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  • Arms too short for Darce Choke? Try the Japanese Necktie

    In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), the Darce Choke is a great submission from just about any position where you can trap the opponent's head and arm, especially if you have long arms. But if you're like me, you can't make the Darce Choke work reliably, mostly due to the short length of your arms relative to the width of the opponent's shoulders. Enter the Japanese Necktie Choke, a great alternative using the same opportunities and set up as the Darce. Understanding the Darce Choke The Darce Choke is a popular submission that has versatile entries from positions in front of, on the side of, or underneath the opponent. The key components of this choke are as follows: Your arm fed deep under his armpit and connected to your other arm around his neck Block his head from aligning straight with his spine Tighten the other side of the neck Drive a part of your arm into his carotid area on his neck. Darce entry from Turtle Position A common entry for the Darce Choke is from your opponent's turtle position. You can feed your arm under his nearside armpit and connect to your other hand in a gable grip on the other side of his head. This grip is called the "vice grip" where you have very good control of the opponent's head posture. The vice grip is an excellent way to force the head down using your top forearm while turning your opponent to his side using your bottom forearm, an action that is commonly referred to as "breaking down the opponent." Once the opponent is forced onto his side, you release the vice grip to feed your bottom arm further into his armpit while using your other hand to push his head further into his chest. Then, connect your hand to your bicep to lock in a figure-four arm trap of his arm and head. To tighten the choke, sprawl your body weight while lifting your elbow under his armpit. Some people choose to hook the opponent's leg or step over his hip before sprawling their body weight. Japanese Necktie Choke The Japanese Necktie Choke uses the same key components as the Darce Choke. The choke is initiated similarly to the Darce by feeding your arm deep into his armpit. However, the mechanisms used to lock in the submission hold are slightly different. Instead of using the figure-four configuration of your arms to lock in the submission, you use the vice grip, a leg hook, and your belly. Instead of releasing the vice grip in favor or a bicep grip, you drive your wrist into his neck with the vice grip intact. There is no need to release the vice grip if your wrist is already touching the carotid area. However, if you leave the vice grip intact, you will find it difficult to to push his head into the choke and tighten the other side of his neck. This is why you would need to hook his leg and then fall forward onto your shoulder to cover the back of his head with your belly. When you fall forward and you feel your wrist moved away from his neck, you can quickly change the grip to an S grip which will allow you a greater degree of movement to drive your wrist into his neck. Finish the choke by pulling your wrist towards your chest while pushing your chest into his head. Video Tutorial on Japanese Necktie Choke Watch my tutorial on the executing the Japanese Necktie from top position of turtle and as a counter against the single leg takedown:

  • Tying the BJJ Belt: A Ritual of Tradition and Respect

    Introduction In the world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), tying the belt is more than a practical necessity; it's a ritual steeped in tradition, respect, and a profound connection to the art. The process of securing the belt around the gi symbolizes a practitioner's journey, from a novice to a seasoned martial artist. Let's explore the significance of tying the BJJ belt and the proper techniques to embrace this integral aspect of the martial arts experience. The Symbolism Behind the Belt The color of a BJJ belt signifies a practitioner's level of proficiency and experience. White belts represent beginners, while black belts denote mastery. The progression through colors signifies an individual's growth, both in skill and character, within the BJJ community. Tying the BJJ belt is a moment of reflection and respect for the art, the instructor, and fellow practitioners. It embodies the humility required to learn and the gratitude towards those who guide the journey. The act is a fusion of tradition and modernity, connecting the practitioner to the rich history of martial arts. Tying the BJJ Belt — Step by Step I've experimented with different ways of tying the belt over the years, but I found that the most secure way was also the best looking way, in my opinion. Here is how I tie my belt. Prepare your Gi top Ensure your left lapel is closed over your right lapel. This is the way all BJJ gi tops were meant to be worn, so don't look like a noob by closing it the other way around. Positioning Mark a quarter of the belt length and pin it just below the navel so that the short end is the stationary end. Wrap Around Wrap the long end twice around your waist until the free part of the moving end is about the length of the stationary end. Make sure the belt is aligned so that only the top layer is visible all around your waist. 1st Cross Over Take the end of the top layer and feed it under both layers from the bottom side and pull it through to the top side. At this point you now have a top-side end and a bottom-side end. Ensure the both ends are roughly even in length with the bottom end slightly longer than the top end. 2nd Cross Over Most belt-tying methods agree up to this point. This is the step where things vary among the different methods. Take the top-side end and feed it between the top and bottom belt layers, leaving it loosely pulled through. 3rd Cross Over Take the bottom-side end and feed it through the loose loop created from the 2nd cross over, but thread it between the top and bottom belt layers. Tighten the Knot Pull both ends until the knot becomes flat and tight. The ends should hang down evenly, creating a balanced and polished appearance. Wear it below the navel Push your belt downwards below the navel so that the belt fits snugly around your waist. Don't look like the noob who wears his belt above the navel. You will often see experienced practitioners pushing their belt below their navel whenever they get the chance. Symbolic Tug Before stepping onto the mat, give a subtle tug to the belt. This final act symbolizes readiness for training, acknowledging the significance of the journey ahead. Video of Step-by-Step Instructions Conclusion Tying the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu belt is a simple yet profound act that bridges the gap between tradition and modernity. It symbolizes the practitioner's commitment to learning, respect for the art, and acknowledgment of their progress. As BJJ continues to grow in popularity, the essence of this age-old ritual serves as a reminder that the journey is as important as the destination, and every knot tied is a step towards mastery and personal growth.

