Navigating your BJJ journey entails mile markers, defined differently by all; tournaments, number of classes attended, rolls without breaks, and the obvious rank upgrades. You achieve it, and you’re motivated to the next, always moving forward and evolving along the way. Great ways to measure progress, and are easy to measure.

But some milestones aren’t as easily identifiable as events or achievements at all, they’re more like transitions. As an instructor, my favorite example of these is the long transition from “stealing” submissions to being “gifted” submissions. I’m always scanning for progress in this area.

Still with submission as the example, it’s great to see the initial cue recognition, and the player’s response to it…getting the actual tap or not is initially irrelevant. Just proud to see the cue and it’s response.

After some experimentation and countless failures, the details of each technique come together and they start getting the first few, live taps, against full on resisting partners, and confidence skyrockets. It doesn’t usually look pretty during the struggle, but the first objective, and their focus, has been achieved with the rewarding tap. And it’s a sweet transition to watch as it shows their skill set and confidence growing.

But infinitely more impressive is the next transition to the “gifted” submissions. Until this transition takes hold, most submissions are attacker attacking, defender defending, and victory to whoever does whichever better. It’s simple, The attacker needs to know more of the steps of the attack and faster, before the defender can recognize the attacker’s shortcoming with time to exploit them. Straightforward struggle that often comes down to attrition.

As the grappler evolves and polishes along their journey, each attack requires less full on dedicated, thought-driven focus to achieve success. So much is left to habit to handle, that frees up the mind to think outside the immediate initial objective. This allows him to think more like a flanker than a straight charger. With this flexibility in focus, the attacker is able to attack multiple targets, other limbs, angles on the same limb, the neck, positional upset etc. Because of this the defender splits his focus, unable to defend all his real estate. As he defends one aspect, he’s leaving himself open to be outflanked and attacked elsewhere. It’s on the attacker to be savvy to this, constantly attacking while predicting escape route and prepared to snag vulnerabilities as they present themselves. The attacker works to get so smooth with this, that the defender’s full on defense of a choke lands his arm in their lap, appearing as a gift in exchange for the safety of his neck. No struggle, no back and forth, no attrition. No muscle fatigue, no immovable object vs unstoppable force. It should look gifted.

If it doesn’t seem realistic, you haven’t yet approached this transition yet, or are currently in transition with us 🙂