Archive for the ‘Jiu-Jitsu Philosiphy’ Category

Re-inventing the wheel?

October 16, 2011

I recently received an email adverstising a soon to be released DVD set.

The theme behind this set is techniques for ‘defeating larger, stronger opponents.’  There are a few other products designed for older grapplers that fall into this category too.

I’m thinking to myself, this is like an offensive football instructional advertising plays to set up and score touchdowns… 

Is there Jiu-Jitsu out there not geared for the small, old, and weak?  While probably 99.8% unintentional (these products aren’t free), I think things like this come from BJJ not being very competitive as a whole compared to other domains like chess where fundamentals are well established, and people know how to practice.

Even the most innovative football or chess coaches rarely come up with something new.  Rather, only after thousands of hours of intensive fundamental and foundational training do they combine old elements in new and inventive ways.  Rickson for example, cites his BJJ as essentially Helio’s Jiu-Jitsu philosiphy and techniques adapted to himself. 

In terms of practice, re-discovering chess when there are well established grandmasters and probably thousands of tried and true resources available is the training equivalent of a civil war re-enactment.  It’s fine so long as you don’t mistake the re-enactment for actual productive action taking place in a live combat situation.

And if you stumble across something new and novel that’s completely cool, but like BJJ fundamentals, a position is only as good as its effectiveness in carrying out a prescribed intention. 

From this perspective, a move an instructor spoon feeds a student step by tedious step isn’t better than something ‘discovered.’  Rather it’s about how effectively it gets the job done.

Related Rickson Gracie interview:


Rickson interview link

July 22, 2011

The wisdom in the following interview is worth hundreds of hours of privates.  Why?  Because these approaches are hardly taught anymore.  Yes, some people, some of the time, talk about fundamentals, but how many people talk about dealing with some one with 50 lbs. + on you when tired?  How well does your technique work then?

Rickson is a dying breed.

Watch it, learn it, live it:

Roger Gracie quote on patience

July 9, 2011

Roger Gracie question and answer on posture and patience from

Question: “Your elegant posture makes it look almost like an English sport, although it’s called Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  It reveals a lot of coolness and patience during fights, a lot different from the more agitated Jiu-Jitsu that we see a lot of these days.  Does that posture help you defend?

Answer:  “Patience is the key to Jiu-Jitsu.  I like the metaphor about the guy that is drowning.  If he starts to flap his arms and legs, he is going to lose oxygen quicker and won’t think straight.  To swim like that will make him sink to the bottom, but if he is calm he can come to surface easily.  The same applies to Jiu-Jitsu.  If the guy that is being attacked starts to move randomly trying to escape, he may simply be moving to adjust the position for his opponent, to tighten the move.” (falling deeper into the position)

Why is Jiu-Jitsu the ‘gentle art?’

July 1, 2011

…because a small, weak person isn’t going to power out of things. 

They make up for it by being patient, sensitive, and mechanically proficient enough to take advantage of openings as they happen.

Offensively, I’ve yet to grapple 130 lb. person who made me cry from their pressure.  Gravity and physics aren’t behind them. 

Again the small and weak have to rely on fluid transitioning and mechanics as well as patience for magic moments, instead of forcing them.  Force of course sapping precious energy.

Calming down can increase your cardio almost as much as one of these babies, which coincidentally is my coach’s all time favorite device along shake weight for upper body work:


Awareness vs. Mechanics

June 29, 2011

The most important jiu-jitsu principle is taking what the person in front of you gives you. 

The mechanics of a move, posture, or position are designed to support awareness based principles.  Without awareness of momentum and energy in real-time I don’t care how good your mechanics are, your doing jiu-jitsu moves not jiu-jitsu. 

A pitfall of intermediate and advanced levels is you can force things on lesser experienced grapplers that seasoned veterans and people with size, speed, and strength will nullify or take advantage of.

I did a web search to reference the following quote that has always stuck with me to no avail before Chris’s comment below revealed it came out of Saulo Ribeiro’s ‘Jiu-Jitsu Revolution’ DVDs :

“There is no proper position without the proper time.”

