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!
Meta-Jiujitsu is jiu-jitsu specifically crafted to defeat other jiu-jitsu.
The basic closed guard is jiu-jitsu.
The basic closed guard pass is meta-jiujitsu.
Ok, so before I go further and say things that will upset people let me make it very clear: jiu-jitsu cannot be trained beyond the most rudimentary levels without meta-jiujitsu.
The greatest strength of BJJ as a self defense art is not that it is a grappling art, or that it enables the small to overcome the large, but it is that it can be practiced in a realistic environment. Remove meta-jiujitsu and sparring loses much of its depth.
Yet, one can make a convincing argument for staying in the shallows…as long as your goals align with self defense. In What is a blue belt? Rener and Ryron argue that jiu-jitsu sans meta-jiujitsu is safer, promotes student retention, and delivers what most students want.
Ok. So meta-jiujitsu sucks, why not just say it and be done with it?
Because meta-jiujitsu is fun! It creates the puzzle, it is what enables BJJ to be described as physical chess. It allows the art to grow, to reach new audiences, and to retain its students for a lifetime instead of just for a year.
Ultimately BJJ requires both jiu-jitsu and meta-jiujitsu to flourish, but perhaps their is an underlying order of operations that ought to be followed.