  • Unlocking the Enigma: The 50/50 Position in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), known for its dynamic and ever-evolving nature, introduces practitioners to a myriad of positions, each with its own strategic advantages and challenges. Among these, 50/50 stands out as an enigmatic and often debated position. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of 50/50, its origins, applications, and the strategic chess match that unfolds within its unique framework. Understanding the Basics of 50/50 The 50/50 position is a symmetrical leg entanglement where both practitioners' legs are intertwined, forming a neutral and balanced structure. In this position, each person has one leg between the legs of the other. When the foot of the inside leg of each person is poking out to the nearside hip of the opponent, that position is defined as 50/50. If the foot position for the inside leg of either athlete is anywhere else, the position would no longer be considered 50/50. In the 50/50 position, at least one person is seated. That means both athletes can be seated, or one person can be standing or kneeling. If one person is standing or kneeling, he is considered to have the top position in 50/50 while the seated person has the 50/50 guard. A 50/50 sweep occurs when the person with the 50/50 guard causes the person in the top position to fall and then immediately gets up onto his knees or feet to reverse the roles. Controversial Position In general, once the athletes get into the 50/50 position, it is difficult for either to exit if at least one person thinks he can exit with a slight advantange over the other. When both athletes are well-versed in the position, it is not difficult to foil the 50/50 escape of the other. It is also not difficult to defend the submission attempts of the other. The position is notorious for creating a strategic stalemate. It demands patience, as both practitioners seek an opportunity to capitalize on their opponent's movements. Grips, weight distribution, and timing play crucial roles in gaining control and setting up successful attacks. Because the 50/50 position can stall a BJJ match for quite some time, many observers consider it boring to watch. You will often hear the tournament audience utter sounds of disappointment when the competitors of a black belt match enter the 50/50 position. Many BJJ athletes will tell you they abhor the position and will avoid getting into it. On the other hand, athletes who find opporunity to eek out an advantange from the position will likely tell you it's a game within a game. The position allows the grappling community to continue creating strategies based on it. The rising popularity of the leg locks over the past decade has induced a much broader dimension to the strategies that can be derived. The more you know about the position, and the more strategies you've developed for it, the higher the chance you will gain an advantage over your opponent. Origins and Evolution The 50/50 guard position in BJJ began to gain prominence in tournament matches during the mid-2000s. While it's challenging to pinpoint an exact date, the position's rise coincided with the evolution of leg lock strategies and the exploration of new guard variations in the BJJ competitive landscape. One of the early practitioners associated with popularizing the 50/50 guard is Ryan Hall, an accomplished BJJ black belt and mixed martial artist. Hall's innovative approach to leg locks and guard play, including the 50/50 guard, started to make waves in the mid-2000s. His success with these techniques garnered attention within the BJJ community, and other practitioners began to incorporate the 50/50 guard into their arsenal. Today, the 50/50 guard has become a strategic battleground, where skilled practitioners navigate the complexities to gain an advantage over their opponents. Offensive and Defensive Applications Leg Lock Opportunities The 50/50 position provides ample opportunities for both attackers and defenders to explore leg lock submissions, especially in a no-gi match where there are fewer chances of upper body control. All leg lock experts will have in-depth knowledge of the 50/50 position as it provides a platform for submissions such as ankle locks, heel hooks, toe holds, and knee bars. The most basic defense against leg locks while in 50/50 is to simply cross your feet. Although an effective defense that you can apply immediately, crossing the feet alone does little to stop a strategy for separating your feet to set up subsequent leg attacks. It also slows down your 50/50 escape by preventing your hips from turning. For this reason, practitioners of the leg lock game must be proficient in both attacking and defending against leg locks from within the 50/50 position. Sweeping Techniques While in the 50/50 guard, sweep variations become key offensive tools. By off-balancing the opponent, a practitioner can create openings for sweeps that can lead to a dominant position or secure points in a tournament setting. The basic 50/50 sweep is facilitated by turning your hips and knees to the outside to buckle the knee of the top person so that they fall backwards. After getting the top person to fall over, you complete the sweep by getting up into the standing or kneeling position. The unremarkable thing about the basic sweep is that the opponent can easily do the exact same sweep on you because your legs are entangled in a way that makes it difficult escape the position immediately after the sweep. Some competitors use the basic 50/50 sweep as part of their strategy to accrue points towards the end of the match. Some adjust the basic sweep with grips and use of the free leg to exit 50/50 immediately after the sweep and set up a guard pass. Back Takes Taking the back from the crab ride position (when you have both feet hooked behind the opponent's knees) is a common attack from 50/50. You can get into the crab ride when the person in the top position stands up or gets up onto one knee, giving the bottom player room to hook his free foot onto the opponent's far thigh from the back side. That same hook then becomes one half of the crab ride position, so all you would need to get to the back is to angle your hips behind his hips by slipping your inside knee behind his inside knee. However, as with all attacks and escapes from 50/50, freeing your inside knee is a lot easier said than done when your opponent knows what you're doing. All he has to do to thwart your back take is to hold on tightly to your inside knee so that you cannot slip it behind his knee. And here we are again, stuck in 50/50! You're going to have to find ways to distract him long enough to free your inside knee to get to his back. Conclusion The 50/50 guard is a position that epitomizes the intricate and strategic nature of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Whether seen as a defensive puzzle or an offensive opportunity, its complexity challenges practitioners to delve into the nuances of leg entanglements and strategic maneuvering. As BJJ continues to evolve, so too will the understanding and applications of the 50/50 position, making it a fascinating aspect of the art for both competitors and enthusiasts alike. For more techniques, check out videos on the 50/50 position on my instructional channel. #5050 #5050backtake #5050sweep #5050basics

