Use Old-School BJJ Moves to Keep Your Opponents Guessing
Recently, a video of a baseball choke made its way onto my social media feed. It had a great setup from the bottom, and I shared it with a training partner to see if we could drill it. I had actually been looking for new escapes and counters from the bottom.
The choke itself was familiar, though the setup was new to me. One of my training partners, Josh Robinson, talked a few days later about how techniques sometimes reappear in the community after a lengthy hiatus. This all made me wonder how this phenomenon of moves coming in and out of fashion could be used to my advantage.
Why Are Techniques Forgotten?
Having grappled since 2003, I've seen moves and techniques fall in and out of favor. The Anaconda, the Peruvian necktie, and rubber guard, to name a few. A more recent example, at least here in Singapore, was the use of dope guard. Suddenly everyone was using the position in local clubs or gyms - at least for a few weeks, and then it seemed to get shelved or abandoned altogether.
"What we fail to consider is that BJJ, grappling, MMA, and countless other athletic pursuits are not set paths like math or science where a specific approach or application is required for success. We are all unique and some techniques work perfectly for some people."
Sometimes these positions or techniques are forgotten about when a counter is found. Since everyone is familiar with the move, they apply the counter or are able to shut it down completely. It loses effectiveness and, therefore, also popularity.
Other times a practitioner moves on from a technique because he or she can’t quite get the application, and the technique itself is blamed rather than the flawed application. And still other times, an athlete finds that something else simply works better for him or her.
Recycling in MMA
This behavior isn’t unique to BJJ or grappling. Entire disciplines come in and out of the spotlight in MMA. Karate seemed like a great tool after Lyoto Machida debuted in the UFC with a seemingly unanswered dominance. Then judo got some attention, due to both Karo Parisyan and Ronda Rousey. And wrestling had its hey-day thanks to Matt Hughes and Daniel Cormier.
MMA also has this at the technique level, but with its multi-disciplined approach, a high-profile athlete can make it seem as if it's the move or his or her discipline rather than his or her coach, camp, or determination at the heart of the success.
Things to Consider
What we fail to consider is that BJJ, grappling, MMA, and countless other athletic pursuits are not set paths like math or science where a specific approach or application is required for success. We are all unique and some techniques work perfectly for some people. And other techniques never quite manage to work.
"It's only when you visit other gyms or compete that you get a different perspective on your ability. You might notice that the techniques your teammates always counter go unanswered in a tournament or at an open mat."
It's also important to bear in mind that your teammates know you. They will develop alongside you by learning how to counter your game or shut it down completely. This means you have to continuously evolve and diversify your game. This is, after all, the whole point. It's only when you visit other gyms or compete that you get a different perspective on your ability. You might notice that the techniques your teammates always counter go unanswered in a tournament or at an open mat.
The fact that a move from outside the standard arsenal of armbars, kimuras, and chokes works one week and is shut down or countered the next is also worth some thought. It may be worth investing time in understanding the mechanics behind the defense in order to build on a counter or even create a chain of moves based off the original movement. Or try just reserving that move for a few sessions a month with the view towards using it in a tournament.
Unearth Your Own Stash of Submissions
Dedicate ten minutes a week to looking up and trying obscure techniques. You can use the videos below to get started. I like to save videos for techniques that seem to complement my style all together in a folder.
"It's also important to bear in mind that your teammates know you. They will develop alongside you by learning how to counter your game or shut it down completely. This means you have to continuously evolve and diversify your game."
When you find a move that feels natural, work on it at regular intervals until you manage a finish in a healthy percentage of tries. If a few of your training partners do the same and bring a new move each week, then you’ll all be exposed to new moves - and either adopt them or learn to counter them. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice store of surprise attacks that people won’t remember or have never seen before.
Here are some moves to get you started. Try to learn and apply one each week in sparring:
Ken Primola breaks down the Peruvian necktie and its variations:
Marcelo Garcia shows three variations of the anaconda choke:
Ricardo Liborio takes us through the crucifix arm lock:
Ronin Submissions does a great video on a catch-wrestling favorite - the wristlock:
Mishima and Adam Kayoom take us through two great split-leg submissions:
Submissions 101 gives a great breakdown of the gogoplata:
I regularly catch people in this D’arce choke because it’s so obscure and many don’t realize how I’m setting it up (I always show them after). I learned it here from Cage Candy:
Ronin Submissions also did some variations on the baseball choke after I sent over the video mentioned above:
What old-school move are you going to try first? Post to the comments below and let me know how it goes.
Photos courtesy of Ana Nieves.