Every school has their way of doing things when it comes to warm-ups. Some schools do vigorous calisthenics, some practice tumbling and movement, and others flow roll until they’re warm. While all of these have their merit, it’s not uncommon for the routine to grow stale. A good way to break the monotony of training is by adding games that: boost morale, foster competitiveness, and sharpen your grappling skills. Play these games as a warm-up, at the end of class, or just to pass the time.
Knee Tag/ Toe Tag
The premise of this one is simple and it only requires two people. Set a timer for 2-3 minutes and stand opposite of your partner. The goal of the game is to use your grips, tie ups, and foot work to manipulate your partner and try to tag their knee or their toe. You can count points to find a winner at the end, or just work until the clock runs out. If you have multiple partners be sure to rotate and train with other people. Especially those in the gym who have good wrestling. This game is great to improve reactions to take down attempts, and work on level changing and foot work.
This one is popular with kids classes but it’s good fun suitable for all ages. For this game a large group is best, about 5 people being a good minimum. The set up is as follows: pick one person to be “it” and have them sit in the middle of the mat area, then have the rest of the class spread out and sit down as well. Players must scoot on their butts (guard pullers rejoice!) to move around the mat area. In order to tag and infect someone, who will then in turn help spread the infection, call out a position or set of positions that those who are “it” have to achieve and maintain for 3-5 seconds.
As an example you could call for mount and back control. In order to “infect” the other players, those who are it must then get to the back or the mount and hold the position. Meanwhile the players under attack must try to resist and escape. Play until everyone is caught or there is one person left. This game is a good way to reinforce the idea of establishing position and escaping with a sense of urgency.
The adage that Jiu-Jitsu is like chess is an old one and it’s fairly appropriate. Chess itself involves concepts of knowing moves and how to prevent them, and doing so within a limited amount of time. For this game all you need is two participants and an open mind.
The idea of “Jiu-Jitsu Chess” is simple: partners take turns performing one move at a time in order to improve position and secure a submission or stay in control until time runs out. A “move” can be as simple as acquiring a grip or as involved as completing sweep. Essentially a move is anything you can do fluidly or all at once. The goal of this game is to breakdown your roll into moments and get a sense of what will or should come next. You may find that as your movements improve that it becomes less broken up and more closely resembles a live roll. If it gets to fast don’t be afraid to slow down. Remember: “Fast is smooth and smooth is fast.”
There are numerous games you can add to your classes to improve any number of individual skills. Tug-of-war type games using belts, ropes, or old gis can help improve grips. Games like king-of-the-hill work endurance and pushing the pace. There are products you can purchase like Jiu-Jitsu Dice or Game of Rolls that offer even more ways to play games while you train.
Remember that Jiu-Jitsu can be a lot of things. It can be a means of self-defense, an avenue towards weight loss, a way to make friends and socialize. But in addition to all these wonderful things Jiu-Jitsu should be fun.