When I first started Jiu Jitsu I don’t think I could not name a single Jiu Jitsu fighter with the exception of Royce Grace. I pronounced Roger like I do Rodger and Marcelo Garcia could have been a famous explorer for all I knew.
As a white belt I was regularly smashed by everyone in the gym and often found myself sitting at home afterwards wondering what I could have done different in each round. As with most of my problems in life, my first port of call was google. I quickly found myself on YouTube going through techniques and videos from various “experts” as I tried to glean some details that I could take with me into the gym for the next session.
YouTube is your friend
On one of my many YouTube travels I quickly began to notice that many of demonstrators of the guillotine technique mentioned Marcelo Garcias way of completing it. When I began searching Marcelos technique I quickly realized that this guy was one of the biggest names in the sport. Over the next week I began to watch as many of his matches as possible. I was shocked to see how many times he was able to beat guys using the same few techniques. These techniques included butterfly sweeps, guillotines, RNC, and arm drags and were all repeated regularly and often on much larger and physically stronger opponents.
After becoming a fan of Marcelo I looked up who the other most successful practitioners in the sport. This led me to Xande Ribeiro and Roger Gracie. Once again I noticed particular patterns in their games. For example, Roger would often look for the takedown, pressure pass to side control, collapse and weave the legs, pass to mount, and finish with a cross collar choke. His game was so simple and it made me realize that the stuff we were doing in class really did work. This was what made me fall in love with the sport.
Even though most of the classic matches from Roger, Xande, and Marcello had occurred 10 years ago, I found myself soon trawling through YouTube and Wikipedia to find out who has won the biggest tournaments and what other matches I needed to see. At the same time I found myself tuning to modern day BJJ and I quickly discovered Leandro Lo, Keenan Cornelius, Gordon Ryan, and the Mendes brothers.
Apply to your own game
Now when I watch sports Jiu Jitsu I watch them with one eye on my own game. I try to identify sequences and keep an eye out for techniques and submissions to try with my own game. From watching lots of BJJ matches I have become a fan of certain grapplers in my own weight class whose style appeals to me. I will never be a 125lb Berimboloer but Bernardo Farias half guard style is a good fit with my game and I have picked up lots of cool details that has really made a difference and has even helped me to win a couple of competitions.
I will admit that many of the matches in points Jiu Jitsu can be boring. Often competitors play for advantages and there is not much action. This is where you need to filter. Skip through matches if necessary and keep an eye on the scrambles and where the points are being scored. In submission Jiu Jitsu try and keep an eye on what position subs are attempted from and watch out for how certain competitors favor different limbs to attack.
So my advice to any budding competitor/BJJ practioner is to become a fan of the sport. Watch carefully to see what each competitor does in a certain position. Try and follow somebody who is competes close to your own weight class. Also try to take note of the techniques that seem to work consistently and start to think about how these techniques can be chained together. If you are starting out, try to find good videos with commentary. This commentary often puts names on the positions you do not know which makes it easier to remember and investigate afterwards.