Game-Plan Development

by Prof. Martin Guggi

The more I talk to and watch advanced students roll, the more I realize that they all are developing their own game. A lot of students and friends ask me how to develop a game plan and which game plan fits them? I think this is a very good question and I try to give answers with this article:

1. Basics: If you want to develop your game plan, you have to master the basics first. For me the basics should be mastered becoming a blue or purple belt. This means you know most of the submissions. You have trained to know the difference between Self-defense and Sport Jiu Jitsu. You know how to position yourself on your partner and you have knowledge of the close Guard and start to play more open guard now.

To develop a game plan you need to have an understanding of the anatomy and body movements your training partners are doing. In which direction can he bend the arm, which one is physically impossible? When I am on top in which direction can the partner move? We all have two arms and two legs so we all move in a similar way. In the beginning everything is new and every move is a surprise for me! As long as a move or a submission is surprising I cannot defend it. After a while you know what the partner is able to do in certain positions and what not. You know the most common mistakes and how you can avoid them. You cannot defend what you do not know and do not see coming!

2. Plan: Now you know the basics of the game. Probably you already have your blue or purple belt and start to feel which movements fits your body, your size, your anatomy an your way of moving. Then you start to develop a plan.
Here are different plans as an idea:
a. You have long legs: Your goal could be to pull guard and start attacking with spider, lasso or collar and sleeve guard. Perhaps you feel more comfortable in your guard than on top, but you like to submit from your guard or sweep from there.
b. You like to be on top – or you train BJJ for MMA: In MMA it is always better to be on top, so your goal in BJJ is also to give pressure from the top. Perhaps you are not the fastest one and that’s why you like to pass with pressure, pin from the top and give the opponent only one way to escape and that’s where you are waiting to make him tap!
c. You are a small person; you are not the strongest one: You never liked to squeeze and pressure all the time. Your plan is to pass very fast with some kind of speed pass, you want your partner to move so that you can take his back and submit from there.
All these plans are more an idea and sometimes you can switch in between them. If you have trained long enough you will have to have some speed passes, some pressure passes, escapes, a top game as well as a good guard, guard defense and recovery, but if you can choose you know what you prefer. This is what I understand as a plan. Every plan can go wrong but you already know what you want to accomplish in an “ideal” fight.
Even if you have a plan, do not make the mistake to close your mind. If you have the possibility to visit new instructors, go to a seminar or a camp – try to stay open-minded. Even if the new techniques do not fit your game it is good to know how your partner could possibly move or react. Perhaps one day you want to open your own academy – you do not want your students to only become a copy of yourself, but then you need to show them techniques which are not for you!!!
3. Game plan: Talking to high level fighters you can see one thing they all have in common! They want to act and not to react. They always want to be the one to push the pace. Be the first to attack, have the first grip, be the first to move. As soon as you start to defend you are one step behind! You need to drill defense and escapes, too, but your game plan should be based on attacking.

If you watch how kids grow up, you can see how they try to copy their parents. My students start to do the same. And I think in the beginning there is nothing wrong with it. You trust your instructor; your instructor guides you and introduces you to the world of BJJ, submissions and a lot of taps. But a good instructor tells you when it is time to find your own way. If you start to develop your game plan you start to step out of the shadow of your instructor and start creating your own footsteps.
I cannot remember who it was but one BJJ instructor once told me: “If my students start to develop their favorite submissions, start to develop their own style of fighting, start to develop their own game plan than I know I did a good job and I know I do not have to worry about them anymore because now they have the knowledge and start to educate themselves now!” Believe me, we all need an instructor in the beginning and later on when we get stuck and do not know any solution for some problems but later on the instructor is more a mentor, a guy to look up to, a person who introduced me to Jiu-jitsu and taught me the basics. Someone who will always care about you, but someone who wants you to stand on your own feet!