Drilling is an essential part of your training.
As I traveled and trained all over the world I always asked coaches and competitors if and how they liked to drill.
While most of us love to just roll, we should drill at least once a week,
and full-time competitors even said they drill every day!
If you ask anyone that knows me, they’ll tell you how much I love to drill. I look at drilling as refining and adding more tools to an ever ending arsenal of weapons.
BUT drilling can be overwhelming, especially at the beginning.
The reason for this difficulty is that you have so much you can drill:
techniques like sweeps, guard passes, guard retention, positional escapes, submissions escapes, and takedowns. Compounding this challenge is that they are all EQUALLY important because your weaknesses are all important to drill and improve.
Because let’s face it: most of us are not working on our weaknesses during
the class when we roll, and there’s only so much that you can focus on during the drilling portion of the class.
Drilling outside of your class schedule is like doing your homework.
This post is a part of a 3 posts series breaking down the essentials components for a perfect drilling routine.
Part 1: Understanding drilling methods
Part 2: Understanding situational sparring methods
Part 3: How to establish your own drilling routine/set goals and perfecting techniques
In this post, we will be focusing solely on the unique drilling and specific
sparring methods I’ve gathered during my travels and my own experiences. It’s not about WHAT you drill it’s more about HOW you drill it.
The most obvious drilling method is training a technique for a set amount of time. While simple, this method is still important because it allows you to drill the movement over and over again. Repetition is an important way to become familiar with new techniques.
When I use this method, I set a time limit on the training. This gives my drilling structure, making it less likely for me to slack off.
I know I have only a fixed amount of time to drill the technique so I want to make the best out of it.
Further, I want to be a good training partner, and not ruin the training for my partner.
I prefer to drill 2-3 rounds of a technique using this method. Along the way, I can either build upon and extend the technique, or just drill the movement. For example, I’ll begin with a sweep, connect it to a pass, and maybe finish with a back take.
Depending on your schedule and goals, you can perform this drill for different lengths of time:
My personal favorite is 3 minutes because it allows for greater complexity and prevents me from getting bored.
Note: This is a more advanced type of training
When you are first learning this drilling method, it is best to do as your main drilling session. After you become accustomed to this drill it can serve as an excellent warm-up.
The concept behind this type of training is learning how to CONNECT techniques with ease.
Think of it as a boxer shadow boxing:
by doing a lot of different striking combinations he learns how to visualize the techniques before sparring. Perhaps even more importantly the boxer learns how to breathe while he’s performing the combinations.
This type of training will let you feel more comfortable and stable on top while allowing you to develop the right instincts to identify the time to pass.
For this type of drilling,
I choose 2-3 specific guard passing movements then I’ll stop in a natural position and do another 2-3 type of guard passing drills and finish the pass.
Let’s say I chose a toreando pass. My drilling partner frames, so I transition to a leg drag.
My partner then frames again, so I perform another leg drag to the other side, for a total of 3 movements. Each time my partner frames, I enter a natural “holding” position. That can be any position that I like to pass from. Some options include the over-under, double under, knee slide, and headquarters positions.
I prefer knee slide for my natural position. I will then connect it with a long step and then a leg drag to the other side and finish my pass there.
The beauty of this type of training is that you can drill a specific reaction and feel which responses feel most natural.
Additionally, this style of drilling lets you play with distance control, exploring how each pass responds to varying distance and pressure.
Over time you will be able to get creative with this drill, changing it to fit your current goals. There is no right or wrong as long as you’re learning!
This drill is one of my favorites because it is more fun than just drilling the same movement over and over.
Further, your drilling partner has the opportunity to learn the appropriate reactions to the techniques instead of just passively allowing you to work.
This method is exactly like the prior method, but instead of drilling specific passing drills.
you will connect 2-3 of whichever technique you want, then stop in a natural position, then another 2-3 passing drills.
This drill is almost like a flow roll and teaches you how to respond to your opponent’s reactions. One way I like to perform this drill is to go for 8-10 minutes straight. This allows me to work on my cardio and my mindset simultaneously.
Timed Guard Recovery
Another great option for a warm-up is working on your guard retention. Gui Mendes once told me:
“If you don’t have any good guard retention then it doesn’t matter what good sweeps you have if they can pass your guard.”
Two under-appreciated elements of guard retention are
learning how to relax on the bottom and having a robust understanding of frames and grips. These drills will help you develop both of these skills!
Be ready to feel your abs burning!
For this method, the guy on top can pass ONLY WITH ONE HAND. You can switch hands, or just use your right or left hand. The goal is for the passer to get a knee on belly position (not smashing, just a light touch).
The guy on the bottom can defend with his LEGS ONLY!
This is a good way to understand how to invert, use your legs as frames, and develop an understanding of angles.
Fun tip: you can hold 2 plastic balls (or tennis balls) in your hands, tie your hands together, or just put your hands on your chest.
This will help you avoid using your hands accidentally.
The duration for this drill can vary, feel free to play with it. I recommend starting with 1-2 minutes.
If you do this drill during class then you can make a small competition out of it:
for each time your guard is passed you have to do 10 pushups.
This drill teaches you how to frame correctly.
The passer can use both of his hands now, BUT he cannot connect them. This means no smashing or body locking positions. Optionally, you can disallow grabbing the gi entirely or work this drill no-gi.
The rules are similar for the person on the bottom:
no connecting hands, BUT you are not allowed to connect your legs either (so no closed guard or 50/50).
Again, this method requires you to flow through different positions so you can learn how to effectively frame.
Resist the temptation to put your drilling partner in a static position like spider lasso –
this is an opportunity to learn through movement!
Whether you work a technique for time, perform flow movement drills,
or practice guard retention drills, you’ll see improvement in your jiu-jitsu!
Remember the time limits, the details, and the positions can all be manipulated. This guide is merely a jumping-off point. Let the examples above serve as a structure for you to plan your training.
If you implement any of these drills in your training, I’d love to hear your feedback!
Stay tuned for the next post in this series in which we will cover situational sparring methods!