Open mat is an opportunity to test out your skill and techniques sparring with a training partner. However with the wrong approach and mindset, open mat can be a time where you don’t expand your game or even re-enforce bad habits. Often as the heart accelerates and competitiveness peaks, we forgo learning in lieu of “winning.”
Whether it is talking to Geoff or even the Gracie Brother’s “Keep It Playful” movement, many instructors have been stressing the importance of playing with positions and exploring techniques during open mat time. Trying to exemplify the idea that open mat time isn’t a time to “win” but to learn. Here’s some practical ways to put philosophy into practice and open up your game:
- Let your training partner establish guard.
Starting your roll standing above your partner rather than inside their guard skips the important nuances of posture, grip fighting, hand position and guard breaking. These little aspects aren’t flashy but vital for success as a top player. So if you’re starting your roll on top, let your partner establish their guard and grips.
- Don’t battle for a takedown when starting from your knees.
In the interest of space and safety, most academies will start rolling with both players on their knees. Rather than engaging your partner in a epic struggle for a takedown from your knees, it’s beneficial for both parties if someone pulls guard. This means you maximize the time you both can spend working on applicable technique, were as with takedown from the knees doesn’t serve any purpose outside of sparring. If you’re a higher belt, you can see which position your training partner is more comfortable in and then allow them to take that position.
- Allow yourself to get into your partner’s strongest position.
Some of your training partners will have a frustrating butterfly guard, some partners have dangerous spider guards, some partners will have crushing side control. Once you discover what position your training partners excels in; don’t try to avoid those position, rather actively get yourself in those positions. Though it may be uncomfortable at times, its through these difficult positions you’ll learn to relax and stay calm even when threaten the most.
How do you make the most out of your open mat time?