Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Learn to Submit Anybody

Position before submission is a common phrase in the jiu-jitsu world but what does it mean? It may not mean exactly what you think. It is a phrase that carries different meaning as you progress in your jiu-jitsu. A lot of things tend open up and carry a new meaning as we mature. That doesn't necessarily mean that what you originally thought it meant was wrong.

If I am talking about position before submission on a beginner level, I am talking about securing and maintaining your core positions like the guard, cross body, mount, back mount, exc.. and then, after wearing your opponent down, look for the submission. It is important in the beginner level that the students learn to use these positions and develop them. If you don't learn your positions, transitions and escapes, than in the long run you are going to pay. You won't be able to gain any sort of dominant position on the ones who are well versed in their positional game. You could break jiu-jitsu down into two basic categories

1. Grappling Game
2. Submission Game

The grappling game includes your take downs, positions, transitions, sweeps, passes and escapes. It has everything to do with your ability to dominate your opponent positionally and wear them down. Your submission game has to do with your ability to submit your opponents. Learning your submissions and being able to set them up and finish them. In the beginning it is important to keep these two groups separate. You need to learn your positions and then learn what submissions work in each position. In the beginning it is more important to learn to get a mount and hold a mount than it is to get a mount and try to submit your opponent. In the end, the liberty to submit your opponents relies completely on your ability to control them. The better you learn to control your opponent, the more ways you will eventually be able to submit them. One of the best things you can do as a beginner is to grapple without submissions frequently.

As an intermediate student position before submission begins to carry on a different meaning. The positions I am talking about here are the arm bar position (Spider Web), omoplata position (Rodeo Control), triangle position (Diamond Guard) ankle lock position, exc.. These positions are submission positions. In order to really develop a good arm bar it is imperative that you learn the arm bar position. In order to drill and develop your arm bar position you should start in the arm bar position...


and then tell your partner to try and escape. As your partner works to escape, your job is only to keep some variation of the arm bar position. Don't try to finish the arm bar but try to keep him from escaping. Eddie Brave calls this the spider web position and you can certainly do more than an arm bar from it. Once you get good at controlling this position you will be able to easily finish an arm bar. Most of the time at the beginner and intermediate level students don't have a very hard time getting to some sort of submission position. The problem is that they are in such a hurry to finish that they leave to much space and their partner not only escapes but usually gets to a better position. Submission position drills will take care of this issue. You should drill it frequently from core submission positions like the ones listed above.

Lastly, when I am speaking with advanced students about position before submission, I am talking about control in general. An advanced student who has perfected their core positions and their submission positions can control people in what would look like a very loose or un-secure position. Advanced students have a much better sense of feel and know how to use every part of their body to control their opponent. They begin to develop positions that a beginner could never use because they haven't developed this awareness of movement yet. If an advanced student took some one's back and sunk in the choke before the hooks it wouldn't matter because he knows how to control his opponent without the hooks. He knows how to position his body to prevent from being thrown off. He also knows how to secure a good squeeze on the choke in order to get a quick tap. It takes many hours of drilling and sparring for a student to develop this ability.

As you continue to mature in your jiu-jitsu you will begin to understand these concepts and will take them to an even deeper level than what I have explained. Turn every situation into a position and learn to master it. This is how you can learn to submit anybody!

The Art of Fighting without Fighting

While on a boat on his way to Han's Tournament as an undercover agent, "The Dragon" Bruce Lee is gathered together with other men who also plan on competing in this tournament of elite fighters. One of the fighters on the boat happens to be a bully and is bullying some of the other fighters. At some point he looks at Bruce and says, "Do I scare you?". Bruce just stares. He then says,"What's your style?". Bruce replies, "I call it the art of fighting without fighting". The bully asks Bruce to show him some and Bruce said that there was not enough room. Bruce then suggests that they take the little safety boat that was attached to the big boat to an Island close by where they could practice. They bully agreed and Bruce began to help him down into the safety boat. Once the bully was in the boat, Bruce untied it and made sure the bully knew he had lost the battle. This was a classic scene from "Enter The Dragon".

I see Jiu-Jitsu as an art where this principle of fighting without fighting can be displayed very well. You can take the techniques of jiu-jitsu and use them in an very rough and aggressive manor or you can take them and use them in a very gentle, patient, methodical manor. To apply the art of fighting without fighting in your every day jiu-jitsu training you must learn to be gentle, patient and methodical.

