It's been a year since I was promoted to Black Belt by Fabio Clemente and Kevin Sheridan. As cliche as it sounds I’ve learn more in the last year than I did in years prior to the big promotion. I moved to the North Philadelphia area shortly after being promoted, and for the first time since I was purple belt, I got to be a student again. Big thank you to Jared Weiner, Emily Kwok, Phil Migliarese,Jason Frawley and Alex Britto for letting me and my wife Hillary to train at your schools. We really appreciate it.
Here are the biggest things that I’ve learned over the last year. I think a lot of the applied to many BJJ players so wanted to share.
My takedowns needed work, a lot of work; I am a brown belt in Judo and wrestled in high school. I think I have a better understanding of takedowns than most pure BJJ players. However, I very rarely worked on them. When I started training at BJJ United, Jared starts every round from the feet, most guys there very rarely pull guard. First few weeks there were rough! I was out gripped, timing on my shots were off, my sprawl needed work. And my cardio felt awful. A year later I feel much better, timing is back, and I’ve been developing few things that I can consistently both gi and nogi.
My game had become very grip dependent. When I started getting ready for nogi pans, I started working one more of a sit up guard and x guard game, which was rusty, I had been working lots of De La Riva and Spider guard. Biggest hurdle was passing. It took a lot of drilling to feel comfortable passing again, I had spend about two years, my whole tenure as a Brown belt, working on leg drags and x passes. I now have more of a folding/smash pass passing style, still incorporating the x passes and leg drags.
I didn't realize how much work my leg lock game needed. I think this is the area that I experienced the most growth over the last year. IBJJF wise I added Estima locks to my game, which not only added an awesome submission to my game, but made my passing better. Non IBJJF wise I was able to train with Reilly Bodycomb. First at a seminar at 50/50 bjj, where I spent the weekend getting heel hooked by Reilly, Ryan and Seph. This was a huge eye opener, I had a basic understanding of heel hooks, I even won a few NAGA matches by heel hook. But this guys were miles away! Reilly has a great approach, I highly recommend it if you can ever make one of his seminars or training camps. You can check out his stuff at www.rdojo.com
Hope this is some help to someone. And helps people realize that while getting your black belt may be your goal, is by no means the end of your journey.