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Rolling and sparring isn't drilling

I love rolling and sparring.  Here  I can test myself, trial new techniques, and validate that all my practicing really works.  This is also when I lie to myself.  I adjust my game to my training partner and my level of fatigue.  If I know he's tough I may try to go to a position of advantage rather than working on the goals I set myself earlier.  I will, consciously or not, adjust my training to win rather than improve.  Thus sparring, the fight within the gym, does not benefit us as much as specific drilling for improvement or competition.  
  • Even Start Drills - Anytime you start in a position that both partners are both offensive and defensive, but not in a normal start position.  The goal is to control this position and improve upon it.  Examples include, passing the guard (BJJ), pummeling to takedown (wrestling), grip fighting (judo), and knee play (muay thai).  The drill can be cycled so that it resets once someone gains the upper hand or simply continuing play once out of the position.  This should of course be prearranged.
  • Uneven Start Drills - Anytime either you or your partner starts in the advantage position (i.e. offense) and the other starts in the disadvantage position (i.e. defense).  The goal here is to teach the offender to finish and the defender to escape.  Given equally skilled partners, the partner in the advantage position should "win" more often than not.  Examples include escaping the side mount / mount / rear mount (BJJ), defending the submission (BJJ), defending the takedown (wrestling) and two-on-one knee play (muay thai).
  • Reaction Drills - Any drill that involves developing speed and coordination by having a one-point "win" rule.  The "win" resets the round.  Examples include first takedown (wrestling), first point (BJJ), steal the tail (BJJ), shoulder /  knee tag (muay thai), or the Shiv game (MMA).
  • Simulation Drills - Any drill where we try and take a specific situation, generalize it, and model it.  With repetition we hope to understand and dissect a situation that causes us problems.  For example, examine the beginning of the fight by sparring for 15-30 seconds to see how long that time period is and what can happen in it.  Other examples include, front hand sparring or grappling only with the figure four submission.
  • Shark Tanks - Uses any of the drill classes above and keeps one partner in with several other (fresh) partners.  This will tire the more skilled / stronger players and force them to work as efficiently as possible while increasing the chance that those with inferior attributes can press the action on them.  You can further complicate the drill by switching between drills for each partner, increasing the "fear of the unknown" for the fellow in the tank.

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