The best way to practice this concept is to literally go into a rolling session with the mind set of not fighting. The idea is to NOT USE FORCE. That's right. Don't use the force Luke. You Simply let it happen. You are not going to create your own opportunities or situations to attack, you are going to focus only on what's given. Even when you do attack, you are not going to use much energy at all. You are just going to relax and go with the flow or as Rickson Gracie once said, flow with the go.

As spoken about in another blog post, in order to apply any of the techniques you learn in jiu-jitsu you have to have the opportunity first. What I mean is that you have to:

1. Be able to identify the right situation to use a move.

2. Be able to create the right situation to use a move.

An arm bar, for instance, can either be given by your opponent posting on your chest or you may have to work to set it up and trap the arm order to get that opportunity. The art of fighting without fighting relies on you learning to focus on identifying what is given. So often when we roll we are trying to force situations and end up wasting a lot of energy when in fact a different situation or opportunity is all ready given. Be aware and willing to go where your partner leads you.

One of the best ways that I have found to practice this is with your eyes closed. When you close your eyes you tend to FEEL more of what is given rather than trying to create. It is important to explain this to your training partners before you roll. Tell them that you want to practice rolling with your eyes closed and ask them to keep theirs open so they can keep you from bumping your head into anyone or anything. When you roll you will use some energy. You can't just play dead and expect to gain anything. You have to use some energy but the idea is to use as little as possible. Use a partner that is a little less skilled than you and try your best not to fight to keep a grip, hold a position, escape a position or submit your partner. Do not struggle to do anything. Be technical. Be aware, gentle, patient and be methodical. Then when people ask you what style you practice, you too can say, the art of fighting without fighting.


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:

1. Balance
2. Leverage
3. Timing
4. Motion/Direction 
5. Flow/Resistance 

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!

Not IF but HOW

When we are rolling on the mat we often find ourselves in positions or situations that could possibly be the beginning of the end. We all get stuck in bad situations but what is it that gets a fighter out of these bad situations? Better yet, how can they even be turned into a good situation? It all begins with your mind set. If you move into a negative mind set, chances are that this situation will be the beginning of the end. It is important that we learn to keep a positive mind set even in times of trouble. So what does a negative and positive mind set look like?


Negative Mind Set

A negative mind set can manifest in many different ways. What I want to focus on right now is one that doesn't necessarily seem extremely negative but it is certain to lead down the wrong path. Often when someone passes our guard or mounts us or what ever the situation may be, we begin to wonder IF we can get out. 

"Oh man, he feels heavy! I'm not sure if I can get out of this!"
Once we begin to think in this way a downward spiral begins to occur. We begin to focus on what our opponent is going to do instead of what we are supposed to do. If we are not focused on what we are supposed to do, we will not succeed. 

In training there is nothing to worry about. Your training! Your not really competing or defending your life. Training time is for learning, trying new things and establishing your game plan. It is just as important that you learn to train your mind as it is you learn to train your body. You may learn the techniques but do you have the mind set to implement them correctly? There should be no reason to fall in a mental downward spiral when training with your team. There is nothing to worry about. There are only things to be gained during training. Nothing to lose.

Positive Mind Set

A better road to take when stuck in a bad situation is to focus on a few steps that direct you on HOW to get out. 

1. Assume the correct defensive posture. Your posture shouldn't just be defensive but should allow for you to advance your position.  Grip fight!

2. Remind your self that you do know how to get out and that everything is fine. It's important to focus on staying calm mentally. Remind yourself that you have been here many times before and that you know what to do. Start taking the right steps.

3. Begin to pressure your partners base by properly attemping your escapes. Be sure to keep a good defensive posture through out your escape attempts. Remember that it is rare that you will escape with your first attempt. Use combinations to create opportunities.

These are just a few basic steps to think about that will help guide you through a bad situation rather than lead you in a downward spiral. It takes practice. You need to remain calm and know that your are only training. Don't get too excited about whats going on. Don't focus on IF you will get out. Focus on HOW you will get out.

