Often you will hear an instructor or competitor say you have to train smart. But not many people fully understand what that means. A common assumption is that when someone speaks about training smart typically they are addressing the issues that occur with high intensity levels on the mat. We have all trained with that one person who no matter how light you want to roll or how much you want to flow, that person has one pace and one pace only which is Mundials, match 5 for the Gold Medal! Although it is important to train with a high level of intensity in preparation for competitions, it is not a good idea to train at that level all the time as it will eventually lead to injury.
With that said, training smart constitutes much more than moderating or regulating intensity levels on the mat. How and what you train are equally as important. After a few years of training everyone will develop a set of go to positions, attacks, counters, and escapes. It is natural for you to do what you are best at, especially when you are under duress. And the trap that a lot of people fall into is the “I catch everyone with this” trap. We all have a set move list we know we can count on. Be it the triangle, the guillotine, or a certain combination such as scissor sweep to armbar.
We fall in love with these techniques and transitions as white belts and use them often because, well frankly, you just don’t know a whole lot else at that time. But once you have moved up in the ranks and added a few years to you game it gets tougher and tougher to pull those moves off with the same effortless consistency. So the natural inclination for most is to further perfect those move sets. We too often drill and practice those techniques as much as possible, and look for all the many ways to get to our go to moves or combinations. Now for competition, this is likely a formula for success. It is most beneficial to start compititions with your A, B and C move set verses your X, Y or Z move set. We want to win or lose with our best stuff. But for overall growth, training just what you are good at is not a good formula for long term success and achieving the overall all goal of becoming a better grappler.
In summary, training smart includes putting yourself in bad situations, position specific training, handicapping yourself when training with lower skilled individuals, drilling instead of free rolling, isolation training (move specific), moderating intensity, and most important, the constant regulation of your ego are going to lead to long term victory and success both on and off the mat. If you can’t get past your own pridefulness, you will never allow yourself to be in uncomfortable positions for risk of being submitted. You have to train where you are weakest and strengthen all the links in your chain.
Training with one hand, only working from the guard, instead of just pulling guard, work for the takedown, only working escapes from side control, training 10 minutes with someone of lesser skill and refraining from attacking with submissions, training with someone better than you and preventing that person from mounting or taking your back, etc. These are the surefire ways to improve your game for both self defense and competition.
Train Smart and Train Often!!!!!!