Play the Position, Not the Belt

Over the past year or so I’ve been taking privates, and it seems to have helped. One thing I picked up a few months ago was this phrase “Play the position, not the belt.” It actually goes two ways.  The original meaning was that when I spar against blues and whites I’m worried about getting beat and so I’d try harder and do dumb things. So Professor Ed was reminding me to keep playing the position whether the guy was a white or blue belt.

Lately, though, I’ve been finding that I’m also applying that against higher belts. This time it’s a reminder that even though the person I’m going against might be a purple, brown, or black belt, they’re still just putting me in different positions. They have half-guard, or side control, or mount. And I might have to work a little harder to escape, but the principles are the same.

Over the past month or so, I’ve caught myself sparring only to have my brain say “Play the position, not the belt.” It gives me that focus to start to think “Where should my hands be?” or “Which way should my hips be going?”

It’s not failsafe, far from it. It’s not magical either. But it is helpful, its’ a good reminder that I need to escape a position, or keep a position and to do either of those things, I need to focus on the fundamentals.

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