Why Gracie Combatives doesn’t tire me out

Last week my usual training partner and I were “broken up” so we could work with some of the newer guys. They do that to ensure overall safety. Two brand new guys working together is a dangerous thing as neither of them really knows what they are doing. Our school emphasizes safety above all else and I appreciate that.

So as I worked with my new training partner, I noticed that he was struggling and sucking wind. He saw that I was just fine and said, “Why am I so tired and you are not?” I replied that this is something different that his body isn’t used to. The newness alone is enough to present difficulties for most people, but that he’ll adapt in a few days. I actually felt the way he did here in my first Combatives reflex development class. The pace there was much more taxing to me and my body wasn’t used to it.

What I didn’t share is that despite the fact that I have quite a few injuries that limit me at times, I find that Combatives is fairly easy from a conditioning standpoint. I’m not in the best shape at the moment and I’m pretty jacked up, but even at this sub-optimal level, I can handle it. The program is not built to tax and push your cardio, it is solely about learning the techniques. Intensity comes later in the game and that’s fine by me.

Before you think that I’m crapping on my program, allow me to explain why I’m saying what I’m saying. This perspective will make it make sense.

You have to remember that I come from the old school world of NYC BJJ. I started training in the early 2000s. So though I am still wearing a white belt, I would argue that over the years, at some point or another I’ve probably drilled and been taught every technique that most higher belts have in their arsenal.

I’m not saying I have the skillset of a higher belt, I’m saying that I’ve drilled the same techniques that they have. If you attend a BJJ class anywhere, everyone is being taught the same thing. I was being taught flying arm bars as a white belt right along with all of the other higher belts.

The difference between me and those who got their higher belts is that I didn’t stick around long enough in one place to advance. I didn’t stick around long enough to learn when and how to use those techniques at the higher level. I haven’t learned how to tie them all up together at the higher level. And of course, I still haven’t perfected all of the finer points of the moves.

But ask yourself, what is the difference in a specific technique when a higher belt does it? It’s the same exact technique, they just have all those aforementioned skills that I don’t, but the technique itself, the move, it is still the same exact one.

The ones who stuck around and mastered the techniques earned their belts, I have not. I’ve gotten close to blue belt several times, but I kept getting hurt and quitting just as I was about to earn it. Sometimes I think that I’m scared to earn my next belt, but that’s a whole other story.

All that being said, I’m not starting BJJ with Combatives, I come from the traditional jujitsu world that follows the following format:

Warmup: Run in various directions, hip escapes, sitouts, bear crawls, roll forward and back, break falls, etc.

Techniques & drilling: This is where the instructor provides instruction and you practice the move with your partner. In essence, this is what Combatives is made up of.

Free sparring: The last fifteen minutes or so, you go at it. You roll with one partner, then switch, then switch, and on it goes for about 15 to 30 minutes depending on what’s happening. For instance, if there is a competition coming up, you do more and longer rounds.

Then after that, you are done training for the day. So you can understand then why from a conditioning standpoint, I find combatives fairly easy. In essence we are only doing the middle part of your typical bjj class. Furthermore it’s probably the part that requires the least conditioning. The warmup and sparring portions are the ones that collect your soul during training.

So maybe combatives will be challenging for some people, but for someone who comes from where I do, they will likely find it less strenuous. Mind you, for me this is perfect. All I need right now is drilling as my body heals, plus its much safer overall. In my case, Combatives is just what the doctor ordered, I love the program.

Perhaps now you understand why I find it to be less intense as there is no warmup and no rolling which are the most challenging and taxing parts of BJJ training.

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