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The Strenuous Life Podcast with Stephan Kesting

This is the Stephan Kesting's Grapplearts Radio Podcast where we discuss BJJ, Grappling, MMA, and all manner of martial arts training.

Stephan runs, where he has published many hundreds of martial arts videos, articles and tutorials.

His free guide to learning Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, A Roadmap for BJJ, has been downloaded more than 10,000 times and has become a foundational text for the art. Click here to download that book for free as well.

Stephan has a lengthy career in martial arts, spanning more than 3 decades.  He has dedicated many years to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and you can find his accessible and practical expertise on all BJJ matters at

A black belt in multiple martial art systems, he brings a range of approaches to self defense, and a critical eye for what works in the street.

Stephan has been featured in Black Belt Magazine, Ultimate Grappling, Tapout Magazine and Ultimate Athlete.

He is also a frequent guest on martial arts related podcasts, including The Fightworks Podcast, Atlantic MMA, Combatives Corner, The Warrior’s Den, The Spartan Underground and many more.

Feb 5, 2020

There’s an old saying that goes…

“Don’t do what’s best for you.  Instead do what’s worst for your opponent.”

There’s a lot of truth there.  In a competition your odds of victory go way up if you can prevent your opponent doing the things that he is best at.

Optimal Sparring Strategy

Rolling in training is different from rolling in competition.

In training, during sparring, you actually WANT to spend at least some time in your sparring partner’s strongest areas.

This way you can get the highest quality training possible.

This is especially true if you’re bigger or better than the other guy.  You WANT to let him into the game so that you can get a good training session in and learn something.

So figure out what any given sparring partner is really good at and occasionally let them do it to you!

Here’s a concrete example…

A few days ago I sparred with someone who was 50 lbs lighter than me.  Had I just passed his guard and played crush the bug for the rest of the session this  would have been good for my ego but bad for my jiu-jitsu.

Instead we stayed and played in an area where he is strong – the lasso spider guard – for almost the whole training session.

Every time I passed his guard (or he swept me) we would stop and reset back in his lasso guard.

The net result of this training was that my training partner got to develop his game against a bigger and reasonably skilled opponent, and I got to work on a somewhat underdeveloped aspect of my game (I’ve been working no gi a lot and so I needed to blow the dust off of my defences to all these gi-based entanglements).

There are competitive elements to training, but training is not competition and competition is not training.  

Tapping a lighter or a less experienced player out 35 times in a 5 minute match does neither of you any good.

The goal of training is to get better.

By purposely allowing your training partners to use their best positions and techniques while sparring allows you to feel, experience, and struggle against the highest level jiu-jitsu available to you.

That will make you better.

Ego is the Enemy

Of course life will be easier if you spend all your time doing only things that you’re good at.But are you actually going to learn anything new that way?

Ego is the enemy. Succumb to it and you’ll get injured, burnt out, and get better much slower.

Ginni Rometty, the first female CEO of IBM, said, “Growth and comfort do not coexist.” Which is a more succinct way of stating that there is no comfort in the growth zone and no growth in the comfort zone.

Sometimes it comes down to a question of looking good or getting good.

And sometimes you’ve got to look stupid to get better.


P.S. Check out The Guard Retention Formula in App, DVD, and Online Streaming format at