Partner drilling is probably one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done for my jiu-jitsu.
About three years in to my study of BJJ, I met a new training partner. He introduced me to several sets of partner drills dealing with every position in BJJ. He religiously practices these planned sequences over and over again. It was evident when we trained that his movement was sharp, and he very proficient at anticipating my next move.
Needless to say, I was sold right away, and I got on board. I began doing these drills at blue belt, and spent the bulk of my time at purple learning more of them, sharing them with my teammates, and seeking out the ones that fit my game and style the best. I wish I had been exposed to this type of drilling much sooner in my training, but I was still able to reap the benefits of the movements, and carried them forward with me as I rose to higher ranks.
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I’m a fan of hard training. I love to roll at n intense pace, and I like being pushed and pushing others. Though training this way is a lot of fun, and realistic, you tend to pass up a lot of learning opportunities, and perpetuate bad habits. When you’re strictly on autopilot, we don’t get to analyze as much as we’d like, and we don’t get tend to develop a lot of muscle memory as far as common reactions go.
Partner drills can help develop your muscle memory, and your reactions to common movements. By drilling in a controlled setting, you can also take the time to understand the intricacies of particular transactions, movements, and how to best apply them.
Another benefit of a partner drill may be to bring up deficiencies in your game. When we roll, we commonly find ourselves in a cycle, always making the same mistake, or choosing the wrong movement. There are literally hundreds of these drills that are tailored to each position. If you’re having trouble with a specific movement, there’s probably a drill you can implement to help. Apply a good drill to that trouble spot, and put in some repetitions. Before you know it, that drill will pop out in your game and help you tighten up that loose spot in your movement.
We want to remove any wasted movement in our BJJ game. Drills can also assist with this. When we perform a movement over and over again, our brains will continually find the best way to complete the movement, and turn it into something that feels more natural and automatic. This means less thinking when you roll, and more precise action.
When my team is preparing for competitions, I’ll often ask them to pick 8 different drills to apply to trouble spots in their game, or to make an aspect that’s already solid even better, and we’ll replace the last live training round of the night with this sequence. With 8 minutes on the clock, they’ll have a solid minute to rep each drill. Done a few times a week, we tend to see immediate results, and it also offers a nice burst of cardio.
Where can you see some of these drills? Professor Tom DeBlass has you covered. Naturally when I heard DeBlass was going to be releasing an instructional on drilling I was more than excited about it, as I am a huge DeBlass fan as well as a supporter of this type of drilling. DeBlass has a long list of accolades, and his technique is tested and proven. What’s also great, is that he’s a huge advocate for this type of drilling.
Let’s take a look at three of these drills from DeBlass. These are easy to comprehend, applicable, sure to add value to your game.
Let’s start with a basic attack chain from side control. This is super effective in keeping your partner guessing as you progress through some of the available submissions from side control. Check it out.
DeBlass begins by sitting through to kill the near side frame. This is an essential step in beginning to attack from the top side control position. If ignored, your partner will continually make space, making it difficult to mount your attacks.
DeBlass then traps his partner’s elbow with his wrist and begins to swim his other hand inside to set up an americana attack. As his partner defends the americana by straightening his arm, DeBlass makes a pitstop at the straight armlock. If the arm begins to travel south from here, DeBlass cups the shoulder, pulling his partner up on his side, and travels around the head to begin securing a kimura. From this position he can continue on around to the backside of his partner and sit for an arm lock.
The chain continues with his partner attempting to roll out using a classic hitchhike style escape. As his partner moves, DeBlass funnels him directly in to an omoplata. As his partner turns to face him, he transitions to the triangle.
There are 6 separate attacks include in this drill. DeBlass recommends taking the time to execute each one perfectly and with efficiency for 10 minutes. One session of this drill will have you making better decisions from side control immediately.
This next drill deals with one of the most important topics in BJJ, guard retention. Have a look.
Opening with a foundational principle of BJJ DeBlass reminds us that when were attacking, the goal is to take away all f the space. And on the flipside, when were defending, its our job to create it. This principal is alive and well in this drill.
As DeBlass demonstrates, when we’re seated and looking to begin attacking, our partners have the ability to run around us much faster than we can circle to meet them. As his partner begins to circle, DeBlass simply slides his hips back, and the immediately reengages.
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How many times have you been beaten by someone running around your guard? Are you attempting to keep up with them? I find this drill to be very simple, but also quite profound. Instead of trying to keep up with your partner, create distance that will foil their plans of passing and then re-engage. Great stuff.
This last drill is performed from half guard and it deals with the knee shield position. Give this a look.
When you’re putting your knee shield to work from bottom half, how are you using it? Are you using it only as a defensive tool? The knee shield is one of the strongest methods of framing in BJJ, but overusing it, as DeBlass states can lead to less offense from the bottom position. This drill is a great way to cultivate some offense from the bottom half using the knee shield.
From bottom half guard, DeBlass begins by securing his partners wrist with and over hand style C-grip. He uses this grip to feed his partner into an arm drag situation, and pulls himself under his partner. From this position his partner is faced with a choice; He can either get his back taken, or he can resist the drag and pull up and away. As his partner separates himself from the arm drag, DeBlass’s top leg enters in to space between them and pushes his partner over. DeBlass, now with the reversal secured can sit up and begin passing.
At the close of the video, DeBlass gives us some things to think about. Many times, a knee shield situation becomes a stalling match. When the two opposing forces wish to remain just that, the action begins to slow. Consider DeBlass’ advice here. If your opponent pushes, try pulling. If your opponent pulls, try pushing. It is this type of mindset that will spark more offensive opportunities.
The way DeBlass talks about not using his knee shield is an interesting point to think about. If our partner would like to come forward so badly, then hide your elbows and let them come forward. As they travel north on your body, your bottom game will open up, and you’ll be able to achieve under hooks, elevate your partner, and begin to implement your offense.
This is a drill that can be performed 1000 times in a row without much movement. Committing this idea to memory would serve you greatly in your efforts to cultivate a more proficient bottom half guard game.
So, there you have it. Three partner drills from the legendary Tom DeBlass to help you tighten up your movements, and create more efficiency in your game. Make drilling a regular part of your BJJ routine. Skip a round once in a while in favor of a drill, and watch the results start to pop out in your live training!
Unless you live under a rock, you know the impact and presence that Tom DeBlass brings to jiu jitsu. Now you can learn all of the Solo and Partner Grappling Drills to speed your learning curve and keep you moving towards your goals! Get it here from BJJ Fanatics!