Where On This Chart Do You Spend Most Of Your Sparring Time?

Think of your time in BJJ sparring is thought of in terms of when you’re safe, and when you’re in danger (with tapping being an irremovable piece of the game). This graph came in my head the other day, and I thought it useful:

The Dartboard of Doom, or, The Pizza of Peril

The Dartboard of Doom, or, The Pizza of Peril

Any beginner would agree, it’s hard to feel safe anywhere. They likely have almost no green area on their graph. As we progress, we begin to have the option to be safe, or allow ourselves to be in danger.

Over time, how deep in trouble we allow ourselves to get becomes a choice that integrally affects our game.

As a brown belt now, it is tempting to always work my new submissions and fancier sweeps on newer guys. To keep myself in dominant position, and work my top game, far from the perils of the triangle or back positions, or with a nearly extended arm.

At a cost to their own game, higher-level BJJ practitioners have the tempting option to “buffer” themselves from the tap, by steering things well inside the green.

Too much of this training “in the green” denies me the opportunity to shrink my “yellow” game. If I took it right to the edge all the time with increasingly better opponents, even (gasp) tapping sometimes, in order to master riding that crest, I’d actually turn my game into something more like this:


The high-level guys I train with, who surf that edge, routinely escape armbars at the last second, and find tiny nuances that disentangle or disable nearly-complete submissions. They’re pretty safe and in control seemingly everywhere. That’s an enviable game, earned after hard, pride-swallowing work to shrink their yellow game.

Where do you spend most of your time sparring?

One Response

  1. David
    David January 13, 2015 at 12:59 am | | Reply

    I think there’s a time and a place for different types of rolling. Most of the time I’ll go for moves and positions I enjoy, and I don’t mind often conceding and giving up a disadvantageous position.

    When I do that, it feels more like a ‘merging’ of the yellow and green zones. I actively allow things that would normally be my ‘safe’ zones to become risky, even if only to explore both my abilities and that of my partner.

    Sometimes I prefer to enforce the green zone, whereby I will refuse to allow myself to be at risk, with the exception of baiting my opponent.

    I like this visual conception, and it’s definitely food for thought!

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