Commentary: Jiu-Jitsu Is About…

Had a friend define ‘Jiu-Jitsu’ on his website recently, and thought I’d take a shot at it:

Jiu-Jitsu is about…

Survival (Minimizing Trauma), Leverage (Structure Vs. Strength)…

Darn, not re-editing the above, because realizing all the central themes of Jiu-Jitsu overlap in a way where it’s almost a misnomer to make them seperate and distinctive.

For instance a Survival based strategy is going to be energy Efficient and incorporate Timing and Leverage.

Sensitivity through relaxation on the other hand, is going to help our Timing and energy Efficiency.

So yeah, it’s not about any one principle, but how well things blend together in any given moment.

Lastly, something I haven’t mentioned is Distance, in that you generally want to be either super close or far away from your opponent as middle ranges open you up to counter-attacking Guard Passes, Escapes, and Strikes.

Distance would probably fit into Structure, Leverage, and Survival well.


Chilling For A Bit

Taking a bit of time off blogging to read fiction and dig deeper into other interests, but imagine I’ll be back shortly.

Cheers guys and hope you’re all having a wonderful time on the mat with friends.

Remember it’s not about who’s good, it’s about bringing soul to the session!:

Guard Passing: Adaptive Posture & Understanding Evolution

Reading an ad blurb for a new Pressure Passing DVD series yesterday, noticed it stated the way to shut most Modern Guards is to Pass from the knees…

Coming from an old-school generation that Passed mostly from the knees, it’s interesting to see things come full-circle.  Still, I think distinction between standing and being on knees, as well as one knee via Combat Base are gross over-simplifications.

First, you have to understand the context in which Standing Passing developed:

There are probably a number of factors involved in the evolution of Standing Passing, but I think two of main reasons were to counter the development of an attacking upright Butterfly Guard, and a Western Wrestling influence that favors Mobile Passing. Both approaches are displayed here at the 2003 Abu Dhabi match between Marcelo Garcia and Mike Van Arsdale:

Why were these developments important to consider?  Well, because if a Guard Player is good there are no one-step solutions! =)

For the Modern Passer we have to be adaptive with our posture, changing elevation and penetrating inside, or going around legs accordingly.  Also, offensively, something I just thought about now is faking our intention through elevation change to see if and how well our opponent counters.

Lastly, when it comes to Posture, pay attention to where the head is at in relation to our hips and how that effects your balance through the mat.  This becomes at least twice as tricky when changing elevation, and is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately.  Manage yourself first!

Training: Training For Success

“Little things make big things happen.” ~John Wooden

Something I’ve noticed internally, probably a combination conditioning, old-school Jiu-Jitsu mindset, and lack of know-how is the tendency to make things harder than need be.

Don’t get me wrong, a little challenge is fun and good, but too much challenge and production slows down, eventually grinding to a halt.

Why make things harder?  Well I think it fulfills a craving for drama that is probably as human, and possibly related to sex drive and our competitive nature.  Let’s face it we love a good story, and what’s a good story without drama!? =)

So what’s the problem then?  Well the problem is, in productive terms we want to make things achievable so we can be as successful as possible, carefully building on each success to create momentum over time.

Contrast the above, with me beating this piss out of a strong, athletic white belt in sparring.  Yeah there’s a lot of drama for me for me both ego and endorphin wise, but what’s the person on the receiving end getting out of deal?

What’s suggested instead is building a culture on getting specific things done for specific reasons in an incremental way both measurable and achievable.

In other words, know what you’re trying to build skill-wise and have a method behind it, if only for that session.

In accordance with this, you should be able to tell me what you can do better than you could yesterday (skill), and how you achieved that (method).  If you aren’t measurably better, you probably need to break things down further into smaller chunks.  Not exciting, but effective.

Returning to the white belt metaphor example, we are going to drill instead of spar. If we want to up the intensity and have a bit of fun we can turn that drill into game with parameters set around whatever we’re trying to achieve, but the difference in this scenario is it’s designed for mutual success where we’re taking away specific, intentional benefits for time invested.

Guard Passing: Nullifying Control Elements

A year and half ago I wrote a series of post on Pressure Passes, loosely defined as using your upper body to control your opponents hips, versus Mobile Passes that utilize footwork and distance to go around hips.

Well, Josh Barnett showed everyone including myself that it is in fact possible to make Pressure Passes work against world-class hips, but realized this morning I was asking the wrong questions!


