Principle vs. Technique
Jiu-Jitsu is probably one of the most technical martial arts on the planet. The more you pay attention to detail and master your technique the more efficient you will be on the mat. Although Jiu-Jitsu is so well known for it's technical effectiveness there are many other factors which come into play. While technique plays a huge role we can EXCEL our game TREMENDOUSLY if we enhance our overall fitness, muscle memory, mental health/stability, spirituality and understanding of Jiu-Jitsu principles. I would like to focus in on the understanding of Jiu-Jitsu principles in this article. Although the title and essence of this article is "Technique vs Principle" I will also explain why they go hand in hand.
What is Technique?
To have technique is to have a certain skill or ability to perform a specific task. We can look at technique from two different perspectives.
1. One can have a lot of techniques.
2. One can have a lot of technique.
In Jiu-Jitsu, the one who has a lot of "techniques" has numerous ways to take down, control, sweep and submit his opponent from each position. He is like a walking Jiu-Jitsu Encyclopedia.
The one who has a lot of "technique" in Jiu-Jitsu may or may not have a lot of "techniques" but in either case is very masterful in his performance.
What is a Principle?
The word principle can take on different meanings. When I use the word in this article I am referring to the law and understanding of how things work. The concept of understanding how things work in Jiu-Jitsu could be broken into these 5 areas:
Ex: Basic Principle of Balance - The more points of balance a man has, the stronger his base will be.
Unless your this guy at least!
This is a basic principle of balance but when you apply it to your take downs, positions and sweeps in Jiu-Jitsu you become much stronger. When I am on top controlling my opponent I want at least 2 points of balance at all times. If I can have 3 or 4 than it's even better. If I am on the bottom of the guard I want to focus on eliminating my opponents points of balance to sweep him. With a proper understanding of how these concepts work, good technique can manifest naturally.
So which is greater, technique or principle?
As stated in the beginning, one can have a lot of techniques and another can have a lot of technique. There are some grapplers who have an enormous amount technical knowledge. They can give you over 10 set techniques from any position at any given time. They have been taught techniques and have repeated them over and over again and have developed good muscle memory to execute those techniques swiftly without thought while on the mat. Yet when you ask them why they do something a particular way, they don't really have an answer. They may even get defensive about it. You might call this type of grappler, a "Book Smart Grappler". We all know plenty of kids who go to school and get straight A's because they are very book smart. They learned and memorized the answers but when you ask them a question that wasn't in the book they just stare at you with a blank look on their face.
There are also grapplers who don't have such a wide range of set techniques but have a real in depth understanding of the techniques they know. This grappler may not have learned and memorized all the answers in the book but if you ask him a question he doesn't know he could probably still come up with a really good answer. This is the "Common Sense Grappler". If you ask him a question concerning a situation that he has no specific technique for, he can give you and explain his answer in great detail because of his understanding of how things work.
The Book Smart Grappler is a very effective grappler in that he has technique after technique to fall back on when his opponent does this or that. He has answers for almost every situation and his body uses the techniques he has trained automatically. The Common Sense Grappler may or may not have this vast knowledge of techniques but truly understands and focuses on the principles of Jiu-Jitsu and is also a very effective grappler because the techniques he does use are almost unstoppable. He has such a great understanding of how to use his body to manipulate yours that you feel like your wrestling with an immovable force. The Common Sense Grappler understands how to shut down your game and pursue theirs. This grappler also has the ability to adapt and create techniques on the fly.
So which one is better? This question is to general to really have a decisive answer. I can not simply say one is greater than the other. Good technique must include principle and an understanding of principle must lead to good technique. The difference is that you can have someone who has good technique which must include good principle but they may not necessarily focus on understanding the various principles of Jiu-Jitsu. They have been taught techniques and have repeated them over and over again. They have learned the techniques very well but may not ever have studied the principles of those techniques.
In the end you can have good technique without a detailed understanding of how things work but you can't have a detailed understanding of how things work and not in time have good technique. Applied principle always leads to effective technique. This is the difference between learning technique and studying it. It is not that one is greater than the other because in a sense you can't have one without the other. However, if you focus on understanding the principles of Jiu-Jitsu, the technique's you do know will be very pure and effective. Not only that but you will have the ability to create and express techniques in a way that is inspiring to others. To me, that is true art. My hope is to have a lot of technical techniques. To be a common sense grappler with book smarts!