When Your Favorite Moves Stop Working

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Let’s say you’ve been working on a certain move.

​It doesn’t work in the beginning, but eventually, you start getting the hang of it. You start catching some people with it. White belts and sometimes even blue belts.​

You might start hitting that move on purple, brown, and black belt training partners if you are a more advanced player.​

But after a while, your training partners become aware of your move. Now they take precaution against it. As a result, you feel stuck — it just seems as if your favorite move crashed and burned, and it won’t work again.​

Now, what should you do in such a case?​

First of all, understand that it is difficult to pull off your moves against people who know what to expect.​

So, don’t beat yourself up just because your training partners start getting used to dealing with your moves. It happens all the time.​

I remember Craig Jones saying in various videos that his regular heel hooks stopped working against his training partners because they eventually learned how to deal with Craig’s heel hooks. If that’s what happens to one of the best leg lockers, you don’t have to worry about your 2-month-old sweep, pass, or submission stops working against your training partners.​

The good news is that when you compete against or roll with new people, they don’t know what your game is like, and your moves will likely work against them, provided that you have made efforts to sharpen your moves. But when you compete against the same people multiple times, they will start learning more about your game. So make sure to work on expanding your arsenal and fine-tuning it.​

Here are things you can do to improve your situation.​

1. You can try a different setup.

You’ve probably been using a certain way to set up your move in question. Your training partners now expect this setup but may not be familiar with another setup that leads to the same move. Try a different setup and expand the width of your move.

​2. You might be missing some details.

It’s often the case that you are missing some small details that make it harder for your opponent to defend your move. There is always a possibility unless you can confidently claim you’ve mastered that move. But that’s probably not the case — there are always improvements you can make to your skills. Take your move to the next levels and deepen it further.​

3. You can work on related techniques.

There are always moves that you can chain together. If your favorite move stops working, explore techniques that you can chain with it. For example, if you like anaconda choke, you can chain it with d’arce choke. If you’ve been working on the knee cut pass, connect it with the smash pass to the other side.

​4. You can try different variations.

The standard triangle choke from the bottom position stopped working, but you like triangle? You could work on the reverse triangle, the rear triangle, or the side triangle, for example. Some techniques have different variations within themselves.

​These are all excellent practices, even if your techniques work against your training partners. In fact, if you keep going for the same moves and they work, I highly recommend you to expand your stock of moves. Not doing so was one of my biggest mistakes during my colored belt years. I just focused on the standard variation of triangle choke and didn’t do anything else.​

When you realize something is not working, a great learning opportunity is available to you. But whether to realize it and take that opportunity or not is up to you. Now you know that, though. Don’t miss your opportunities to improve yourself.​

If you follow the practices above and do them for your core set of moves, I bet your overall BJJ skills will improve significantly within a few years.