drilling partner, or your hardest competition.

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