Developing a game plan is a big part of competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Preparation, planning and premeditation (the three “Ps) helps you stay calm, collected, and comfortable in a competition environment. Understanding where you want the match to go and how it would be best for you are good things to visualize and have in your mind before a competition. Watching how you use your energy can help you save enough to last through several matches, instead of burning yourself out on your first couple.
Knowing what positions your opponents are striving for, and the techniques they are most comfortable with (or even good at) can be a much more difficult task. Taking your opponent out of their comfort zone, and playing a game they aren’t as accustomed to can be the difference between winning and losing a match. But different to your own game plans, it’s quite near impossible to premeditate what your opponent will be looking for and is well versed in. That’s why it is important to watch your opponent’s matches before you face them.
Pablo Popovitch (4th Degree Black Belt and multiple time World Champion) put some thoughts to paper a little while back and he discusses the importance of watching opponents compete before you have to take them on yourself. Altering your game plan, or strategy, can be a necessity for beating certain opponents. There are several things to look out for, and Pablo Popovitch does a nice job of describing them in his article. Take a look and try to compare the examples to either yourself or BJJ practitioners you know.
Watching Opponents Compete
Your Opponent’s Strengths
What is his strength? Is he a great wrestler? Have an attacking guard? Versed well in submissions? It is very important to analyze his strengths and see if they are your weakness, if they are you need to make a game plan or you will be in trouble.
Everyone has a hole in their game, especially at the early stages of competition(beginners). Stamina, strength, wrestling, guard pass, guard defense. Pay attention to the way he fights as you watch.
Is he really strong? Did he out muscle his first opponent? If your opponent is stronger than you that means you need to avoid certain positions. Your technique will have to play a big role in the match so you need to be sharp. Avoid exchanging a lot of strength.
Does your opponent run out of Gas easily?By watching his first match you can see how his stamina is, maybe your stamina is much better than his, or maybe you need to stall a little more with him because he never gets tired.
Source: BJJ Center
Now let’s go a little more in depth with a couple of these scenarios and decide what to do in slightly altered circumstances.
When you’re looking at your opponents strengths, you want to decide the best course of action around those strengths and into your own. Say your opponent has a great closed guard, and you are a guard passing machine. You have a choice to make, you can try to play your game, and pass his guard, but that means you are also playing into his strengths. If you feel that your bottom game is good too, than you might consider pulling guard before he can. You might be taking away your original game plan, but by doing so you’ll put your opponent into a much more uncomfortable fight than he was wanting. By taking him out of his element you know he is not feeling as strong and you can work around his best techniques.
How about if your opponent has a nasty omoplata off a triangle from closed guard? Let’s say you have decided to push forwards with your guard passing, because you feel like your strength of passing is much better than his in closed guard. If he gets you into closed guard, and you have been watching his previous matches, you know that once he goes for a triangle it’s going to be a quick switch to the omoplata. Being savy to what is coming could help you stop it or counter it.
In his article, Pablo Popovitch talks about keeping a good pace through your matches. There are several things to take into account here that I would like to touch on. Going into a competition knowing how you want to use your energy is a part of going in with a game plan. And just like a technical game plan, you should be ready to change your energy plan after watching an opponent compete.
If you are facing an opponent you have observed use an enormous amount of energy in the beginning of their matches and then coast on a nearly empty tank for the last part of the match, than keep that in mind. Breathe deep and let them use a lot of energy for a small amount of success. If they are going to push to pass to your half guard with immense amounts of energy, than use good technique to make them work hard but don’t waste too much of your own energy to stop it. Let them gas themselves out and take control at that point. If you have paid attention to them, you’ll know when they’re gassing out, and then you can sweep or pass at will against a tired opponent.
Or when you face an opponent that will get a few points and try to stall till the end of the match, watch for your openings to slide around or smoothly transition and obtain better positions and points.
It is the common analogy of Water and Rock. Sometimes you need to hold hard and use tough pressure to sweep or pass, and sometimes you need to be smooth and easy flowing to obtain what you want.
Pablo Popovitch has competed against the best in the world, repeatedly. If anybody knows what to do on competition day to get the best results possible, he is one of them. Take his advice and these points to heart because they can severely improve your game and standings at tournaments.
Written by Keifer Johnson
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