  • The Significance of Drilling Techniques and Positional Sparring in BJJ

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a dynamic martial art that demands a combination of technical finesse, strategic thinking, and physical prowess. As practitioners strive to advance their skills on the mat, two crucial training components emerge as game-changers: drilling techniques and positional sparring. These methods, often overlooked by some, play a pivotal role in refining technique, enhancing muscle memory, and elevating overall performance in the sport. Mastering the Art of Repetition: Drilling Techniques Precision and Efficiency through Repetition Drilling techniques involve repetitively practicing specific movements, transitions, and submissions. This process is akin to honing a skill until it becomes second nature. By breaking down complex maneuvers into smaller, manageable components, practitioners can focus on perfecting each element before integrating them seamlessly into their overall game. Practitioners can fine-tune their techniques, making them more efficient and effective. By isolating specific aspects of a move and addressing details such as grip placement, alignment, weight distribution, and leverage, practitioners can refine their execution. This attention to detail can make a significant difference when the pressure is on during live rolling. Take for example the basic triangle choke from guard. There are so many details from this technique that it's very difficult for someone to remember all the details in a live roll if he only watched an instructor show it in class or on a video. Beginners who have just learned the steps of entering the triangle hold and finishing the choke will find it hard to commit the details to memory if they don't take time to drill it. One important step that beginners often miss is the angling of the hips before locking down the submission hold. I find that if they incorporate the angling of the hips in drilling, they will not forget to do that when they attempt the triangle choke in a roll. For the majority of people, rote learning helps to commit the steps into memory so that a beginner does not waste time trying to recall the details in a live roll or match. Building Muscle Memory One of the most significant advantages of drilling is the development of muscle memory. Through consistent repetition, the body becomes accustomed to executing techniques instinctively. This muscle memory not only enhances the fluidity of movement but also enables practitioners to react promptly and effectively during live sparring sessions. As the saying goes in BJJ, "You don't rise to the occasion; you fall to your level of training." For example, proper execution of the triangle choke during a live roll is much higher if you have drilled the basic entry many times on both sides. You wouldn't have to remember which side to cross your leg, because you'd instinctively lock your legs from seeing which arm is trapped. It would have been hard to gain that sort of muscle memory from attempting triangles only from live rolling. Argument Against Drilling Some instructors drilling is a waste of time and advocate for a conceptual approach to Jiu-Jitsu, where the emphasis is on understanding principles and concepts rather than memorizing specific techniques. They believe that a conceptual approach leads to a more versatile and adaptable skill set, and they may argue that drilling techniques in isolation limits the effectiveness of the training. These perspectives are not universal because many instructors incorporate drilling into their training programs. In fact, many find drilling can be extremely beneficial when done with purpose, understanding, and in conjunction with positional sparring and live rolling. Positional Sparring: Bridging the Gap Between Drills and Live Rolling Contextualizing Techniques While drilling lays the foundation, positional sparring provides the bridge between isolated technique practice and live rolling scenarios. Positional sparring involves starting from a specific position or situation, allowing practitioners to apply their techniques in a controlled yet dynamic setting. This context helps solidify the applicability of learned techniques in realistic situations. Simulating Realistic Scenarios BJJ matches are unpredictable, and positional sparring introduces an element of unpredictability into training. It allows practitioners to simulate scenarios they may encounter during live rolling, fostering adaptability and creativity in their approach. This type of training is particularly useful for refining both offensive and defensive strategies. It provides the opportunity for a student to deal with scenarios that would otherwise be hard to come by in a live roll. The mechanics of a perfect triangle choke can be memorized during drilling, but what happens when your opponent begins to stack your hips over your head while applying a choke on your neck? It's hardly the ideal condition, but it's one of many realistic reactions for an opponent. An example of positional sparring that would help you deal with that kind of pressure would be to start with a loose triangle hold on your partner. Your instructor may set the goals of the engagement to be for you to finish the choke or for him to escape the triangle hold. It would be an exercise that would benefit both you and your training partner. Developing Tactical Awareness Positional sparring is invaluable for developing tactical awareness and problem-solving skills. By repeatedly starting in disadvantageous positions or specific scenarios, practitioners learn to navigate challenges strategically. This type of training hones the ability to escape unfavorable positions, capitalize on opponents' mistakes, and adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of a BJJ match. In our example of positional sparring for the triangle choke, the entire class can benefit from this exercise by rotating roles and switching partners at the conclusion of each round. Progressing through the rounds fosters an understanding of reactions from various body types and diverse rolling styles. This exercise effectively prepares individuals to handle opponents employing different defensive strategies such as stacking, backing away, or stepping over the head while defending against the triangle choke. Furthermore, it equips participants to evade offensive tactics employed by those attempting to execute the choke. It would be difficult to develop tactical awareness for the triangle choke during a full roll, if you had only drilled the triangle choke under perfect conditions. Balancing Act: Incorporating Drills and Positional Sparring in Training A well-rounded BJJ training regimen strikes a balance between drilling techniques and engaging in positional sparring. Combining these elements creates a synergy that accelerates skill development and overall progress. It's not about choosing one over the other but recognizing their complementary roles in the journey toward mastery. Structured Training Sessions Effective training sessions often include a combination of drilling specific techniques, positional sparring from various positions, and live rolling. Structuring sessions in this way provides a comprehensive approach to skill development, ensuring that practitioners refine their techniques, test them in specific scenarios, and then apply them in the unpredictable environment of live rolling. Typically, my classes follow a structured format consisting of 15 minutes devoted to instruction on 2-3 techniques, followed by 30 minutes of drilling and positional sparring. Subsequently, there is a 5-minute review period, culminating in a final 30 minutes of live rolling. This class format aligns with the widely adopted structure in many BJJ academies. Additionally, once a month, I conduct an entire class exclusively focused on positional sparring exercises, centering around themes covered in the preceding weeks. I have found this format to be highly effective in providing students with optimal opportunities to integrate techniques into both their offensive and defensive repertoire. Conclusion In conclusion, the synergy between drilling techniques and positional sparring forms the backbone of a well-rounded and effective BJJ training regimen. The adaptability cultivated through drilling and positional sparring extends beyond the mat. Practitioners develop a growth mindset, embracing challenges as opportunities for improvement. This mindset not only fuels progress in BJJ but also translates to valuable life skills such as problem-solving, resilience, and continuous learning. .

