The most important skill in BJJ is not a physical skill, but a mental one. It’s the ability to predict how your opponent is about to move. Once you know how your opponent is about to move, you can plan your response and implement it with good timing.
In expert level competition, everyone is moving the same way and performing the same moves. The competitors that consistently perform well do not have secret moves, better coordination or better strength and conditioning. What they have is the ability to perform the right movement at the right time.
It is easier to have correct timing when you have predicted your opponent’s movement, and more difficult if you’re trying to react to his movement as it happens.
Here’s Marcelo Garcia discussing predicting your opponent’s movement and taking advantage of it by having a plan.
Clip from Budo Jake’s Rolled Up Episode 36.
It makes sense to start developing this most important skill as soon as possible. The traditional approach is to avoid the issue and allow it to develop by itself during rolling. Rolling will develop it automatically, albiet slowly.
We take a more proactive approach to develop this ability to predict. When we learn skills, movements and techniques during class, the partner is always adding and varying the resistance they provide to the athlete. The athlete is not just learning the subject being drilled, but rather the different ways their partner can move which will allow them to perform this subject.
More instruction is usually given to the partner providing the resistance when drilling, than to the athlete learning the skill. To those with a traditional background, this seems paradoxical. But when you realize that the priority is for the athlete to refine their ability to predict, you realize it is a more logical approach to training.