Tactics in BJJ: Are you playing checkers instead of chess?

The subject of BJJ and chess is one I have written about before.  I think the subject is worthy of further attention because the metaphor is such an alluring one – but pinching metaphors until they squeal is all too easy.

Recently my coach made a comment about a roll, saying that one person was playing chess while the other was playing checkers.  For the sake of science, discovery, curiosity, and pedantry, I’m going to attempt to unpack all that is contained within this statement.

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How BJJ is like Chess: Rock Paper Scissors Edition

Jiu-jitsu is an athletic endeavor – but it is one that requires a great deal of thought in order to be good at it.  As I pointed out in my earlier How BJJ is like Chess article this leads to comparisons between jiu-jitsu and chess – sometimes reasonable comparisons…sometimes less reasonable.

One facet of jiu-jitsu that feels comparable to chess is the tit for tat nature of moves.  If someone is mounted on you, you can try the upa escape.  If they are able to post their leg to prevent themselves from being rolled you can take advantage of that space to do the shrimp escape.  If they pinch their knees tightly to prevent the shrimp escape their base is narrow and thus more easily toppled over with an upa escape.

So…does this sequence show that jiu-jitsu is like chess?  Or is it really just complicated rock paper scissors?

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How BJJ is like Chess: The Power of the Fork

Jiu-jitsu and chess are often compared to one another – usually in an attempt to justify the intellectual qualities of jiu-jitsu more than to demonstrate the physical qualities of chess.  But is this comparison apt?  In some very real ways jiu-jitsu and chess are completely different – but the metaphor is not completely without merit.


One concept that carries over from chess is the fork.

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