Same principle applied to drills.
To often when people drill they worry about whether they will complete the task of the drill or not. For instance, if we are doing a guard drill where we are trying to pass and our partners are trying to sweep, we focus too much on making sure we pass. It becomes a competition. How fast can I pass or how many times? As the clock ticks you begin to wonder IF you will pass and start to force your movements. My advice is not to focus on IF you pass or not but focus on HOW you pass. Are you passing with technique? Are you using a lot of energy? How are you passing? Don't worry IF you pass or not. Worry about HOW little energy you use. Worry about your technique. It takes some humility to be in someones guard and not accomplish much if you are taking your time and trying not to use a lot of energy. Especially if you knew that if you worked a little harder you could do it. There is a time to work hard but it's not all the time. When you are training to compete you have to get used to the intensity of competition as well as the time limits. When your not competing most of your time should be spent on sharpening technique. That is going to be what makes you better in the long run. It will allow you to use less energy when you do compete.

How to Gain the Most with your Training Partners

If you have read my home page or e-mails you will have gotten a general idea of what I am about to explain. In this blog I am going to go a little deeper into the concept of how to EXCEL QUICKLY in your jiu-jitsu game NO MATTER what LEVEL training partners you have. Generally in Jiu-Jitsu, there are 3 basic levels in comparison to yours.

1. Lesser Skilled
2. Equal Skilled
3. Greater Skilled

When a lesser skilled partner is rolling with a greater skilled partner, realistically, the lesser skilled partner is always practicing defense while the greater skilled partner is working offense. Of course the greater skilled partner can allow the lesser skilled partner to work offense but an allowed offense and an allowed defense will never be the same as that which has to be forced.For instance, I can allow a lesser skilled opponent to be offensive on me and I can learn and gain from that experience but it will never be the same as when my opponent is forcing me to defend. On the same note an offense that is allowed will be the same as an offense that is created and established by enforcing your will on another. 

When two equal skilled partners roll or drill, the offense and defense goes back and forth and the end of the match is unpredictable. This is great for the emotional or mental part of the game. The roller coaster of action often causes a lot of thoughts to cross through your mind as you roll and it helps to mimic how you will feel in competition. This trains you to stay focused no matter what the situation. If you roll with a higher belt it is not as emotional when you get tapped or put in bad situations because it is expected. So in short, 

- Rolling with a greater skilled partner builds your defense
- Rolling with a lesser skilled partner allows you to practice your offense
- Rolling with an equal skilled partner allows you to work both and often creates more of an emotional roller coaster.

Some people say that you should roll with higher levels all the time if you want to get better but I think all three are equally important.

Because this is the natural flow when rolling it is important create drills that can break this natural flow when paired up with unequal leveled partners. Here are some different situations that may occur when training.

Situation # 1
You are lesser skilled and paired with a higher skilled partner.

When it is your turn to pick a drill it would be silly to practice something like mount escapes against a partner who can hold you there all day. They have two options. One is to hold you down all day and the other is to make you work and eventually let you out. Neither one of those options really benefit you. It would be much smarter for you to put the greater skilled opponent in a more vulnerable situation so that you can make them work a littler harder and so that you can engage a little more. A good option might be to start in a submission and try to finish it. You should at least start in a solid offensive position.

Situation # 2 
You are greater skilled and paired with a lesser skilled partner.

As a greater skilled partner you can look at this in two different ways.

1.  Create a scenario with the lesser skilled partner that allows you to work on that specific technique in a live drill. This will give you the ability to relax while focusing on the technique you wish to improve on. If your trying to improve on a new technique it may be very difficult to stay within the parameters of that technique against some who is equal or greater skilled. With a lesser skilled partner you can really take the time to study and enhance your technique even in a live drill. 

2. Limit your options so that you are forced to work harder.
A good example of this might be a guard drill where your lesser skilled partner is trying to pass your guard and you are unable to use your arms. Grab your lapels and tuck your elbows and try to sweep or submit your partner without using your arms while they try to pass using all they have. This will benefit both partners because you will have to work harder to defend and your limitations will allow for you partner to be more active in passing your guard. You can create many drills like this. You could simply roll and only allow for yourself to do one submission. Preferably a complicated one. 

Situation # 3 
You and your partner are equally skilled.

In this situation you can do just about anything because there is always the possibility that you can escape or that you can finish your partner given any situation. One thing that I think is always a good option with equal skilled partners is positional drills. When two opponents are really close in skill it is often hard to establish and maintain really solid positions. So in this situation it is always a good time to practice drills that focus on establishing and maintaining positions.

