My coach keep mentioning that I need to start developing my game for competition and start taking a less defensive approach when rolling. Based on that comment this post is a brainstorm of sorts on how to develop a competitive game when you don't have the option of sparing with suitable competitors, for me this would be someone a)female and b) anyone weighing less than 65kg of which the academy is certainly lacking.
Not having a suitable sparing partner is not the end of the world but it is important to consider the advantages and disadvantages and how your game could be lacking because of it. I'm sure most girls training bjj have had their concerns on such matters met with the old "training with the guys is better for you, it will make you stronger then when your fighting with girls you'll kick their ass!" For me fighting with guys who are often bigger or stronger means I have to really ensure my technique is perfect because i do not possess the strength to compensate for small mistakes. I feel its important to point out that in all my fights my opponents have never been lacking in strength, i feel most girls training bjj have that one covered, so don't think you will be able to destroy other girls when you get the chance to fight in competitions. The most important lesson you can learn is to perfect technique and "neutralise the aggression" * of your bigger stronger opponents when training as this is something that you can use to your advantage when competing.
So what are some of the things I have been doing to get me out of my usual routine and think more in terms of how I would roll to develop my competition game rather than just survive the 5 minutes and be happy that some 85kg guy was unable to completely crush me.
Roll with different people - this may seem fairly obvious but I've gotten to the point where i know who I like to spar with. I how to defend the moves they like to use, tell when they are getting tired and generally know I can survive 5 minutes without any real threat of injury. After the 5 minutes are up I'm happy I managed to defend against their attacks, escape or reverse positions and maybe control them in my guard but is this a performance I would be happy with in competition - hells no - In competition I want to be continuously attacking and controlling my opponent not just simply surviving. I am forcing myself to ask someone completely different to roll with each class because it means during that roll I'm out of my comfort zone and in a different mind set. **
Work your brain not just your body - I train a lot, some days if I'm tired and stiff or just in a bad mood its easy to just make it through training without really thinking too much. After the warm up, conditioning, and drills its easy to grab the same old training buddies and just flow not really thinking too much about your performance when sparring. I have been trying to avoid this and make sure that its not just my body working but also my mind. I try and think strategically about my opponents the same way I would in a fight, I love bjj for its tactical side you have to be able to think and make connections between moves constantly.
These are the two main things that have been helping me to think more positivly about developing my game for competition. Some more general tips would be to get your friend to score points when you are sparing to see where you are losing or potentially giving up points and just to remind you of the rules when compeating. Attending as many semiars or open mat sessions as possible(there are more and more womans open mat sessions being hosted, unfortunatly there are none in the UAE or Bahrain)can really help give you the chance to roll with different people closer to your size and see how you do in a non competative environment. Its a good feeling to finally see how much more fluid your game can be against an evenly matched competator, it might not be easy but you will definatley feel the 20kg differance when your executing a nice sweep.
* quote by Hellio Gracie
** (this being said there are still a select few guys I avoid rolling with at all costs, the ones that crank submissions, crush me with their knee on belly and shoulder to the face, or even worse just lye on top of me for the duration of the roll, I know bjj is not a sport for the faint hearted but these people will always have the mind set of taking every roll as an opportunity to crush and destroy their opponent by any means seeing each tap as a personal victory and I don't feel I learn anything by sparing with them.