  • Why Judo Expertise Might Not Secure Victory in BJJ

    Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) share historical roots and fundamental principles, yet their evolution has led them down distinct paths (read the historical account of how BJJ developed). While both martial arts emphasize throws and groundwork, assuming that mastering Judo guarantees success in BJJ tournaments can be a misconception. In this article, we'll explore the differences between Judo and BJJ and why proficiency in one does not necessarily translate to victory in the other. Stand-Up Emphasis in Judo Judo places a significant emphasis on stand-up techniques, with matches often won through powerful throws and takedowns. The dynamic and explosive nature of Judo throws is tailored for a sport where the contest starts from a standing position. In Judo, the techniques for set up and execution of a throw or takedown can be quite intricate. You can spend several years refining your timing and abilities to create the opportunities for them, years that could have been spent working your ground control. Ground Control in BJJ BJJ, on the other hand, is characterized by its focus on ground grappling. While throws and takedowns can be helpful at the beginning of the match, the game frequently evolves into a ground-based strategy, with an emphasis on submissions, sweeps, and positional control. You can spend years developing your guard retention or passing game. Success in BJJ tournaments often depends on the ability to navigate the complexities of groundwork. Rule Variations The rules governing Judo and BJJ competitions differ significantly. Judo awards immediate victory with a clean throw, whereas BJJ typically requires sustained control or submission to win. For example, in a Judo match, executing an "ippon," a throw that lands the opponent on their back with force and control, will instantly win you the match. However, in a BJJ match, you can execute the most beautiful ippon and still lose because your opponent escapes your ground control and subsequently sweeps you to a mounted position. Understanding the nuances of each sport's ruleset is crucial for success in their respective competitions. Grip Fighting vs. Guard Pulling Judo places a strong emphasis on grip fighting and breaking an opponent's balance, crucial for executing throws. In BJJ, it's not uncommon for practitioners to opt for guard pulling, a strategic move to take the fight to the ground and engage in their preferred style of grappling. The Judo competitor who thinks he can win a BJJ match by getting a takedown and then stand the match back up for another takedown is sadly mistaken. Once the game is taken to the ground, either by your takedown, or by your opponent's guard pull, there is no obligation for your opponent to stand back up. In fact, in a BJJ match you are required to continue engaging on the ground after the takedown, unless your opponent chooses to stand up again. If he chooses to stay on the ground and recover his guard, you are required to engage in his guard. Groundwork Strategy BJJ's intricate ground game demands a nuanced approach to positional control and submission attempts. Judo groundwork, while sometimes effective in getting to a dominant position because of the time constraints allowed for it in Judo tournament, may not fully prepare a practitioner for the subtleties of BJJ's guard, sweeps, and submissions. In a BJJ match, the competitors are never reset to standing unless someone is penalized, or the competitors fall out of bounds in the heat of an exchange. BJJ matches run 5-10 minutes, depending on the belt level. So, even if you manage to get a dominant position after a beautiful takedown, this is an awful long time to maintain a dominant position without being penalized for stalling. You have to know how to navigate the guard, pass the guard, and effectively set up submissions from within the guard. Perhaps at the white belt level, a Judo practitioner can dominate their division at BJJ tournaments, solely based on takedowns. For this reason, most BJJ tournaments do not allow Judo black belts to compete in the white belt division. White belts generally don't know enough groundwork to effectively use the guard. However, things change dramatically in matches at the blue, purple, brown, and black belt levels. Is Cross-Training in Judo Worth It for BJJ? The short answer is no. In my years of training BJJ with Judo practitioners, I've concluded that experienced Judo practictioners are most successful if they completely transition to BJJ, rather than continue to develop in both martial arts. The new BJJ student who comes from a Judo background clearly has an advantange over someone completely new to both sports. There are overlapping techniques and principles that can help you excel in BJJ in the first year. However, the specificity of each art demands a commitment to understanding and practicing the techniques of that art. If your training time is split between the two disciplines, you will not excel in BJJ as fast as someone who has the same amount of training time but only trains in BJJ. Conclusion In conclusion, while Judo and BJJ share a common lineage, their specialized focuses make them distinct martial arts. The assumption that proficiency in Judo guarantees success in BJJ tournaments oversimplifies the intricate nature of both disciplines. While a solid foundation in Judo provides valuable skills, success in BJJ tournaments necessitates a dedicated effort to understand the nuances of ground grappling, positional control, and submissions. Cross-training and an open-minded approach are essential for practitioners seeking success in the diverse and dynamic world of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.

