Sunday, February 12, 2012

r/BJJ: Your Jiu Jitsu A-Ha! Moments

r/BJJ is one of my new favorite BJJ communities, and I check it often.  Recently, r/BJJ user RichOftheJungle asked what eureka moments other grapplers had stumbled upon in their training, and the discussion was a good one.  Check it out here.

My post generated a stir, so I thought it would be worth sharing again.  My biggest a-ha moments were:
Never let your opponent establish a dominant grip and make stripping dominant grips your top priority.
Grapple with your bones, not your muscles.
I should have realized that these statements were a bit too simplistic.  I posted an explanation for each a bit later.  On grips:

If your opponent has an underhook, get rid of it. 
If your opponent has a cross collar grip, get rid of it. 
If your opponent has a grip on your pants, get rid of it. 
If you watch top grapplers, much of the match is about setting up grips. Marcelo is my favorite example of this: he will go out of his way to escape an underhook because he knows that many high percentage attacks begin with an underhook (if he is playing butterfly guard and he loses the underhook battle, he will actually through his back flat to the mat to undo the underhook). If someone is grabbing his wrist, he will break the grip to reset the position or use an arm drag to break the grip. 
Everything starts with a grip. Rather than focus on how to escape a guard pass or how to escape a position, look at what grip put you there and look to prevent that grip or escape that grip as soon as its established. This will also lead you to develop grip control, where you are more aware of your grips and setting up dominant grips that protect you from dominant grips.
And on grappling with your bones (which I will likely write about again later):
This principle can be applied in a number of ways, and UncleSkippy provided a pretty good explanation of what I meant. I stole that quote from some rock climbing buddies, actually. In rock climbing, if you are always trying to use your muscles to carry your weight, you will gas 100%. So rather than always trying to pull yourself up with your arms or hold yourself in place with your muscles, it's much better to create a frame with your bones, that way the structure of your body is doing the work, not your muscles. 
Learning to frame and position your body properly can save you a lot of energy and effort and can help you create much more leverage. Once my knee is healed, I'll try to shoot a video that explains the concept in more detail. But for now, here is an example (shameless plug to one of my videos, you've been warned): 
Escaping mount is a challenging prospect, and that video demonstrates how a few key positional changes can dramatically increase the power of a technique. The shrimping technique in particular, where you frame on your opponent's hip or stomach before you shrimp, best demonstrates what I mean by grapple with your bones. You aren't really exerting any more force by placing your arm in this position, but you are using your bones to create a frame that will ultimately enhance your technique. 
Another example: when you are attacking with the arm bar from mount, you are taught to attach your chest to your opponent's elbow when attempting grip breaks. If you create space between your chest and your opponent's arm, you create a situation where your arms are doing all of the work to maintain the position and break the grip. If you connect your chest to the arm, and figure four your arms (almost like you're rear naked choking the elbow joint), you create a structure that is much stronger, far easier to maintain, and that has more potential for generating leverage. Your bones can do most of the work, not your muscles. 
Another example: if you are trying to reguard an opponent that has you in side control, you know that getting to your side gives you the best chance of recovering your position. However, you will probably find your opponent flattening you out every time you attempt to rotate your hips. In this situation, instead of shrimping harder or rolling harder, you should create a frame with your top leg (if you're on your right side, your left leg). Curl your top leg behind you, and dig the ball of your foot into the mat. To make the frame effective, point your top knee toward your opponent, making your top shin parallel to the line of force he will use to flatten you out. By doing this, your frame mitigates his force. As soon as your knee points toward the ceiling, the frame crumbles and you will get flattened out. There is also some detail with what your bottom leg is doing, but I've already written a novel. 
The last point to keep in mind when thinking about grappling with your bones: remember the principle of a lever. Whenever you can make your levers longer, you can exert more force. Attacking with a single leg, don't cup behind the knee. Slide your hands down to your opponent's ankle to lock his leg straight, lengthening your level. Trying to finish an armbar? Choke all the way up to the wrist when you crank. Finishing a knee bar? Control the foot and ankle. 
A lot of this probably sounds obvious, but if you start thinking this way you may find ways to improve your techniques. 
What are your a-ha moments?

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