When I was coming up in training one of the first things I tried to develop was my guard.  While other people were more interested in trying to dominate from the top positions or work to develop killer submissions, I was more keen on trying to become better at sweeps, reversals, and defense  from the guard position.

You see my reasoning was this:  Before I started training in Bjj I was a horrible grappler, so I believed that since I was just starting to learn grappling from the ground up  I would most definitely be spending a lot of my time fighting off my back, particularly because where I was training there were a lot guys who had a wrestling background. So as time went on I really started to develope a decent guard, especially when it came to sweeps and guard recovery.  Most of the time it was pretty much the same type guard pass attempts from people. They would either try to run around my legs or bulldoze through my guard.   As time went on I got to the point where either attempt rarely worked against me, I would still get passed here and there , but by the time my opponent had finally passed me he had used most of his energy which made it easier to either recover my guard or get a reversal.

My confidence was starting to really sore, that is until I met Slow Death Kenny.  Kenny couldn’t be a nicer person if he tried.  Always friendly , eager to help, he laughed anytime you happened to catch him in any type of bad position (which was rare).    He was about 6’2 and about 170 lbs, so he was a very unassuming man.   At that time  I was about 23 to kennys 50, so when I got partnered up with him  for this first time  I assumed that I could easily handle him and it would be a good warm up for me before I went against the younger, stronger guys in the class.

When the bell rang to signal the usual  four minute match ups for the class, we slapped hands and began to train.  I did my standard butterfly guard pull, making sure that my hooks were in deep and I had gained the double unders gaining upper body control, assuring that this would be a quick and easy  reversal to side control, followed by a stunningly quick victory by such a fantastic jiu jitsu master as myself !

What transpired next was the slowest four minutes of my life as Kenny preceded to dismantle me and any type of belief that I was a master of anything other than eating the mat.  First sign of trouble came at the exact time I thought I had established my masterful butterfly guard position.  Everyone else I would achieved this position on would try to wildly get away or jump towards me, both of which were mistakes that I could easily capitalize on , but not Kenny, he did something I had ever felt any other opponent do, he completely relaxed his weight into me, getting heaviest at my feet. It literally felt like he had glued me to the mat, completely immobilizing my hips. Next step in my destruction was Kenny crushing down to one side , clamping his armpits down to my sides , in effect gluing himself to me and every bit of  his weight  too.  Then came the worst part, unlike everyone else who would go as fast as they could to go around me, Kenny started  this very slow and deliberate  inch by inch shuffle that left no space for me to move and placed every bit of his bodyweight on my hips and legs.  This 170 pound man felt like 2000 pounds of hell slowly marching around me to crush any hope I had of survival. By the time he had passed my guard I had almost wanted him to tap me just from the sheer exhaustion of trying to fight him off !  This scenario played itself out over and over again for the remainder of the four minute period, and when it was over , Kenny, being the nice guy he was, said “Thanks, you really have a good guard”.   I, being drained from the ordeal, managed to mumble something that sounded like “Thanks” back and stumble over to the next opponent who proceeded to destroy me because all my energy had went right out the window.

In two weeks time, Kenny had earned the nickname “Slow death Kenny” from everyone we trained with, because my demise while training with him was pretty much everyone else’s experience too.  I finally sat down with him one day and asked what was his secret?  Kenny said that he had been having a hard time training when he first started.  Everyone was usually younger and faster, and when he would try to keep up he would usually get too tired or be out paced.  It wasn’t until he attended a Jean Jacques Machado seminar that everything  changed for him.  After the initial seminar was over Kenny had gotten a chance to sit down with Machado and tell him his predicament. Machado went on to explain that what Kenny was doing was trying to rush jiu jitsu and as a result he was missing the opportunities to effectively pass the guard or use any other position. He told Kenny that jiu jitsu is a game of an inch at a time. After Machado helped Kenny tweak some moves and teach him proper weight distribution, Kenny;s game took off.

Kenny now lives in Florida and is a black belt who still trains to this day, probably destroying the hopes and dreams of many young guys joining up at his  jiu jitsu school.

Kennys advice never left me and really has helped me along the way from all positions in jiu jitsu.  So my advice  is that the next time your training, try slowing down and  using  jiu jitsu at an inch at a time.

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