  • The Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: From Self-Defense to Global Sport

    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), rooted in Japanese jiu jitsu and Judo, has undergone a remarkable transformation from its origins as a self-defense system to emerging as a widely popular global sport. While its practical applications for self-defense remain undeniable, the sport has evolved into a competitive discipline that attracts enthusiasts worldwide. Elements of the Evolution of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Historical Roots Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu finds its roots in Japanese martial arts, particularly Judo. Mitsuyo Maeda, a Judo master, introduced the art to Brazil in the early 20th century, where it evolved and adapted to suit the needs of smaller, weaker individuals facing larger opponents. Click here for a historical account and timeline of how the martial art developed. Self-Defense Foundations Initially, as with any martial art, BJJ gained prominence for its effectiveness in self-defense situations. The development of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Brazil was centered on its use for self-defense. The art focuses on ground fighting, emphasizing leverage and technique to overcome larger adversaries. The use of joint locks and chokeholds allows practitioners to neutralize threats without relying on striking. The Rise of Sport BJJ As BJJ gained recognition, it underwent a shift from primarily self-defense to a competitive sport. This transition was marked by the creation of tournaments and competitions, most notably the establishment of the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) in 1994. This shift encouraged practitioners to refine their techniques and engage in friendly but intense competitions. BJJ was further catapulted into the worldwide stage with the rise in popularity of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Global Popularity The sport's popularity skyrocketed as it transcended cultural boundaries. BJJ academies sprouted around the globe, and practitioners from diverse backgrounds embraced the art. This global acceptance led to an exchange of techniques and philosophies, further enriching the sport. With the Internet, new concepts and ideas in BJJ can rapidly spread among a worldwide community within a matter for hours, where it would have taken months watching mail-order videos or observing matches at competitions. The sport today is far more sophisticated thanks to the many contributions provided by the Internet. Sporting Culture BJJ tournaments, with their point systems and weight classes, created a structured environment for competition. This shift in focus from self-defense to sport encouraged practitioners to specialize in certain aspects of the art, honing their skills for success in tournaments. Media Exposure The sport's evolution was further propelled by increased media exposure. Major competitions, such as the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship (commonly known as Mundials), became widely accessible through live streaming and television broadcasts. The growth of social media also played a crucial role in promoting BJJ as a competitive and engaging sport. Professionalization The emergence of professional BJJ competitions and super-fights featuring renowned athletes elevated the sport's status. Competitors, once driven by passion alone, now have the opportunity to make a career out of their love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Not only can an professional athlete make a living promoting seminars and instructional videos, but anyone who truly enjoy sharing their knowledge of the sport can also make a career out of teaching others at an academy. Conclusion While Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu originated as a self-defense system, its evolution into a global sport has broadened its appeal and impact. The shift towards competitive aspects has not diminished its effectiveness for self-defense but has, instead, contributed to its growth and popularity. BJJ's journey from the mats of Brazil to the international stage showcases its adaptability and the enduring spirit of its practitioners worldwide. Whether for self-defense or sport, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu continues to captivate and inspire a diverse community of martial artists.

