People always ask, “how can I improve?” There is of course no one answer to that question. Many factors contribute to your improvement; regular practice, diet, off mat conditioning, etc. One good way to improve your over all game is to limit the techniques you use in sparring. Creativity thrives on limitation because it forces you to think outside the box to achieve your goal; in the instance of sparring, force the tap.
What is meant by “limiting the technique you use”? Try this: pick just one technique and make that your focus the next week of sparring sessions. It doesn’t matter if that technique is the triangle, the kimura, or a sweep. Find new ways off creating the opportunity to use the technique.
Case: You have decided to work your triangle. Start every sparring session over the next week by pulling guard. Keep telling yourself “I am only working for the triangle.” If you succeed in breaking your opponents posture, shoot the triangle, and get the tap then start over and pull guard again. Now try setting up the triangle in a different way, perhaps from Shawn Williams Guard, spider guard, or even half guard. After you’ve locked the triangle in a few more times now try setting it up via a failed sweep attempt.
The self imposed limitations coupled with your training partners defenses will force your game to evolve to greater heights than you may have ever imagined. Your best results will come if you stick with the same technique for more than one training session. This allows you (and your sparring partners) to reflect on the sparring session and find new solutions to the problems encountered. As your sparring partners realize what you are trying to do they will become much better at defending your chosen technique. They will become experts at defending it and in turn will then force you to become better at setting up, applying, and finishing the technique in question. You WANT your training partners to figure out counters to your technique, this way you can learn and practice counters to their counters!
*This training method is also a great way for advanced students to improve their game when sparring opponents who are less skilled (i.e. a purple belt vs a white belt).