In my old age (Master 1 🤪) I often think about training Jiu-jitsu much more often than actually training. Due to my reduced mat time, note: I'm not going to say why my mat time is reduced, as I'm currently unemployed, soooo.... 🙄, anyway, as I was saying: DUE TO MY REDUCED MAT TIME, I have started thinking a lot about my training and how best to use the time I am on the mats. Which has led me to want to try out different ways of training. Seriously, I've done 12 years of: 10 minute warm up including hip escapes, see 2 or 3 techniques, drill said techniques, if instructor is feeling fruity, do some positional spahhing, which if you're lucky will be related to the techniques shown, but not always...
and then free sparring for the remainder of the lesson (Porrada).
Obligatory self-deprecating disclaimer
I'm going to talk about a different kind of positional sparring in this post. I'm not advocating that this is a good way to train, I have only ever taught it once at a class. I'm writing this blog post so that maybe you will try it and let me know how it went, and also to crystalise and clarify my thoughts on it. Disclaimer done.
The training technique
What I'm currently calling position recovery positional sparring (working title), is quite simple, even if its a bit awkward to say. The person on bottom starts in what they consider their weakest guard position, or flipped where they feel their opponent has the most chance of passing. This is individual for each person. For myself it would definitely be when the passer has double pant grips and has stuffed my lower leg in between their legs. If they're a competent passer, they almost always pass me from that point on. We start in this, the 'worst' position, for the person leading the positional sparring round, and their goal is to return to their 'best' position. Again this is individual for each person, for me it's collar sleeve, it's where I feel most comfortable, and where I want to attack subs or sweeps from.
It's important that you work form your 'worst' position, back to you 'best' position, and you are very strict on yourself about this, and with resetting if you stray outside of these two positions. In my given scenario, if we start and they attempt a knee cut and I manage to bump them, scramble, but end up in deep half (I'm quite comfortable in deep half), I immediately stop the sparring, and reset in my 'worst' position. This was not a 'win' for me, I didn't make it back to my 'best' position.
That's it. What do you think? Let me know.
Sorry not the end of the post. I have a few more things to say. First a small note on my example. I used the person leading the positional sparring playing guard. You could easily do this type of sparring with passing. For example. If someone has a strong collar grip and one of my sleeves, I find it hard to get to my 'best' passing position, lets say HQ, so there we have my 'worst' and 'best' positions for POSITION RECOVERY POSITIONAL SPARRING!
The theory, or idea behind this kind of training comes from common view that jiu-jitsu is about imposing your game on your opponent. This type of training specifically and directly addresses that idea, cutting out all the noise of normal sparring. Can I move from my least favoured position, into my most favoured position at will? If so I'll probably have a good chance of doing it in competition if I ever needed to.
This is how I would teach (did teach, will in future teach*) this kind of sparring. Obviously it requires a little bit of intelligence from the students, because every single person will be doing something totally different. However that's no different to open sparring, so almost all of your students on the mat will be capable of it.
I start by introducing the idea of the 'best' position. I actually took this from my strong and powerful, savage of a friend, Alex Matschl, he calls it the 80% position. He explains it as the position where you're 80% confident that if you get there, you'll get the sweep or submission. You start in this position and attempt to sweep or submit (or pass) while the opponent defends. It's all at 100% effort (confusingly). So I'll drill that with both partners getting the chance to lead (play their 80% position).
Then I introduce the position recovery positional sparring, and ask them to start in their 'worst' position and work to their 'best' position. I also say, if you can't think of your 'worst' position for whatever reason, you can ask the other person to put you in their 'best' position (e.g. best passing position). This can also make sense if you're opponent is terrible at your 'worst' position, i.e. if I have an opponent who only passes using leg weave and doesn't really know how to pass from knee cut, maybe it'll be more useful for this round, to define my 'worst' position as leg weave. It takes intelligence and initiative from the students, which I think is great, give them some control over their training.
*this will probably change in future the more I do it.