  • Glossary of Jiu Jitsu Terms

    How to describe the jiu jitsu terms commonly used in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) Jiu-Jitsu practitioners often take for granted that a person with whom they discuss their sport understands the terms that they use in conversation. I always find it awkward trying to describe my sport to people who have little reference to it. For example, when a new beginner student does a trial class at my academy, I ensure they have a reference to certain terms that are often used so that they understand the coaching and what they are observing during a roll. Usually, I begin by calling it a game between two people. That way the audience knows exactly that there are goals to all this hugging nonsense (see this article for details on the game theory of BJJ). These are good ways to describes some of the most common BJJ or jiu jitsu terms. Some are probably beyond what the newcomer needs, but are practical explanations to help the novice practictioner better understand the sport. Some terms seem obvious but in fact need concise explanation for them to make sense to a newbie. Back Control. This position can be entered by either top or bottom player. The person whose chest is secured on his opponent’s back is considered to have back control. The person whose back is being controlled would be considered dominated. Bottom Position. The player who is seated or on his back or on his arms and knees with his back being controlled. The player with the bottom position is in one of two states: (1) having guard or (2) not having guard. Closed Guard. When the guard player has his legs wrapped around the top player’s hips with the feet crossed behind the opponent’s back. This is considered a dominant position for guard players because the top player’s leg cannot impede submission hold. However, many rule sets do not define the closed guard as a dominant position that merits points because of the degree of movement that a top player has from within the closed guard. Dominant Position. A position that allows a player to easily advance to a submission hold. A top player having a dominant position denies the bottom player from having guard. A bottom player having a dominant position has back control or closed guard control of the top player. In most rule sets, the four dominant positions that a player can achieve for scoring purposes are (1) side control, (2) north south, (3) mount, and (4) back control. Double Guard Pull. When both players simultaneously attempt to assume the bottom position. This occurs only when the top and bottom positions become vacant. The referee gives the players about 30 seconds to determine the top and bottom positions before he resets the players to their feet (usually with a penalty given to both players). Gi. The traditional uniform worn by each BJJ player. It comprises a heavy cotton jacket, reinforced drawstring pants, and a belt which communicates rank. The phrase “Gi” also indicates the grappling format of a BJJ match, where the gi uniform must be worn by both players. Guard. This is the ability to use the legs to prevent the opponent from advancing to a dominant position (see definition of “dominant position”). The main reason to have this ability is to prevent the top player from establishing a submission hold. In this state, the bottom player is known as the “guard player,” which is usually the desired for the bottom player. When a bottom player does not have the ability to use his legs to impede the top player from establishing a dominant position, he is known to “not have guard”. Heel Hook. A submission technique that rotates the heel in one direction while pushing the knee on the same leg in the opposite direction. Knee reaping is illegal in most BJJ matches because of the severity of the knee injuries that it can cause. Knee Reaping. When a player’s leg entanglement can imminently turn the opponent’s knee towards the center line, while trapping the opponent’s foot on the same leg. Knee reaping is illegal in most BJJ matches because of the severity of the knee injuries that it can cause. Leg Entanglement. The condition where a player’s leg or legs are entwined with his opponent’s leg or legs. There are multiple configurations of the entwinement. Both players can be seated, or one player can be standing while the other one be seated. Mount. This position can be entered only by the top player. The top player is sitting on the torso of the bottom player, with his hips below both armpits of the bottom player without having the bottom player’s feet or knees impeding. The person in the bottom position would be considered dominated. No-Gi. Grappling format without the traditional gi uniform where no grips are allowed using any clothing. Matches in the No-Gi format normally means each player  wears a rash guard and shorts. The allowed garment for a match is dictated by the rule set. North South. This position can be entered only by the top player. The top player has chest to chest control from the bottom player’s head position without having the bottom player’s feet or knees impeding. The person in the bottom position would be considered dominated. Passing Guard. The act of positioning your body entirely above the opponent’s hips and below the head. This is achieved by the top player. Passing guard score points only if the top player establishes a dominant position for a qualifying period of time (normally 3 seconds) Pulling Guard. The act of assuming the bottom position with guard. This can be done only at the start of restart of a BJJ match when the top and bottom positions have not yet been determined. For a player to pull guard, he needs to be connected to his opponent by a grip, held by either player, prior to sitting or lying down on the mat. The requirement of a grip prior to assuming the bottom position is to provide an opportunity for the opponent to perform a take down. Rolling. Training match in BJJ where there is no referee and no scoring. This is normally done in a BJJ class setting but can occur anytime and anywhere when two BJJ practitioners want to train. The training match is normally referred to as a “roll.” The match is run for a fixed period (usually 5 minutes), regardless of how many submissions are achieved. The match normally starts with both players on their knees, but the players can pre-determine the starting positions. Usually, the match commences when each player slaps the other player’s hand and they bump their fists together. The positions resets after a submission, and the match restarts after each reset until the end of the match time. There is no declared winner in a roll because it is intended to be practice of techniques and strategies in a competitive setting instead of in a drilling session. Scoring is normally not tracked by anyone, but players who are preparing for competition matches may want to self-track or ask someone watching the roll to keep score. Side Control. This position can be entered only by the top player. The top player has chest to chest control on one side of bottom player without having the bottom player’s feet or knees impeding. The person in the bottom position would be considered dominated. Sparring. See “Rolling.” Submission. The forcing of an opponent to yield defeat before the end of the scheduled match duration. The player yielding defeat is known to have been “submitted”. The player forcing the early defeat is known to have “applied the submission” or “submitted his opponent.” Submission Hold. When a player frames his arms and legs around his opponent in a way that is likely to prevent the opponent from impeding his ability to win the match by a submission. Sweep. When a guard player intentionally puts the top player into a seated or lying down position and then the guard player immediately gets onto his knees or feet. A sweep reverses the assignment of the top and bottom positions of the players. The player who performs the sweep must have guard at the time he reverses the assignment. There is normally a qualifying period of holding the reversal (about 3 seconds) before the reversal is established and the bottom player becomes the top player. A bottom player who does the same thing but without first having guard does not perform a sweep. Take-Down. The act of forcing a player into the bottom position, so that the player who performs a take down can assume the top position. A take-down can be done any time the top and bottom positions have become vacant. Tap out. To lightly tap somewhere multiple times in a manner that allows the opponent to become aware of a declaration of defeat. A player can produce the taps on his body, on the opponent’s body, or on the mat. Other ways of tapping out include the spoken word “tap” or any verbal indication of pain. Top Position. The player with the top position is in one of two states: (1) Within his opponent’s guard. This position means the bottom player can prevent the top player from achieving a dominant position. (2) Past his opponent’s guard. This position means the bottom player does not have the ability to prevent the top player from achieving a dominant position.

