Open mat can be a really good way to add on to the training that you do in the classes at your school. To get the most out of a open mat it is best to have a plan going into the training. There are a few different strategies to take when heading in to the open mat. No matter what strategy you have going to the open mat remember the most important thing is to always have strategy! Without having a plan the open mat can easily turn into a relaxing conversation with training partners. It is better to save the talking for after and focus on getting better at BJJ.
1.) The Sparring Open Mat:
The focus of this open mat is to do as many rounds as possible with the tough guys. This practice can be great to simulate the competition. Sometimes at tournaments you may have to fight one or two fights before your opponent has their first match because of getting a bye or maybe you fought a super tough guy first match and had a brutal match. Your opponent in the next match got a quick submission their first fight and is fresh. We can simulate these types of situations by calling partners who took a round off or came a bit later to the open mat and are fresh. Also by trying to go with the bigger, stronger and tougher training partners we are forcing the hardest situation. Sometimes at the championship we are given the harder side of the bracket. This mindset in the open mat training will be like this and teach us how to deal with that environment.
2.) Technical practice:
This practice is great especially towards the end of the week when our body is really sore and beat up from the week of training. Alot of academies hold open mats on Saturday and Sunday, these days are great to still train but, focus on the more technical aspects of BJJ then going “hard”. This type of practice is still focused on live sparring but, instead of going after the toughest training in the room try and find the more technical guys that you can work all types of positions. For example, I would go with a purple belt who has a really good spider guard and work going into his game and then getting back to mine(Take a look at this article, I talk about the importance of having your own game). The goal of this practice is not so much to push the limits of our body, cardio and mind but, to develop timing and work in games/positions that we are not as good in and our partner is more comfortable in.
3.) Specific practice:
This practice is all about correcting mistakes. If all week you get stuck in bottom mount(you might be getting stuck because of this mistake). Ask your partner to start on mount and try and get out. Another way to practice this is not telling your partner your goal. Let them take mount then work to escape. Another example, of this is trying to work one attack the whole time. I would do this a lot with Omoplata (checkout this video I did attacking Omoplata from all positions at one of my seminars) I would try and get it from closed guard, half guard, side control and scrambles. This type of practice is also great to do the weeks following a championship. Maybe you missed a position that cost you a match. No problem, don’t avoid it, focus on it and practice it in the specific open mat.
4,) Drills and Drills:
There is some disagreement over if drilling is helpful or not. I am not the type of guy who likes to go to the gym and drill for hours. However, drilling is better then not showing up! If you are really tired from the week and one of the training sessions that you attend as part of your weekly training is an open mat. Do not skip it. Go but, only drill. Drill what you learned from your professor in class. or a technique that you wanted to work on and add to your game. The important thing again here is to have a plan, A lot of times I see people “drilling” when they really just did a few minutes then talked the rest of the class.
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