I think when anyone starts out in Bjj they believe that there is only one way to properly learn techniques and execute them.  They come to class waiting to be told exactly what to do and for awhile this is the way they believe it is supposed to be.

Truth is that in the beginning amateurs coming into Bjj have to be told exactly what to do. Its not till you start to advance that the real creativity side of the art starts to come  out.  For along time I was of the mind that you had to preform every technique exactly they way your instructor showed you. If he put his arm at a certain angle then so should you, if his foot was in a certain spot on the mat then yours should be too.

It really wasn’t until I started training with my instructor Josh that my eyes were opened to how unique   techniques are for an individual.  I was having trouble with the rear naked choke and had asked Josh why the hell I was getting such a low percentage on the finish.  I knew I had the basics down pat so I understood that wasn’t the issue. I was spending so much time and energy squeezing the crap out of my opponents that even if I did get the tap my arms would be blown out for the rest on the night.

So Josh asked me to demonstrate the choke on another person in class so he could analyze what I might be doing wrong.  After I was done he looked at me and said ” Your arms are long, you have to grab higher on your shoulder than most people and you have try to shorten out the choke more.”   He went on to explain to me that I had to start finding ways the techniques fit my body type and style of jiu jitsu, that I knew the basics but that now I had to make the basics fit me.

That advice is probably in the top five pieces of advice I’ve ever received in Bjj. It didn’t just stop at techniques for me. It also carried over into ideas for my own training on and off the mat. I started using the balance ball in a completely different way than I’d even seen on youtube and training videos. I came up with unique sit ups based on Jiu jitsu moves I had witnessed before.

Once when we were working positional training from cross-sides I came up with a different version of controlling my opponent that worked so much better for me personally that I still use it to this day.  People I’ve trained with have asked what I did to hold them down and when I show them they inevitably say “Theres no way I could use that, I’d get thrown off!”    That is the point though, what works for me might not work for them and vise versa, but its up to them to come up with their own variation that does.

You have to learn the proper mechanics first before you start venturing off into the creativity part of Jiu Jitsu, but once you get to that point you start to get a deeper understanding of your style of Jiu Jitsu and how you approach a match. Marcelo Garcia’s X-Guard is a great example of this.  Marcelo was having trouble dealing with bigger and stronger opponents in his open guard. The X-Guard was a result of him trying to find a better open guard that he could manipulate his  opponents with that he normally couldn’t from a traditional open guard.

This element of Jiu Jitsu is the reason most of the top Bjj black belts will always say that Bjj is a continuing journey. Develop this creativity in your Bjj style and you will continue to grow in the art…