There are always going to be people in BJJ who can beat you. Even world champions have problem match-ups. Someone in your school probably taps you on a pretty regular basis and it seems like there isn't much you can do about it except get frustrated. That's when it is time to change the rules of the game.
The rules of the game dictate how the game is supposed to be played, and what constitutes winning and losing. The rules of today's UFC are a good example. Today the rules are designed to promote more stand up and less intricate ground fighting. Dana White doesn't have to be a marketing genius (although he undoubtedly is) to understand that the population of knowledgeable BJJ enthusiasts is dwarfed by the population of casual fans who get bored unless there are plenty of punches and kicks flying. Dana knew when to change the rules of the game.
Even the early Gracie Jiu-Jitsu fights and the very early UFC were subject to rules of the game. The Gracies were very well known for preferring their own rules, namely no time limits and no judges. Those rules favored a certain type of fighter and style of fighting. Today's Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments have different rules.
And if you find yourself in the middle of a bar fight, don't pull guard and expect that the drunks and their friends are going to play by the same rules as your training partners back at the dojo or you're going to wake up in the emergency room with your head sewn together.
So what's stopping you from making up your own rules? You don't have to play by the same rules as everyone else. You are free to set your own criteria for how you are going to play, and more importantly, what constitutes winning and losing.
For instance, if there is someone in your school who you have never beat, and they always get you in a triangle, change the rules of the game. Instead of trying to submit them the next time that you roll, decide for yourself that a victory in this game is to avoid getting triangle choked. Force them to move outside of their comfort zone and take away their favorite move. Not only do you have a much higher chance of winning this new game, it may create an opening if you force them to a submission they are not as skilled with. You might be surprised how easy it is to avoid their traps when you have a clear focus and a single minded purpose.
Another example of changing the rules of the game is when you are sparring with a new white belt. If you've been rolling for a couple of years, choking out the new guy and 'winning' should be pretty easy. But what have you really gained? How about changing the rules of the game and deciding that the only way to win this match is if you can successfully execute a certain move you have been having difficulty with. Or maybe you decide winning is actually showing him how to maintain posture in your guard. Now you both get a much more beneficial roll.
When you allow others to dictate the rules of the game you are going to be at their mercy. You'll win some and lose some. But when you make up your own rules, you can win every time your roll.
- Bill Thomas