When Jean Jacques Machado approached me about doing a second volume of The Grappler’s Handbook, I was very excited about the opportunity to be working with him again. When he told me the entire book was going to be dedicated solely to defensive tactics, I was thrilled. This is a topic close to my own heart. The defensive aspects of the martial art have always been fascinating. As amazing as the offensive Brazilian jiu-jitsu techniques are, they all have counters and defenses. However, it is not that simple. How do you apply these defensive techniques? More important, when do you apply them and ensure you have an escape? This is where the martial art becomes a science, and the mat is your laboratory. Looking back, my defensive abilities have gotten me out of a lot of bad situations in class and in competition. However, when I think about defense, it always takes me back to one uneventful evening at Jean Jacques Machado Academy. I was a purple belt at the time, and Jean Jacques was putting us through the paces. After drilling some techniques, it was time for free training, otherwise known as sparring. These sessions usually last an hour and are physically and mentally grueling. I started with one partner, and as soon as time was called, a black belt approached me to train. When we were done, another black belt approached, then a brown belt. It went like this for the entire hour. I probably trained with three or four black belts and several brown belts with no break in between. One thing I remember was that they were very aggressive. They were just really pushing my capabilities hard. I remember having my guard passed repeatedly, being mounted, having my back taken. They were dominating me positionwise, but I did not get submitted once. I moved when I could, stayed patient, conserved my energy and survived. As class ended, Jean Jacques announced that he was going to promote someone. This is always an exciting time because rank is so difficult to achieve in this martial art. Jean Jacques gave a small speech and then called my name while holding a brown belt. It took a second to register before I jumped up to accept my promotion. I was absolutely stunned. I had been a blue belt for five years and had only been a purple belt for about a year and a half. I assumed I would remain a purple belt for some time. I approached Jean Jacques after class to thank him, and he told me he purposely sent all those brown and black belts after me during free training: “It was your defense that got you your brown belt. Those guys were all over you, and yet you remained calm. You were methodical, kept working your technique and never allowed them to finish you.” It really emphasized the importance of developing sound defensive skills, which is something I am passing on now as an instructor. Got any great belt promotion stories? Let us know about them in the comments field. (To take your BJJ game to the next level, check out The Grappler’s Handbook Vol. 2: Tactics for Defense.)
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