  • BJJ Etiquette, Prohibited Actions, and Jerk Moves

    Written and unwritten rules of engagement on the Jiu Jitsu mats BJJ Etiquette BJJ etiquette on the training mats is a set of largely unwritten rules in the Jiu Jitsu world. Although you won't get kicked off the mats for violating them, but many people will frown upon it if you do. This type of knowledge is passed down from student to student by just watching how other people interact on the mats, regardless of the academy. Here are some of the things that I now expect of my students because I've finally written them down at my academy: Be on time for class, even for the warm ups. Be clean by bath or shower before a training session Show up to training on time unless you had unexpected delays beyond your control Wear a Gi uniform that is clean and not worn in previous training since washing. Slap and bump hands before each roll Ensure rolling partner is not hurt by surrounding people or objects Ensure surrounding people are not hurt by your roll Thank your partner after each roll or drilling session While watching other people roll, ensure they do not bump into each other Before training with a partner, wipe down all your sweat Bring your own water bottle and towel to training Check into class upon arrival at the front desk or using your membership app Bowing out and shaking hands with everyone in class at the end of class You may have noticed I didn't put down the old-school rule pertaining to a student not asking for a roll from a higher-rank student. I'm inclined to think that this rule hinders the progression of the lower and upper ranked students, so I never instill it at my academy. Prohibited Actions Prohibited actions are there for everyone's safety and learning experience on the mats. It makes sense for these types of rules to be written down at your academy. Each academy has their own set of prohibited actions. Here are the prohibited actions on the BJJ mats at my academy: Striking of any kind Not letting go of a submission hold once your rolling partner indicates his submission Grabbing individual fingers or toes of partner Jabbing your fingers into your partner Eye gouging Biting Hair pulling Slamming partner into floor or against wall Wearing jewelry or watches Wearing makeup Wearing shoes or jandals on the mat (except wrestling boots) Being barefoot off the mat areas Not wearing a shirt for gi or no-gi training Not wearing shorts over spats for no-gi training (males only) Wearing revealing shirt or shorts for no-gi training Wearing singlet during no-gi class Wearing clothes with protruding hard bits Purposefully being disruptive to others’ learning experience Not addressing your rolling partner’s safety once you realize he is injured or unconscious Jerk Moves Jerk moves (also known as "dick moves") are harder to qualify than prohibited moves, so they fall under this category. Some of these moves are just annoying to witness. Here is a list of what I consider to be jerk moves at my academy: Applying force to submissions that aren't properly on Applying submissions too quickly to give your opponent time to tap Driving elbows or knees into partner Using painful pressure points to solicit a submission (neck, groin, kneecaps, temples, etc) Covering nose or mouth or eyes with your hand Teaching techniques to classmates without being asked to do so (especially for the white-belt professors) Using high pain tolerance to avoid tapping from a strong submission hold Applying advanced leglock techniques (including knee reaping) on lower ranks without his permission before roll Rolling without awareness of neighboring classmates, mat borders, or surrounding dangers Pinning your rolling partner for long periods without advancing your position or allowing him to escape Purposefully using your strength or weight advantage to dominate a weaker person Moving explosively without technique during drilling or light roll Using full resistance during drilling without being instructed to do so Being completely limp during drilling or rolling without any resistance Not communicating location of your injuries prior to, or during, a roll and then complain that you got injured there Pretending to strike partner after gaining a dominant position Making sexual comments about BJJ positions Shouting negative commentary during anyone’s roll Intentionally not doing a technique as taught by the instructor during the class Coaching your rolling partner through a technique during a roll without his request Coaching teammates during their rolls without their request Doing cardio taps when tired during a roll Talking to classmate while instructor is addressing the entire class Asking instructor complex questions that do not relate to the topic being taught during class time Cursing loudly on the mat Striking up a conversation with your rolling partner during the roll Retaliating because someone refuses to roll with you Training with others while you’re sick Training while you’re dirty or wearing a dirty gi #bjjetiquette #jiujitsuetiquette #bjjtrainingrules

  • Understanding Objectives in BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Game Theory)