These are just some brief ideas to get you thinking about how to get the most out of your training partners. These ideas are meant for mainly mixed group sessions such as open mats that allow for some freedom in your training. They are made to help counter what happens naturally when you are paired up with a different level opponent. If you are purposeful in your training you can always gain from ANY training partner and they from YOU.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Base Development

Balance comes in many forms. You can stand on one leg, do a hand stand, balance on a stability ball, ride a unicycle, surf, balance objects on your hands or get trapped in someone X-Guard or De La Riva Guard! Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a handstand. It's important to practice balance in as many forms as you can in order to develop a true sense of balance.

Did you know that one definition for balance is to be in a state of rest when two points are equally distributed over a point of leverage? When I first discovered the idea that Balance = Rest it helped my Jiu-Jitsu TREMENDOUSLY! It's not that you are NOT working. You are always working but eventually you learn to work in a manner that is more subtle, efficient and restful. Maximum results with Minimum effort. This is your goal in jiu-jitsu.

I use this example all the time in class when I am trying to explain core movement in jiu-jitsu so I figured I would go ahead and blog it. When you are grappling it is absolutely necessary that you keep active. You do not want to be over reactive and chaotic but you must always be working. When I use the term "working" I want to be clear that I don't mean burning alot of energy or using a lot of force. What I mean is to keep moving forward, keep pressing toward a goal. Your goal, however, is to do this with minimum exertion. As an example, I say it is like balancing a broom stick on your the palm of your hand. I am sure we have all done this as kids. You take a broom stick or any big stick and vertically place it on your palm. Try to balance the stick and keep it from falling off your palm. You can't use anything other than your palm to balance the stick. At first, you end up running all over the place trying to keep that stick from falling. The reason is that we wait to long to respond to the stick as it begins to lean. This causes us to over react in order to make up for the timing. As you get better at balancing the stick, you are eventually able to stand still and even keep your hand pretty still with out having the stick fall. This is because you are learning to feel the stick and your senses pick up on where and when to move your hand. You also learn not to over react but to be very subtle in your movements. The more subtly you can move your hand the easier it will be to keep the stick balanced. All though it looks like your not working, when you are good at balancing the stick, you are actually working a lot. You are just not over working and using more energy than needed.

This is jiu-jitsu. The gentle art. Always working but only as much as needed. Never over reacting. Never forcing. If you learn to use your hips like you use your hand when you balance a stick you will develop very dominant grappling ability. Your ability to stay active with your hips and use them to control your opponent (as your would control the stick) will allow you to use minimum effort to hold people down, to scramble or to attack.

It is important that we do exercises like balancing a stick that allow us to practice balance and sensitivity. Stability balls are great for learning core balance. Doing hand stands will really help you understand balance and the right type of work ethic. The truth is that when you are balanced you are not working in the sense of burning a lot of energy. When you learn to stick a hand stand it is almost as if some one is holding your feet. They feel locked into place and all though you have to work subtly to keep them there, your not burning a lot of energy. Balance is strength. When you have good balance you feel strong. Just because you can stand on one leg doesn't mean you can do a hand stand. Just because you can do a hand stand it does not mean you can balance a stick. Try it all! Learn to balance as many ways as possible. I GUARANTEE it will BOOST your jiu-jitsu game!

The Art of Grip Fighting in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

While the concept and intent to grip fight goes a long way within itself, there is also an art to grip fighting. If you have read my e-mails you know that my # 1 rule is that when you stop grip fighting, you lose. Plain and simple. The moment you stop grip fighting you will lose the immediate situation at hand. In turn this could cost you the whole match.

Grip fighting can be exhausting. While it can be exhausting on your fore arms I don't even mean so much the physical exhaustion. Grip fighting can be mentally exhausting. You have to stay focused to grip fight. Sometimes I will be grappling with people and they start off putting up a good grip fight but eventually they fade and lose focus. Once that happens they lose.

Having specific systems in place in different positions helps you to be a more efficient grip fighter. Here I am going to show you one way I like to grip fight from the top guard.

You can apply grip fighting strategies like this in every position or situation. I once did a special 90 minute workshop just on grip fighting strategies for my students and it made a HUGE difference in the WHOLE feel and level of their game when I would grapple with them afterward.  If you are not currently focused on the intent of grip fighting and grip fighting strategies, you need to start implementing it NOW!