The closest thing I have to grappling experience is playing offensive tackle in high school. You’re taught to extend your arms as quickly as possible, this helps to keep defensive lineman off of you. Whenever I roll, the first thing I do is extend my arms. I was rolling with a brown belt and he said something that stuck with me, “your elbows are your babies, you should always know where they are.”
I never know where my elbows are. You know why? Because there is so much other cool stuff to think about and pay attention to. The other day, someone used my gi to choke me. A piece of clothing I was wearing, was used to choke me like I was a bad guy in an 80s action movie. I recently learned how to perform an Anaconda choke and a pendulum sweep which are essentially the coolest thing I’ve learned in 33 years of living on this planet.
Who cares about something like being aware of your elbows when there are awesome submissions and sweeps to learn?
Armbars. I get arm-barred at least 7 times a session. Knowing where your elbows are will help keep you from getting arm-barred, it’s also less likely you’ll just give your opponent your arm and let them do whatever they want with it. If my elbows are my babies, I’m essentially putting them into a stroller, and rolling said stroller out to the middle of the street and then deciding to check my phone. I’m literally the worst parent in the world.
However, the great thing about jiu-jitsu is the more time you invest the quicker you recognize mistakes. Slowly but surely I’m realizing how much the little stuff matters. Pay attention to your elbows, treat them like they are your babies.