A little while back I was listening to famed philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris's podcast Waking Up where he was interviewing David Krakuer of the Sante Fe Institute (a research institute dedicated to the study of complex adaptive systems). David made the point that when new technologies are developed the benefits are often obvious, but that the costs can be obscure. He used self-driving cars as an example. Self-driving cars will reduce traffic accidents and fatalities. But something I had not thought of is that they will also reduce our mental map making ability and navigation skills. This got me thinking of the unintended consequences of using periodization to focus on a specific part of a grappling game.
I personally believe you should strive to have as well rounded of a game as possible. Not only for the synergistic effect, but to optimize your training time. If I practice nothing but X guard for the rest of my life I can always make improvements. But the law of diminishing returns means eventually there will come a point at which the level of benefit gained is less than the amount of energy invested. Training different styles of guard play will not only open up new opportunities to use my primary game, but it helps maximize improvement since you can make larger improvements in areas you have not trained as much. But in doing so there are also costs.
I used to be primarily an open guard player. When I decided to focus on developing my half guard I did not realize how much of an impact it would have on ancillary skills I had developed while playing open guard. If someone started to get past my legs my ability to roll and scramble to a neutral position diminished. But it was not just my "open guard movement" that decreased. My overall leg coordination and foot dexterity in all positions decreased. Something that could be fixed, but I was just surprised at how unaware I was of all of the consequences of changing paradigms.
This awareness should be used when making changes to your routine. Being aware of both the opportunity cost and what ancillary skills will be developed or negated can help you make an educated decision when programming your training.
By focusing on my takedowns I assumed my passing and top pressure would improve. I did not expect my mid-match recovery to increase as much as it did. I also did not realize how much of a positive impact training takedowns would have on my ability to defend chokes. The better I got at taking people down, and controlling their hips the better I got at escaping all different types of chokes through body positioning and movement.
I think we are all aware we cannot improve in all areas at the same time. Some form of intelligent periodization can help optimize advancement. But thorough self-analysis is required to ensure we maximize the benefits, and are aware of the secondary effects of our training protocol.
photo credit // cauliphlower