Making the Most of Pressure: Side Control

There few terms in jiu-jitsu that get tossed around more than pressure.  You might hear ‘base’ or ‘posture’ more frequently, but understanding pressure is a vital component of any BJJ top game.  Pressure refers not just to physical weight (or the sensation of weight) but also constant attacks that keep your partner on the defensive.  This post will focus on the physical pressure, and at another time I’ll revisit this issue to address attack pressure.

Occasionally referred to as the “100 kilos position,” side control is best known for immense pressure.  Learning to apply more pressure from side control can make the difference between your rolls ending in a draw and having them end in a submission.

Continue reading “Making the Most of Pressure: Side Control”


Questionable Fashion Choices of BJJ

A lot of hobbies have ‘uniforms’ or clothing associated with them.  And often times these uniforms, while eminently practical, fail to align with modern sensibilities about what is appropriate to wear in public.  Jiu-Jitsu is no exception to this rule.

Here are the fashion mistakes you’ll feel inclined to make if you play jiu-jitsu:

Continue reading “Questionable Fashion Choices of BJJ”


Jiu-Jitsu Spark Notes: Or What You Need to Know to Roll

I’ve already done a post on how to get the most out of rolling, and if you are looking for best practices, this isn’t that.  This post is the information that I believe to be the barest minimum necessary to get someone rolling.

Will they be good?  No.  Will they be as safe as they can be?  No.  But, sometimes you just have to work with sub-optimal conditions.  Maybe you’re at party and some friends want to see what this “jiu-jitsu” thing is about.  Maybe you’re at a college level club and someone without any experience shows up to an open mat.

So, when reality gets in the way of ideal, this is a way to stay safe and have fun.

Continue reading “Jiu-Jitsu Spark Notes: Or What You Need to Know to Roll”


The Guard: Control their Posture!

Every position has a goal, or mission.  From the mount, knee on belly, side control, and the back the goal is simple: to submit your opponent.  From the bottom of these positions the goal is equally simple: escape and improve your position.

If you are inside of someone’s guard your mission is still simple: pass the guard.

But the guard is more complicated.

Continue reading “The Guard: Control their Posture!”


The Lowly Headlock: Worthy of Knowing how to Defend.

Today a newcomer showed up at my university’s BJJ club practice.  He had trained Hapkido before and had “done some grappling,” so we walked him through the basic positions of jiu-jitsu, gave him the jiu-jitsu spark notes, and then got him rolling.

You see, our club is small and relatively informal.  And Thursdays are the most informal day – more of an open mat than anything else.  Also, lets be honest: we’re mostly there to roll.   But I digress.

I paired him up with John (not his actual name mind).  John is probably 5’6″ and all of 140lbs – not a big fellow, but fit and tenacious.  He has been training at the club for a couple of months and knew enough to move through the positions, pass the guard, attack from the mount, and the like.  I figured it was enough for him to hold his own with Mr. Hapkido, who probably outweighed him by 40 lbs.

Well, I was right and I was wrong.

Continue reading “The Lowly Headlock: Worthy of Knowing how to Defend.”


Defending yourself with Sport Jiu-Jitsu

“Horrible” is how Royce Gracie describes modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in his recent interview with Bloody Elbow.  He laments how the art has developed lots of competition oriented rules which have made it less viable for self-defense.

Are things really that bad?  Should everyone who trains BJJ just resign themselves to their competition medals and accept that they can’t defend themselves in a real confrontation?

Continue reading “Defending yourself with Sport Jiu-Jitsu”


Sparring in BJJ: Not just rolling around

Jiu-jitsu players will tell you that a lot of things make their art special.  The leverage element that offsets weight differences.  The technical, detail oriented approach to techniques over speed and strength.  But really what makes jiu-jitsu special is that it can be practiced at nearly full intensity everyday of the week.*

This means that if you aren’t rolling (jiu-jitsu parlance for sparring) you aren’t taking advantage of what makes jiu-jitsu special.  But how do you get the most out of rolling?

Continue reading “Sparring in BJJ: Not just rolling around”


The Structure of Self Defense, Part 3 The Guard

Whenever I’m asked by a friend to teach “show” them some jiu-jitsu I inevitably show them the rear naked choke.  Its easy to teach and the results are dramatic as it can put someone to sleep in just a few seconds.  Yet what I want to show them is the guard.  The guard is jiu-jitsu.  It is why jiu-jitsu is special, and it is why jiu-jitsu works so well for self defense.

The reason I don’t show people the guard is really simple: it doesn’t lend itself to a couple minute long demonstration.  Its a somewhat awkward looking position for those who aren’t familiar with jiu-jitsu and most of the things worth knowing take time to learn.  And yet, if you are really interested in defending yourself you need to know this position.

Continue reading “The Structure of Self Defense, Part 3 The Guard”


The Structure of Self-Defense, Part 2 Fighting on the Ground

While Part One of this series dealt with standing ‘zones’ of self-defense, this article will address what happens when you end up on the ground.

Why do fights end up on the ground?

If you are 6’8 and have physique that Homer would have sung praises to you might think to yourself that fighting on the ground is literally and figuratively beneath you.  But being prepared to fight from the ground is a vital skill for the physically imposing as well as those of us with slighter builds for a very simple reason:

Usually fights end up on the ground because someone falls down.

Continue reading “The Structure of Self-Defense, Part 2 Fighting on the Ground”


On Meta-Jiujitsu

BJJ is a martial art designed for self defense, permitting a smaller person to survive a conflict against a larger, untrained opponent.

The ‘untrained’ component of this definition is important, because in BJJ schools only the newest fish is actually untrained.  Everyone else is trained to one degree or another.  A technique that works against an untrained opponent might not work against a trained opponent.

For example, getting a lapel choke or an americana against an opponent who doesn’t know how to escape the mount is relatively easy, while if your opponent knows the upa escape it can be nearly impossible.  This of course is compounded when your opponent knows the upa escape, the elbow escape, the earthquake escape and knows how to use these techniques in series.  So what do you do?  Meta-Jiujitsu! Continue reading “On Meta-Jiujitsu”