What is my game?

Several times I've been asked a simple question: What is your game? When asked this question recently, I had a difficult time answering. What really is my game? What does this question really mean? Does my game entail what position I enjoy working with and submitting from most? Does my game mean how do I transition from position to position? How am supposed to I answer this question when I don't really know what it means to me?

So, I've been thinking more and more about how to answer this question. After thinking long and hard I realized that for me, at this point in time, my game entails a lot of things and there is no set right or wrong way to answer.

My game up until recently has been played out primarily from the guard. For most of my competitive career, this has been the position where I've victoriously submitted from most. Perhaps I rely so strongly on this position because it is the position that I've been taught to attack from on the most consistent basis. The instructor I train under has a strong guard game and he too has been very successful at executing submissions from this position. But unlike him and most of the people I train with, I am very petite. I've recently decided to expanded my comfort zone for a number of reasons by moving onto having more of a top game.

I remember when I first discovered that with larger opponents being caught on the bottom (even though it is an effective position to attack) is not always the best place for me to find myself. A few years back at a local tourney--because of the lack of women competitors in Texas--I was paired up with a 200lb+ woman named Star. Since she almost was twice as big as me I didn't want to go the distance with her or get caught under her. Finishing her off quickly was in my best interest.

Incidentally, this was the last time that I decided to cut weight for a local tournament. In those days and still to this day not many women compete in Texas. There was never a weight division for people my size. I was destined to fight larger women and it was pointless to even look at the weight divisions.

In wanting to end this match quickly I decided to do a flying arm bar when given the opportunity, which ended up being a bad call on my part. I landed the arm bar, but she also came down on me like a ton of bricks. And since I was unable to leg press 200lbs, I was not able to extend my legs or maneuver out from under her to finish off the arm bar that I set up. So she proceeded to lay on me and smash with all of her weight. I recall her child screaming these words of encouragement, "Put all your weight on her mama!" And she did. After a few minutes of me attempting to squirm out from under her enormous body, I was forced to tap--mostly because I could not breathe. This was not the finest moment in my career as a competitor. Nonetheless, a lesson I needed to learn. I just would of preferred not to have learned it the hard way.


So anyhow, back to my original point. What is my game? My game is forever evolving and as I understand it probably always will because of the infinite possibilities in jiu-jitsu. At this point in time I am working to solidify my top game (mount and side control) and the transitions to these position using sweeps and reversals. I don't have a whole lot of weight to "smash" opponents with or training partners with. So I have to use what I got and apply technique as opposed to just using sheer weight in my favor.

I've been working with and studying the techniques of the smaller men and women competitors in jiu-jitsu. My logic is that what works for them will work for me because I too am working with the same equipment. I've come to learn that as important as it learn how to transition to these positions, it is just as important to maintain these positions.


Most recently at the Worlds I was successful in that I was able to obtain and maintain a top position with two of the three opponents I went against. As for submitting once I got there, that is another story for another time.

As far as what submissions I incorporate into my game the most, that would be arm bars. The worst part of arm bars for me is when you are up against a stubborn opponent and you feel their arm popping out of joint. Although I do an aggressive martial art, I don't really want to hurt some one unless they really deserve it.

I was lucky enough recently to do a seminar with Royler Gracie. I recall him telling a story about a conversation with his late father Helio Gracie. He was talking with about his love for arm bars. How it was his favorite submission. His father basically said to him that although arm bars are good submissions, there is always another arm for your attacker/opponent to use once one has been broken. The point that he was trying to make to his son was that when using chokes the fight/match is automatically over because the other party involved passes out.

This concept resonated with me. So I am now trying to move on forward incorporating more chokes into my sequencing. Instead of using chokes as bait for the arm bar, perhaps using arm bar attempts to bait for chokes. The possibilities are endless.

So as I've talked my self in circles. I don't know if I really answered the original question I presented. Maybe as I move forward on as a martial artist, I will be able to answer this question directly and less like a politician (which I've been accused of in the past).

Anyhow, it's time for class. So off I go. Until next time...


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  2. Way to go Ko! You have blazed a path for all women in a sport that has just taken us seriously. Your courage, commitment and conviction is inspiring. Thank you!

  3. I'm at a much lower level than you, but I've been wondering the same thing: it would seem to make sense for smaller people to go for chokes.

    Are you thinking more about triangles (something I've been considering, because then I get to mainly use my legs rather than my weedy arms), or collar chokes?


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