Side Control wrote a great post today about the necessity of training routinely with smaller or less experienced people, with whom you can experiment, develop new techniques, and focus less on your "A" game.
Go read it, I'll wait.
I think his post helps articulate something that's been bugging me lately about my training and my game. I think it might resonate with other small jiu jitsu people out there, and maybe women in jits generally. My theory is this: smaller people and women (less upper body strength, even if you're a big tall lady) develop different games in different orders and at a different rate than bigger/male people. Why? Because for the first year or two or three, you rarely roll with those "smaller or less experienced people" with whom you can play your non-A-game stuff.
Of course we all start out in the same place ("A game? what's an A game?") but I've always felt like I failed to develop an A game at the same pace as my male counterparts. And now, what I view as my A game would still be the B or C game for them, in terms of quality and quantity of execution.
I admit for a while I wandered around feeling disgruntled* at times, wondering when I would get to spar someone and try new, unfamiliar, unpracticed stuff with any success.
Lately I have though... I've triangled a couple people a couple times, I've swept people with new stuff, I've played tons more guards with more success than I thought possible. And they're all whitebelts. Not redshirts-who-should-be-bluebelts but real true whitebelts. So I'm torn between happily mounting experimental assaults on this pool of willing victims for my own benefit (see above) and taking it easy on them, letting them work their stuff, blah blah blah.
I know as a blue belt that I'm really only a short step up the ladder from them, and I know how much I owe to all the higher belts (but especially the ones one rank up) for their untiring generosity to me. I really feel strongly that I should be as encouraging and helpful as possible with all the whitebelts.
On the other hand, I do get tired of having to go close to 100%, A-game only, all the time. I can hear it now-- "Well, G, just say you want to go light!" :) It works sometimes with some people, but not as often as you'd think. I totally understand the psychology behind it and I'm not upset by it, I just wish it were different. And people can't change what they weigh. If your technique is solid, you can compensate for weight. Developing solid technique requires forgiving situations where you can sort of play "warmer/cooler" to explore what the right movement should be.
So I lately have found myself doing 3-4 rolls with each whitebelt. If they're really solid and technical and good I will still have to give it my all to avoid being crushed like a bug (ahem Marc, Zack, etc etc.) If they're newer, I'll do two rolls where I work my stuff and (happily) doing a little crushing of my own... then two more where I settle back and let them work.
This must seem really lame that someone who's trained two years is happy she can beat some whitebelts (not even all!) Especially seems lame to me when my cohorts wearing blue belts are hunting purples and browns, and routinely handling other blues with relative ease. I dream of hunting blues :) But until then...
THANK YOU whitebelts, you are a big help to me.
*This is a weird word. Where, o where has my gruntle gone?
p.s. Zen Mojo wrote a really nice follow-up post here.