Theory

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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Technique, Thoughts

The Circuitous Path to Learning a New Guard

When you first start out all guards are new.  Nothing will work great, but some will work better than others.  Over time, this is the guard you will spend most of your time using.  This is partially because it will be the most rewarding, but also because it will be the guard you are best able to get to and maintain.  The process becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophesy: you’re good at the guard you’re good at because you’re good at it!

This is how I developed my guard game until very recently.  My closed guard and a sort of bastardized collar and sleeve open guard represented about 90% of my guard skill.  But then I saw shin to shin and I knew I wanted more from my guard.

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Technique

Finding moves in negative spaces

When you are first learning moves in jiu-jitsu you often are taught how to exploit bad habits.  From the mount you are taught the spinning armbar in response to your partner trying to bench you off.  From the guard you are taught how to kimura or bump-sweep when your partner puts their hands on the mat.  These techniques share a common thread: you are assuming your partner is doing something wrong.

Jiu-Jitsu is often compared to chess, and this is one of those times where the comparison is apt.  Beginners are more likely to make mistakes and so the person who gets a submission is most likely the person capitalizing on their partner’s mistakes.  But, just like in chess, as time goes on you’ll find your partners less likely to make mistakes.  The rolls become more and more about finding the perfect timing, misdirection – and if mistakes do happen jumping at the chance to exploit them because they might not come again.

Ok – so whats the point?  Well, if as a beginner your instruction begins with “an unskilled person will do X” then as an advanced practitioner you’ll start to hear “a really good player will do Y.”  When your instructor says these words your ears better perk up and you need to start paying attention!

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Technique

How to Actually Roll with Bigger People

I don’t like to criticize other people’s articles.  I know its hard to write and it takes courage to publicly say what you think.  But “Which BJJ Techniques Work and Don’t Work w/ a Small Man Against a Big Man” really got me fired up.  The title assumes gender for no real reason, the size difference is never specified, I don’t agree with the suggested techniques, and the grammar is terrible.

Rather than tell you everything wrong with the BJJEE article – I would like to explore what techniques work for smaller jiu jitsu players from an actual small jiu jitsu player’s point of view (I’m 5’2″, 115lbs).

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Technique

Combinations from the Closed Guard

One of my teammates was preparing for a competition last week (he double medaled!) and he mentioned that he wanted to learn more combination attacks.  He has been working on his closed guard recently, which is my favorite position.

Depending on how you choose to play the closed guard your partner may feel completely trapped or under constant attack (or ideally both).  Currently, I focus on keeping my partner trapped when I using my guard because it is a position I feel safe in with a larger partner.  But I would like to incorporate more combinations so my guard can feel both vicious and suffocating.

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Theory

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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Self-Defense

Why Rolling is Important for Self Defense

In a previous post I discussed the 5 self defense moves I would teach a friend who doesn’t know any jiu jitsu.  Learning techniques is important but I believe rolling can be just as beneficial for learning how to defend oneself.

For example, say Betsy learns a self defense move in a seminar.  She practices it 20 times with an non-resisting partner during the seminar then shows it to a friend when she gets home.  Is Betsy likely going to be able to use that technique in a self defense situation in 6 months?  What about even the next day?  When I’m rolling I usually try to use the move taught in class that day but I’m not usually successful with it right away.

Here are three reasons I think rolling is helpful for self defense.

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Technique

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.

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Self-Defense

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?

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Self-Defense

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.

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