Break the Cycle Part II: New Games to Open Up Your BJJ Practice

Published on by Samantha Faulhaber


I’ve learned over the years that focusing solely on winning is generally detrimental to my training. There are times that I do it and feel good about it, but when I do too often I tend to get emotional and attached to the idea. While I think you win and learn AND lose and learn, I often try to either take away the win and lose portion entirely and only focus on the learn, or narrow the idea of winning. Focusing on “winning” is too general. There are too many dynamic options in Jiu-Jitsu for that to last long, especially when you don’t have an advanced enough game to flow without really thinking at all.

So, I turn training into mini games and I learn a TON through experimentation. Nobody has to know you’ve set any goal, just try stuff and see what happens. Smile. I wrote back in June ‘16 about some of the ways I break myself out of a funk when training. I’ve been playing with some inquisitive new ones, some of which are tangential off of the older games, and thought you might want to share with me.

What happens if I try to keep THAT arm away from their side?
A lot of kimura and Americana opportunities, armbars, and even sweeps in my experience. Since I need to separate their arm from their body to create the best leverage against their strength, this is a fun one to go after single-mindedly. Having good mobility helps (it always does) as I often end up scrambling in a wide variety of positions, seeking to keep whichever arm I want to pick on away from their body. This also works really great as a framing technique under side control. You end up sitting up a bit and pushing your partner away as you go after the arm. I really enjoy this game. If I lose the arm, all of my attention is still obsessively on getting it back as quickly as possible. You can also change your goal to something else as you advance or start to lose it, like:

What happens if I just try to keep their elbow glued to my chest?
Back takes, armbars, sweeps – lots of good things happen with elbow control. If I were a better, more aware wrestler I’m sure this would help and is the foundation for a Russian tie. I’m stronger the tighter I have it glued to my chest because my arms are locked to my sides. Think of it as a precious object you don’t want to ever get away, until you see something better – like the back!

Work only on leg framing.
I love playing with no-hands guard work. It frees my hips up so much when I try to see how much I can do without using my arms. Since it makes me entirely dependent on hip and leg positioning, I have to move fast, and a lot, in order to keep my partner from passing my guard or compromising my position. When I think of my legs as frames and define frames as keeping distance between me and my partner I can play with allowing them to get a little closer so I have to recover my frame. Keeping my knees and shins between us gives me space to hip or shoulder escape away and reset often, until I see an opportunity for the next game:

Get under their hips/move their pelvis over top of mine.
Sweep city. Pin an arm somewhere and focus on moving their hips (people’s center of gravity is in their pelvis) to wherever you took out their post. Watch Marcelo Garcia go for a butterfly sweep and he doesn’t just lift the people with his tree trunk legs, he shoots his whole pelvic girdle up under them and then makes them fly.

Get chest to chest.
Finally a game for the top player – I also call this “F*ck yo guard” in the most jokingest, kidding, respectful way possible so DO NOT CALL IT THAT AND BE A JERK AND NAME ME haha. I don’t care what you’re doing, I’m going to focus single-mindedly, obsessively, on getting chest to chest with you. Have fun. See what happens. Be a zombie. Chest to chest is your “braiiiins”.