White belt survival
At white belt I was always proud to be known as 'that guy who is hard to submit'. Like most folks the key was to avoid submission by having a solid defence; spoiling games and having a solid system of clinging on until the buzzer went. I had submissions but they were employed mostly opportunistically rather than with an obvious set up. Regular competitions changed that for me as I needed to advance to win, but remnants of this game stuck about well into my first year at blue.
The most obvious change was at Newquay in 2015. Competing in Blue Belt Masters Featherweight I met a really tough Mark Rowlett. As soon as we hit the ground I was on my back where I was least happy. As he looked to advance I reverted to my white belt tactics and switched to lockdown. Therein we spent a frustrating three and a half minutes of me clinging on. Obviously Mark won and I started to realise this tactic was limiting me.
Getting rid of half guard lockdown
I came back from Newquay disappointed. Sometimes the other guy is just better, but it wasn't that, it was that I was just clinging on in a bad position. I was hard to submit solely because I was doing nothing. It was time to kill the lockdown.
Half guard sweeps
Back at The Combat Academy I spoke to two of my team mates Liam Doverman and Emma Baker and asked them both for their favoured half guard offences. Then I drilled... and drilled... and drilled. I got to a place where I had options from. Like all new techniques I got smashed attempting them, I still do, but I slowly killed off my automatic lockdown response.
Along the way I asked Ash Amos about Deep Half Guard. I was already playing a lot of Half Guard but seeing him use Deep Half and remembering team mates using it to great effect in Melbourne it started to click. Between Half Guard and Deep Half I now had the beginnings of a game where I was looking to gain and retain a guard which could lead to a better position.
Concusion - Tough is great but smart is better
I guess the takeaway from this is a pretty simple one. Tough is great but smart is better. My progress only really began in earnest when I realised that just surviving was not a sustainable tactic. Being hard to submit is great but opening yourself up and going for position is far more rewarding in the long run. I probably get submitted more in class now but I have objectives and positions that I am working towards and this makes BJJ far more fun and challenging.