Pain based strategy

May 10, 2011

The problem with strategies based on pain tolerance is that they don’t work well for a smaller grappler. 

A 120 lbs. female grapplers’ shin-bone against the side of my face is probably going to be an annoyance, while mine against hers will probably make her want to quit BJJ. 

So #1 it’s not a viable strategy for my step-mom.  If anything this type of behavior is going to escalate a situation against an aggressive and intent attacker.  Taking things or creating opportunities through force and pressure is a big man’s game.

Also, some people have  high tolerances for pain and/or won’t tap or move on principle.

A last point is, who wants to train with some one who it hurts to roll with multiple times a week over a period of years?

Like I’ve said, you get back what you give, so the least of what you’ll get is pain. 

More than likely though, what I’ve seen over time is worse still: 

No one wants to be your training partner very long.

Any yes, you can make these people into wimps, but at the end of the day you still don’t have people you want to train with.

Training positions versus moves

April 11, 2011

My friend Garrett brought up a good point the other day in saying he tried isolating moves during sparring before figuring out it didn’t work that well.  He has since settled in on isolating positions with much more success.

The reason why moves such as ‘taking the back, or ‘armlocks’ don’t fly well in practice is your coming from the mentality of forcing positions.

Against a big, strong, powerful opponent this mindset will wear you out quickly; and the people with skill-books will scoop the main course off your plate because your too focused on the desert tray.

Jiu-jitsu is about directing and funneling energy.

Think about how an engineer would approach getting the maximum amount of hydro-electricity out a river…

He isn’t going to think in terms of what he wants to do, his favorite ways of approaching things, and/or what comes naturally to him.  All his focus is on the river and how he can most effectively make it work towards the objective.

Getting lost in the romance of moves, positions, styles, instructors, teams, associations, and lineages might feel good, but in the end this doesn’t have anything to do with  jiu-jitsu.

Using BJJ technique

March 27, 2011

People often get so focused on positions, moves, and postures they forget (or were never taught) the core issue is not the move itself, but the idea and thinking behind the move.

If you center attention on the idea, you can make virtually anything adapt and work for you.

Going deeper, to what end does one use these ideas?

I used to think BJJ was a series of tools you dominated an opponent with.  In other words, using it to become a better caveman. ;o)

These days I think of BJJ techniques as tools which help us make use of our innate sensibility and tactile awareness.

From this perspective you’re not dominating energy, rather your blending with it for moments in time.

Techniques then are examples of scenarios where you effectively hitch a ride, or in Rickson’s immortal words:  “Flow(ing) with go.”

Technical Jiu-Jitsu

March 18, 2011

Jiu-jitsu to me is a way of approaching things.

I was thinking today that for me to consider a BJJ technique excellent, it should work equally well when one is exhausted verus fresh.

Can you play your game (or even a game for that matter) when your tired?

Remember that BJJ is about how you approach things.  Moves, positions, techniques, and postures are echoes of this approach.

Sometimes I struggle to get this across because often people are taught BJJ as a collection of moves, and I imagine it’s difficult to make a leap from concrete to abstract.

My teacher’s game is always changing, but the principles (harnessing momentum and unbreakable posture) are always the same.

This took me a long time to wrap my head around.

This is where I think Rickson is coming from when he says you can’t learn BJJ from books or tapes.  In some ways for him I think it’s about being in the moment where thought and movement are one.

When not to move

March 9, 2011

I heard Rener Gracie say something so key yesterday:

‘Knowing when not to move is more important than knowing when to move.”


Because if your moving unnecessarily, all your accomplishing is wearing yourself out.

It goes back to the John Wooden quote of activity without achievement.

Exhaustion is perhaps the worst submission to be caught in, especially when you don’t get anything done in the process.

Rule number #1:  Don’t submit yourself.

Strive to understand the context of a move.  There is a timing element to every position, especially escapes.