Does it make sense to practice everything on both sides in Jiu-jitsu?
In my experience it's common practice in Jiu-jitsu classes for the instructor to tell the students to practice moves on both sides. At first glance it makes sense. After all, we want to be well balanced and equally proficient on both sides, right?
In my own Jiu-jitsu practice of over 15 years, I've found that no matter how many times I practice (certain moves) on both sides, they never feel equal. One side always feels more natural to me. Is that a problem I need to overcome? Should I double the practice on my bad side to even it out?
In a perfect world, yes. It's great to have equally effective moves on both sides. Taking a broader perspective, it's probably a good thing to to daily tasks on our less dominant side as well. I remember as a teenager my karate teacher made us do everything we could with our non-dominant hand for homework. I took pride in tackling daily tasks such as brushing my teeth and eating dinner with my left hand. I'm not sure if I felt any more comfortable on my left side after that week but I'm sure my it took me a little longer to eat, so maybe that's a good thing.
Back to Jiu-jitsu. As I practiced some submissions, guard passes and sweeps on my less dominant side I often wondered, is this really the best approach? Recently a teacher in a different field brought a contrasting perspective.
Photo: While I wish this was me, this is in fact IG @miguel_hand_balance
Last month I attended an acrobatics workshop where world class teachers shared their teachings with enthusiastic students. One French teacher taught a high level handstand class. The prerequisite was that you needed to be able to hold a handstand in the center of the room for 20 seconds without moving. During the class one of the students inquired about one arm handstands. "Should I practice one arm hand stands on both sides?" was his question. Without missing a beat the teacher shot back a question of his own. "How old are you?" 35 was the answer. "You don't have time to practice both sides" replied the teacher.
I found his answer refreshing. In an age where we often try to just give positive encouragement, this guy just told it like it is. Our life spans are limited and the number of years we can devote to hard practice is even more limited.
Photo: Chatting with Marcelo Garcia during the filming of Rolled Up #36
This is not a new thought that I'm pondering. I also asked this question to Marcelo Garcia back in 2012. His logic was that if you practice both sides you might end up with two bad sides. By his logic, it's better to get razor sharp on one side.
So now I've had 2 masters of their craft affirm my thought process. It's not necessary to practice both sides on every move. Now I need to clarify. This doesn't mean that I only practice passing the guard to one side or that I only do everything on the right side. It means that there are certain moves that I tend to do on the left and certain moves I tend to do on the right. Certainly you do need to be able to pass on both sides, you need to be able to sweep to both sides, and you need submissions on the left and the right. They just might not be the same submissions.
In the end, it's all about how you maximize your training time. Everyone has their own logic and if your goal is to be ambidextrous at every move than I support that effort too! But maybe, just maybe, you don't have to worry if that left sided guillotine never feels good.