The Importance of Developing a Game for BJJ

by Mike Palladino

Here’s an article I wrote for one of the biggest brazilian jiu jitsu blogs on the internet (if not the biggest) click here for a link to the original article.

If you’re new to Jiu Jitsu perhaps you may not understand the term“game”. Maybe you’ve heard it tossed around in your club’s lingo while at class, but you’re more or less clueless to what this truly means. Perhaps you’re a journeyman in the middle of the road, you’ve been training for sometime now, you’ve learned a lot, have experience under your belt, but aren’t quite confident enough in any particular “game” to stick with it. Or maybe you’re the advanced grappler, you’ve stuck with a game that got you to this level, and now you’re bored with it and want to experience something new or you’ve plateaued. Whatever your skill level, be it from a newbie to the seasoned grappler, you must understand the power of the “game”. You have to recognize the importance of developing this “game”. The “game” is unique. It’s special because the “game” is specific to it’s player. That’s powerful.

Rafael Lovato applies the "Kimura" on his opponent. A staple submission of his game.

Rafael Lovato applies the “Kimura” on his opponent. A staple submission of his game.

Let’s start with the basics…

A game is an approach you’re going to be taking while rolling. Some
of these approaches work for just one roll, only to be shut down in
the next. While some of these approaches can become the staple of a
grappler’s career (hobbyist or professional). It’s the chain of
movements you’re going to string together to put yourself in a
dominant position or to finish with a submission. Knowing what to do
in Jiu Jitsu seems simple really, we all have it engrained in us, from
our infancy stages on the mats. Position before Submission. Our
objectives are clear, get in a dominant position and get the
Submission. This is where the game comes in. This is where we have
to decide which route we’re going to take. We have many options that
can lead us to these two objectives.

Choosing a game can be difficult, especially if you have too many
options. If you’re a newbie you should probably stick to what your
instructor has been showing you, and implementing those techniques
into your roll as your game. If you’ve been training a year or
slightly longer, now’s a good time to begin your experimentation with
different games. Before you begin conducting your experiments
there are a few variables you should probably consider first.
Flexibility, Body-type (height and weight) and Agility (speed,
strength, balance) are all factors that should be considered before
choosing a game. You will waste time, if you attempt to choose a
“game” that’s just not compatible with any of these key
components.(I.E. Ultra-HW grappler wishes to Berimbolo)

Developing your game is going to be done through trial and
error(lots of them). Some techniques will fit perfect while others
won’t. The key to improving your game is to improve your combo
attacks. A combo attack is where you threaten your opponent with
multiple attacks simultaneously. A basic example of this would be if
I’m in my closed guard, I sit up on my opponent and now my options are
1) Hip-bump sweep 2) Kimura or 3) Guillotine. Obviously, this is a
basic generalization but you get the point. By having combination
attacks, your chances of landing one of the attacks increases
substantially, as opposed to just hunting for one single attack that
your opponent recognizes you’re telegraphing. The beginning stages of
creating a game start with the mastery of just a few movements.


Comfort is key. As you start to mess around and experiment with different games you’ll start to find comfort in the repetition of certain movements (sweeps, passes, back takes etc.) or guards (closed, butterfly, Half etc) You may find that you’re starting to have success with a specific sweep on multiple opponents throughout a roll. If that’s the case, you’ve found an effective technique. Implementing effective techniques is the foundation of building a game. It’s like the cliché Bruce Lee quote “Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Marcelo Garcia  submitting his opponent with the rear Naked choke. This is the move used to win Gold at ADCC in 2003.

Marcelo Garcia submitting his opponent with the rear Naked choke. This is the move used to win Gold at ADCC in 2003.

Let’s quickly discuss the game of the “Babe Ruth” of Brazilian Jiu
Jitsu, Marcelo Garcia. The phenomenal athlete and coach revolutionized
the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world with his extremely effective utilization
of the open guard. Marcelo exploded onto the scene as an alternate for
ADCC in 2003. In one of the toughest divisions in submission
grappling, the underdog Marcelo, relied heavily on his unique game.
The effective movements of Marcelo’s game were open guard sweeps,
arm drags and Rear naked chokes. Clearly, movements Marcelo had
mastered, as this so-called “underdog”, came out of nowhere to reach the
pinnacle of grappling accomplishments and win ADCC Gold with 4 wins, 3
by rear naked choke. Marcelo Garcia’s game is perfect. It’s perfection being
in the simplicity of it’s foundation. Sweep, take the back – Submit.

So before delving into the latest trends and flashy moves remember
this: Simplicity. All you need is a few effective sweeps, passes and
submissions that are uniquely your own. Remember the objectives
(Position, Submission). All the techniques you’ll learn and movements
you’ll utilize are just there to help assist you in completing your
objectives. If you experience adversity in implementing your game
that doesn’t necessarily mean to bail on it, maybe you just have to
navigate a little bit differently, and analyze what’s going on. One
more Bruce Lee quote( I promise!) “ I fear not the man who has
practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man that has practices one
kick 10,000 times.” Drill. Drill. Drill. Drill it ‘til you Kill it! If
all you need is to master a few movements don’t waste time on what’s
useless. Know the difference.

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