• Style or Substance By John Donehue


    This is a re-print of an article that appeared in FightTimes magazine back in October 2005 by the Head Coach of Extreme Jiu Jitsu and Grappling.

    Style or Substance by John Donehue

    Developing your own style or game in BJJ or Grappling sometimes can be one of the most confusing things for the beginning to intermediate level student. Should I be a guard player and if so open or closed. Or maybe a half guard specialist. What about playing from the top, always keeping the pressure to pass or looking for the takedown. Or maybe I will just be a submission guru and submit everybody no matter what position I am in.

    Here also lies the problem of when we see a standout competitor who plays a certain style and we think well that’s cool I’ll just do what he does. He’s coming out here soon so once I have done the seminar I will be a lot closer to playing his game as I will learn all the secrets there.

    Unfortunately that just never is the case or at least to the degree that we would like it. Let’s look at a few examples:

    Marcello Garcia who has a great half-guard game that everybody knows is coming but he still manages to use it effectively against his opponents even when outweighed considerably.

    ‘Jacare’ who is and incredibly gifted natural athlete. Some of his moves are so explosive and unexpected that most of his opponents don’t know how to deal with him.

    ‘Leozinho’ moves like no one else. He always looks to be a step ahead of his opponents. His speed and reflexes are pound for pound better than anyone else out there right now. He comes up with the most unexpected moves that make it very hard for his opponents, as they don’t know what is coming next.

    ‘Pe de Pano’ has a great guard that almost always ends up in a sweep or a submission. He uses his size very well. He has come into a few competitions not in the best of shape but can get away with it to a point because the game he plays is so strong.

    Now in going back and looking at all these competitors they all have their own style that works well for them but sometimes it’s for a few reasons. One of the common threads is their physical ability but you also have to look at their genetic traits.

    Garcia for example is short and stocky which means a low centre of gravity with very flexible hips. Having shorter strong limbs makes a lot of the things he does easier than someone who for example is tall and skinny.

    ‘Jacare’ is an athlete who would most likely excel in most dynamic type sports. No matter how many weights or plyometrics you do you cannot beat genetics and fast twitch fibres if that is appropriate for your sport. You can certainly improve it but you cannot beat it.

    ‘Leozinho’ is like a smaller version of Jacare but with more natural feel and sensitivity. His ability to be a step ahead and his superb fitness are hard to beat.

    ‘Pe de Pano’ is again genetically gifted for the game he plays as he around 6’5 and 260 pounds with most of the weight in his legs and hips which means it is very hard to resist the combined strength and weight of his lower torso.

    The other thing to bear in mind is none of these guys really have the same game as their instructor. They are individuals who have a genetic disposition that they used very well to develop their own style. Obviously their instructor has been instrumental in their development but they have all developed their own style.

    Now does that mean that I am wasting my money going to their seminar? No not at all. If there is one thing that you can pick up that can help your game improve and you’re serious about your training then it is worth it. If you go to a seminar that seems to be more about the ‘wow’ factor and the hug photo than substance then that is a personal decision on how you choose to spend your money and everyone is different.

    Just don’t go to the seminar expecting to walk out with the half-guard from hell like Garcia when you are 6’5″ or be doing on your knees Pe de Pano big hip sweeps when you weigh 100 pounds dripping wet.

    Go there looking to add something different to your game because years down the road that’s what it will be… your game!