There’s a great explanation of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that uses an old playground trick to really capture the essence of the art. As kids, we used to say to someone “look here” and wiggle on foot down on the ground. While they’re looking at the wiggling foot, you’d slap the min the face, laughing. Well BJJ is pretty much like that playground taunt. You want to make your opponent look at one thing and hit him with another. The thing to remember though is that even this deception ahs levels in BJJ. A white belt’s attempt at it might be laughable, while black belts seem to be able to perform Jedi mind tricks. That said, it is all down to BJJ tricks of the trade, and we look at a crucial one today – timing.
Whenever you roll with a high-level grappler you often feel like they’re one step ahead. Not only are they ahead, but they seem to know what you’re about to do before you even decide. The reason behind this is a BJJ trick of the trade, one that is not at all hard to master. The thing is you need to be aware of it. If you want to integrate timing in your game early, you either need to figure it out on your own or have someone tell you about it. I had to go the hard way, figuring it out. This article is the easy way, outlining it all out for you.
Bruno Malfacine is a great example of a grappler with perfect timing and crafty BJJ tricks. You can learn some of his best moves from his “How to Beat Bigger Guys: Guard” DVD. It is a four DVD set that’s a real shortcut to developing an utlra high-level guard game.
How Black Belts “Read Minds”
The first time you get to roll with a black belt, you’ll most likely have as close to an alien experience as possible. It is downright eerie at times when you have no idea what you’re doing, or about to do, but the black belt knows every move you do in advance. And, every time you ask how that is possible you get the least desirable answer – just train and as time passes, you’ll figure it out.
The fact of the matter is that you will actually figure it out. It has lots to do with technique and even more with experience. However, it also has to do with BJJ tricks that you pick up along the way. In that sense, I’ll focus most of my attention today to timing, and how it can change the way you roll. Timing has a lot to do with the perceived “mind reading abilities” of experienced grapplers. However, before I go into timing, I’ll cover another of the Jedi Mind BJJ tricks.
Every time a higher belt manages to trap you by anticipating your movement, it has a lot to do with connection. If you think that they’re just sitting there and willing you into traps, you’re wrong. What they’re doing is applying very specific pressure, or preventing you from going into very specific directions. This is done by connecting to your body in a very intentional matter. Take side control for example. Someone going into Kesa Gatame means there’s absolutely no way for to roll away. The way they’re connected to your body allows them to anticipate you turning into them. So when you get caught in a D’arce choke from a Kesa Gatamr situation, it is all about connection and timing, rather than mind reading.
Figuring Out High-Level BJJ Tricks
Let me get into the subject of timing in Jiu-Jitsu with a story. Not long ago, I had the opportunity to roll with a black belt I’ve never rolled with before. I entered the roll not looking to apply my game or look to catch him, but rather, look at his movement. To be honest, this was mostly down to a fresh knee injury of mine.
Whenever I tried to get into a position I like, I found al my avenues of attack blocked. At first, it seemed like the guy was moving at the speed of light, yet, he was extremely light at all times. This got me thinking, so I slowed the roll as much as I could, without giving away positions. As it turned out, the black belt didn’t look to shut my game down directly or go fo his favorite stuff. Instead, he just made sure he moved wherever I took him but did so just slightly sooner and faster than me. That made him seem exceedingly fast. The fact of the matter was that he simply had better timing.
This experience got me looking into timing in BJJ. As it turns out, when it comes to BJJ tricks, timing is one of the most useful ones. It is not about technique, pressure, even positioning, for that matter. If you can figure out how to get your timing on point, you’ll be able to get the upper hand on pretty much anyone. That said, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start thinking about timing as a blue belt. It’ll just be much more efficient if you do it when you have a lot more experience and technical knowledge. Let’s look at some examples.
Timing Is Everything
In order to really dissect timing, we’ll use three examples. The first one is the easiest to put timing into a grappling context. Namely, whenever you’re trying to pass the guard, you open up sweeping opportunities for your opponent. At a certain point in time, the opponent is going to have a clean sweep that you can’t counter or defend. Accepting the sweep and sitting down faster than your opponent is sweeping you, is a prime example of timing in BJJ. This will give you slightly more time to re-adjust and react. In most cases, it’ll be enough to get you back up before the sweep is complete.
The same holds true for passing. While with sweeps, timing means being faster, with passing, it means being slower. Imagine going for a Torreando pass The more you try to move the legs with your arms, the less success you’ll have. The more you allow your opponent’s legs to lead you, and go slightly slower than them, the easier you’ll enter into the pass. Moreover, your opponent will have absolutely no chance of preventing it this way.
A final example timing as part of the BJJ tricks of the trade is going to be submissions. Here. It is a completely different ball game once again. Instead of moving slightly faster or slower than your opponent. with submission, you actually need to be in sync. Take a straight Ashi Garami leg lock for example. As the opponent moves to twist out, you’ll need to move in sync in order to prevent the twist. At the same time, you’re taking away any slack, making the submission sink in more and more.
If you figure out timing, you’ll be able to quickly advance through BJJ. Moreover, the more BJJ tricks you start figuring out, the easier rolling with more experienced opponents is going to get. That said, if you can figure out the timing in different BJJ scenarios, then you’ll take a huge leap forward. As a beginner, try to look for timing in every move you learn. As an advanced student, focus on your timing in different scenarios and figure when to rush and when to slow things down.