We must train our techniques in an uncontested manner before we can be good enough with them to use them sparring. It is necessary to find a good partner who is similar in size to ourselves and to practice the chosen moves as closely as possible to the example provided. There is a difficulty inherent in the equation however, and that is that when we drill our moves uncontested, we sometimes are forced to invent strategy unnecessary in an actual contest.
For example, I see many students, while practicing a simple sweep, doing everything brilliantly, but doing odd crunches to rock the opponent off their heels to make the sweep happen. The student is reacting to the fact that we're sticking to a particular technique to drill, but our partners are not providing the correct scenario in which to drill it. Why is this person sitting on their heels? Would they likely be sitting on their heels in your guard? Many sweeps require some forward pressure from the opponent in order to execute.
We often forget to tell our students that you'd use this technique in a particular moment, not use this technique for everything no matter what! Sitting up and rocking the person off their base in order to execute a sweep is an unrealistic scenario. It might happen, you might be able to force it regularly, but eventually you're going to find that there are people you can't push around. More importantly, it's the wrong moment for the move. You have to train the moment. Partners must learn that they'd be giving pressure, that they'd be trying to pass the guard! They'd be trying to improve their positions! They'd be, in a nutshell, fighting. When you're drilling techniques it is important to talk about what the technique is for, and when it primarily is going to be used, and finally, to provide that scenario for the drill, of course, short of actually fighting.
When we drill scissor and hook sweeps I like to make sure partners are putting pressure forward, that we are talking about a particular kind of scenario, not just a technique out of a bag of moves to apply for no reason, but a move made for your opponent's offense. I call this dynamic training. It is about having motion in your partner's attack or defense for you to work with. We all easily understand this when we work armbar from the mount. We always have our partners shove us up with their arms, the famous bench-press. This is an easy one to remember, everyone loves to do bench-presses. But the same idea should be applied to practicing sweeps. While it won't be a bench-press it'll instead be a leaning forward, a putting of pressure against the legs, behaving as if trying to pass the guard.
I need to give another example: I've often seen folks drilling under hook pass defense getting a little lazy and reaching under the person's leg and posting their hand on the floor, giving the defender a great chance to grab the wrist and defend against the stack pass.
Of course, no one executing a stack pass is going to post their hand on the floor they are heading for your neck! It is difficult sometimes not to relax into these habits. But providing realistic posture and motion is necessary for the correct choice and execution of technique.
Geoff Balme is a second degree black belt and the lead instructor at Open Guard BJJ, Kickboxing, and Self Defense Classes in Apex, NC.