The right questions start with the Guard and the control elements the bottom player has.

Where we got things wrong in Jiu-Jitsu in my opinion is starting our passing strategies with these control elements already in place instead of dissecting each element with the intention of nullifying them.

With the above approach in place, the most efficient Guard Pass is the one that takes advantage of the Guard player over-committing to penetrate our defenses.

In practical terms, this has me evaluating how I’m being controlled in a given Guard scenario and adjusting structure and strategy accordingly.

For instance, if a training partner is able to control my head and generate an escape through hip movement from Half-Guard like my buddy Josh did last week, I probably need to find an alternative Passing strategy that doesn’t concede head control.

Part of the problem is giving up something we’ve had some success with even if it’s structurally weak, not realizing we’ve been able to make it work through a combination of superior timing and our opponents lack of knowledge.

Another related aside is, just because something works in sparring, even against a number of Black Belts or the athletic, genetic freaks doesn’t mean it’s necessarily sound!

Guard Passing: Structural Entry

‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ ~Albert Eintsein

Have been thinking if one allows a bottom player space enough to work a ‘Guard,’ we’re starting from a point of disadvantage.  At least part, if not multiple points of our structure have been compromised.

Along these lines, good Passing structure in theory should shut down a Guard players attempt to connect and create tension with their limbs.

For example, if constantly finding myself getting tangled up with a De La Riva hook I can either study all sorts of ways to pass ‘De La Riva’ Guard, or re-adjust my structure and entry to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Next, with a good structure in place, we can begin Passing.  Otherwise, it’s like trying to win a car race on one or more flat tires instead of taking the time for a pit stop.

Cross-Sides Defense: Alternative Hip Movements

In the real-world, limitation is way more responsible for creativity than the goals we dream up in comfort.

To the present, in the midst of a focus on Cross-Sides bottom right now an injury that prevents hip escapes via shrimping tempted exploration of another subject, but decided to stick with the position by exploring alternative hip movements and applications…

So here you go, alternative hip movements (to standard bridge and shrimp to Guard Recovery) for creating space and/or reversing opponent:

Penduluming for directing energy by Lance Trippett and Kail Bosque @ 1:21-2:20:

Hip Hiesting to reversals by Carlos Machado @ 0:59-2:42:

Walking to create angles from Pedro Sauer @ 0:36-0:48:

Guard Passing: Balance

In re-designing my approach to Guard Passing, something I’ve become cognizant of my core in relationship to the ground:

Are Passes reliant on trapping my opponents legs with upper body a very sound a approach, or can the same objectives be achieved with a good balanced posture, using footwork and structure to pass?

Side note: Can feel when head drifts over legs and hips by how heavy hips are sinking into the mat. Using this ‘grounding’ as waypoint, going to play around with footwork drills.

Training: The Art Of Opening

Probably the most detrimental thing to Jiu-Jitsu growth are wrong mindsets:

Noticed sparring yesterday, not wanting to go for an armlock because I was tired and didn’t want to give up a position I could hold and rest in.

While it’s cool to take a few minutes to catch our breath, from a learning perspective I wasn’t achieving anything by continuing to dominate a position where the knowledge gap was sufficient enough to chill.  At this point was killing the ‘roll’ for both me AND my training partner.

Contrary to the above is keeping a roll alive through fluidity and movement.  From this standpoint there are no ‘misses’ because the goal is creating more and more learning opportunities every single roll.

Secondly, ‘opening’ as it were, creates a much more fluid, watery game while ego driven activity usually results in one-dimensional stiffness and forced speed over time.

Lastly, all the above is much easier said than done when our opponent is trying really hard, but if we can’t keep our cool in the face of tension it doesn’t matter how tricked out our skill-set is because we’re using our tools in the wrong way.

Feeling like a happy beginner today. =)  This is the art of opening.


Training: Using Time More Efficiently

Noticed practicing a hobby outside Jiu-Jitsu yesterday how all over the place I was!

Pretty sure all that was needed was shortening practice time, which has the same effect as budgeting to encourage more surgical buying decisions instead of blowing money on brain farts.

The bigger lesson here is efficiency is probably more structural than emotional. In terms of emotion, sometimes our thoughts are going to be more scattered than at other times, but possibly the worst thing we can do is get more emotional by beating ourselves up over this. =)

So yeah, tweak the structure and the routine, accounting for and noticing diminished focus.