• End Game

    I am trying to teach my six year old son how to play chess at the moment. And he is starting to pick it up pretty well. A fun thing we do with the computer is to turn down how smart the machine is playing and just play against a dumb opponent and move without thinking about the consequences, just explore the map and see what happens to learn and have fun.

    I understand the bare basics of chess and consider myself a novice, but I think its a useful metaphor for coaching purposes. Chess of course is a game of strategy, based on principles of combat, and requires its participants to think many moves ahead. Often the one who thinks furthest ahead is the better player, much like BJJ. If you can anticipate or dictate where your opponent is going to move then your chances of success improve markedly. It is common for a game of chess to broken down into sections, an opening, a middle, and an end game. Different players have stronger and weaker aspects depending on their game style or tactics. Just like a BJJ match has a distinct beginning, middle and end. The end game in BJJ is using a superior position to finish the fight. Roger Gracie is the prime example of someone with a very strong end game, if he gets the mount or back control, its good night. Roger very rarely wins his matches on points, the final of this weekends Mundials being a rare exception as the match went the distance. Interestingly, Roger often gives up early takedown points and loses the opening game so to speak but controls the middle and end game brilliantly.

    The other night I got grumpy whilst coaching a session of BJJ because I requested everyone go “hunting” during some shark bait training. The goal was to submit an opening as quickly as possible largely because a fresh opponent would be arriving straight afterward and this skill conserves energy. Tap them out quick and get on to the next one. Easier said than done of course, especially when wrestling with someone of equal skill, but that was the goal. What became apparent quickly was that most guys haven’t sufficiently developed their end game under pressure, that is, the capacity to close the deal when instructed to do so, even against less skilled opponents. And this I found very frustrating to observe. After giving it a lot of thought I decided it largely came down to two things, one of which was a poor end game. The other aspect I will blog about soon.

    I am all for playing BJJ like I play chess with my son and the computer, sometimes just seeing where things go and flowing, maintaining position, keeping guard, playing safe etc. I think this is good for learning. However when the time comes and you have to close the deal quickly, like in a competition or a fight, get to the end game and finish the fight. So consider spending the next few weeks thinking about your own end game. What attacking positions, transitions and submissions do you use frequently in training and how can you accelerate the end game at will? It is something we will be focusing on a as a group as well.