Broad or Focused?


For someone at a beginning level (say white to low blue), how would you suggest they approach their training?

Would you suggest to concentrate on an overall game? Or to focus on certain positions & techs?

Is there a balance that you try to instill in your students? Or do you have them focus on trouble areas exclusively until they are competent in that area?



Here's my perspective:

Any good coach will have his beginning level students focus on

What are fundamentals? Well, from my perspective, fundamentals are
the techniques and movements used by most practitioners regardless
of skill level. For example, in all stand up fighting arts, the bending
and straightening of the knees are used by all practitioners. Therefore,
any drill or exercise that forces the beginningn level pracitioner to
repeatedly bend and straighten his knee will reinforce a fundamental
movement. Not only that, but with the combination of time and a
specific set of exercises, that fundamental movement can become
instinctive and reflexive - which is the real goal of training!

Additionally, there's no sense is training a beginner in an area they
won't use often. For example, why train a beginner how to use the X
guard if he always ends up on his back, fighting from the bottom of
the mount or side mount positions? If he cannot use the series of
techniques you are teaching him (because they are above his current
skill and awareness level), then you are really wasting his present time.

All too often, I see beginning level students wanting so very much to
practice the advance moves they see purple belts and above
performing. They think its really cool to be able to do these moves, but
yet they lack the experience with the fundamental movements, not to
mention the finesse and coordination, to be able to perform the more
complex techniques with any amount of success. And what ends up
happening is they become frustrated and then declare, "Oh that
technique would never work."

So, since BJJ has more than one-hundred differen areas to train, there's
obviously no way a beginning level student is going to be able to
practice all of them within a short period of time. This leads us to a
basic question: What areas should a beginning level student train first?
My answer to this question is this:

  1. Mount escapes.

  2. Side mount escapes.

  3. Head lock escapes.

  4. Guard control.

These four areas lay a solid foundation in BJJ: The game on your back! I
know a lot of people squak at this, but it must be remembered that we
are training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, not some wrestler's version of Jiu Jitsu.

I have taught this way since 1994. It has worked, and I plan to continue
teaching this way. While it may not be the most fun way of training, it
definitely works for the student who plans on being involved in this
sport for the long haul - Two to three decades!

Now, only after the fundamentals have been grasped should a student
begin to work on other important areas of training. And then once a
student has become proficient in all of the different areas of training,
only then should he or she begin to develop an overall plan that
addresses personal preferences and "style."

Good training to you,

Roy Harris


Thank you for that well thought out answer.

If you don't mind, I'd like to follow that up with a few more questions.

First, would you recommend separating these fundamentals into focused training segments? What I mean, for example, is say, spend a month per area as a main focus in your training that month?

Or would you suggest working all these areas, but maybe only focus on one per day? Not spending too much time (such as a month) on only one area.

Or maybe some other way?


A lot will depend on what you want to accomplish. If you want to
accomplish a lot over a short period of time, then you can train all of
these areas. However, since you will be dividing up your time so much,
you should not expect to have any decent level of skill in every one of

For example, if you have 10 hours of training to commit each week and
you train one area for all forty hours, you should be able to accomplish
a lot. And, you should see a noticeable difference in that one area on
the mat. However, if you divide this 40 hours up into four separate
training areas and you only commit 10 hours to each area, well, you
may feel like you are training a lot, but your performance on the mat
may not show significant improvement.

When I was training consistently, I focused on one area for a lengthy
period of time - usually one to seven years. That's right, one to seven
years! While I did spar in all of the different areas, my focus in training
was ONE SPECIFIC AREA! And, I would not say my progress was fast.
However, now that I am sixteen years into my experience and have
trained pretty much MOST of the areas within BJJ, I have full confidence
in all of my fundamentals. Of course I still have weak areas, but my
fundamentals in in the six most commonly used areas of BJJ are solid!

So, because there is so much to train, try not to accomplish TOO MUCH
too soon. You are only one man with so much time in one day, one
week, one month and one year. Rather, take small baby steps in the
most important areas at first.

Does this make sense?

Good training to you,

Roy Harris

So you focused your training like this from the very beginning?

You said:

"Of course I still have weak areas, but my fundamentals in the six most commonly used areas of BJJ are solid!"

Could you state those six areas?

I bought your "BJJ Over 40" dvd, and I would just like to say that it is fast becoming one of my favorites of your vids. Definitely echoes the things you are saying, just as your 101 & 102 does.

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and share your experience/knowledge.

Those six areas are:

  1. Mount escapes.

  2. Side mount escapes.

  3. Guard control.

  4. Guard passing.

  5. Side mount control.

  6. Mount control.

Roy Harris