I have heard instructors state that you should be able to do your moves well with both sides of the body, left and right. I have heard other instructors preach that it is beneficial to focus on making one side as skilled as possible with a certain technique, with less need for balance. There are strong arguments to be made for either viewpoint, and I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer. I recommend that students practice new moves on one side only, until they feel comfortable with the move, at which time they may start learning it on the other side.
While I do not have a definitive answer to the original question, I would like to explore certain reasons why either viewpoint has merit, and in which situations one might be more practical than the other.
Ideally, we would like to be able to do a move well on both sides of the body. Realistically, however, it is much easier to become proficient on one side of the body with most techniques, at least in the beginning. Generally, I would rather be very good at doing a technique on one side than mediocre on both sides.
However, with certain techniques and positions, such as escaping side control or sweeping my partner from half guard, I try to practice both sides equally. With these moves, I may be forced to do the move on either side of the body in sparring; I generally will not be able to choose.
So here are a few questions that might help us determine which strategy might work best in a particular situation:
1.) Do I understand the move well enough on one side to attempt learning it on the other side?
2.) How much time do I have to train? Do I have lots of time to learn both sides, or should I focus on one side only?
3.) Is this a move which I could be forced to do on either side of the body, or is it a move where I can generally choose the side, regardless of what my partner does, in a sparring situation?
Keep this in mind when practicing and you could see even greater progress!