    The BJJ Game Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) is a contact sport where two players compete against each other in a manner that is like the game of chess. Although it is a contact sport, there is no striking involved, and winning a match relies on factors that are parallel to the factors in chess. Applying wedges, leverage, and weight distribution using parts of the human body in BJJ is akin to applying the same concepts using chess pieces on the chessboard. At the novice level of the BJJ game, a player often wins by having more athleticism, more knowledge of techniques, and better instincts in exploiting mistakes. Similarly, in novice levels of chess, a player wins by having more knowledge of techniques and better instincts for exploiting mistakes. However, at advanced levels in BJJ, the ways of winning at the novice levels are harder to come by because the players are approximately equal in athleticism and technical knowledge, and they tend to make very few mistakes. Thus, like in chess at advanced levels, winning in BJJ at advanced levels requires well-played strategies in the opening game, middle game, and end game. It's recommended that you have this article on the glossary of jiu jitsu terms open while you are reading this article. Primary and Secondary Goals The primary goal of each BJJ player is to get the opponent to declare a submission, just as a chess player aims to put his opponent into “checkmate”. The most prevalent way for a BJJ player to indicate his defeat is to do something called tap out. When a player cannot continue the match because he becomes unconscious due to the application of a submission, the referee will declare a submission on behalf of that player. Once a submission is declared, the match ceases and the winning player must immediately let go of any submission hold. As a secondary goal, each BJJ player aims to earn more points than his opponent in case the match timer runs out and the match ends without an early defeat (by submission or disqualification). Throughout the match, the referee awards points to a player for specific actions that progress the game in his favor. The player with the most points wins if the match ends with no submission. If both players are tied in points at the end of the match, then either the referee decides the winner, or the match goes into overtime, depending on the rule set used for the match. Importance of Positions in BJJ Game Theory Establishing Top and Bottom Positions A BJJ match can progress once both players’ positions are established. There are two main positions in a BJJ match, top position and bottom position. A player can assume only one of these positions at a time. Only one player can have top position, and only one player can have bottom position. A player can actively attempt to assume a position, but he is not guaranteed his desired position if the other player wants the same position. As soon as one player establishes bottom position (either voluntarily or by being forced there by the other player), the other player assumes the top position by default. Awarding Points based on Top and Bottom Positions The only way for either player to score points is for the players to establish top and bottom positions. Therefore, it is very important (and strategic) for each player to know what position he has so he can predict how many points he can score. Before awarding points to a player, the referee must know which position that player had at the time of the point-scoring action. A player’s position determines which of his actions will score points and how many points will be awarded. The referee is responsible for tracking which player has which position so that he can accurately award points. This means that the players’ positions are very important to the referee in determining the winner if there is no submission achieved. Using Dominant Positions to Advance A player with a dominant position allows him to easily progress to a submission hold, because it is achieved by passing the opponent’s guard. A dominant position can be entered from either bottom or top players. A player who achieves a dominant position can be awarded points, depending on the rule set. Progressing in the Bottom Position For the bottom player to progress, he can: Achieve Guard. If the bottom player is under the top player’s dominant position, he can attempt to establish or re-establish his guard. Although achieving guard will give a bottom player a higher chance of submitting his opponent or scoring points, the action of achieving guard itself usually does not score any points because it is considered a defensive action. Reverse the positions. If the bottom player has guard at the time of the reversal, he is considered to have performed a sweep, and points are awarded in most rule sets. If the bottom player does not have guard at the time of the reversal, he usually receives no points. No matter how many times a bottom player gets onto his knees, or how long he stays on his knees, he is still considered the bottom player if his opponent has not been seated. Submit the top player. The bottom player can achieve a submission, which ends the match. Although it is more common for a guard player to be able to submit the top player from within his guard, the bottom player without guard can also submit the top player. Reset the positions. If the bottom player chooses to stand up onto his feet and his opponent also stands onto his feet, and both remain standing for 3 seconds or more, the positions become vacant where neither player has top or bottom. Progressing in the Top Position For the top player to progress, he can: Pass the bottom player’s guard. It is difficult for a top player to submit the bottom player when the bottom player has guard. Thus, the top player usually attempts to pass the guard. Submit the bottom player. The top player has an easier time submitting the bottom player once he has passed the bottom player’s guard. The top player can also attempt to submit the bottom player from within the guard, although submissions under these conditions are uncommon. Yield top position. If the top player sits down onto the mat and allows the bottom player to come onto his knees or feet, he is yielding the top position. If the top player has not yet passed the bottom player’s guard at the time he sat down, and he allows the bottom player to quickly assume top position, a sweep occurs, and the new top player will be awarded points for the sweep. No matter how many times or how long a top player sits down, he is still considered the top player until his opponent gets up from the seated position onto his knees or feet to establish the top position. When positions have not been determined When both players are reset to standing, the top and bottom positions are not determined. This happens on 3 occasions: At the start of a match when both players are facing each other on their feet. The top and bottom positions are established only when one player pulls guard or a player performs a take-down on the other player. The top and bottom positions are not determined when both simultaneously sit down to assume bottom position, which is known as double guard pull. When the bottom player stands up onto one or both feet (usually for a minimum of 3 seconds). After a referee reset when both players were ordered to stand up after a time out during the match. A submission is hard to achieve when both players are standing, or when both players are on their knees. Also, points cannot be awarded unless the positions have been determined. Thus, for the game to progress from standing, the players need to establish their roles either by pulling guard or by taking down the opponent. Importance of Positions in Training Matches In a BJJ class where mat space is too limited for standup scuffles, BJJ practitioners often start on their knees instead of on their feet. Training in a practice BJJ match is often known as rolling or sparring. During a roll, the primary goal varies for each player, depending on what he is working on within his training regimen (e.g., developing a submission technique, refining strategies, developing a sequence, etc.). In any case, players should get in the habit of realizing who has what position at any point during the roll to help them understand what’s required to progress the game. In BJJ classes, instead of rolling, students are often asked to play the game of “sweep or pass.” This is where the players’ positions are predetermined, and no submissions are allowed. When the option of a submission is taken away from the game, then the only actions that will progress the game are for the bottom player to sweep the top player, or for the top player to pass the guard of the bottom player. The game of “sweep or pass” helps to develop the BJJ practitioner’s skills in getting to the submission hold, instead of focusing on submission techniques. Rule sets without points (Submission-only rules) There are many rule sets that do not award points, so the position of either player does not directly determine the winner if there is no submission. In this case, the positions only matter strategically for setting up a submission, and neither player is rewarded or penalized for achieving a dominant position. In many Submission-only rules sets, the only way to win is to submit your opponent. Both players lose if there is no submission, which encourages the players to actively pursue submissions regardless of their position. Some Submission-only rule sets allow for the referee to determine the winner if there is no submission. This can result in a player’s position mattering, because his ability to aggressively pursue submissions usually depends on his position. Also, sometimes the referee selects a winner simply based on how long a player remains in a dominant position. Leg Entanglements A popular type of rule set for No-Gi BJJ matches is one that favors battles of leg entanglements. This type of rule set allows for knee reaping9 and heel hooks. For No-Gi matches where the players tend to be more advanced, knee reaping and heel hooks add more attacking options but require more understanding of how to navigate leg entanglements. Adding knee reaping and heel hooks induce battles that are centered more around strategies for leg entanglements than around strategies for sweeping and passing the guard. Maintaining a submission hold while in a leg entanglement is usually achieved by a seated player, regardless of his assigned position of top or bottom. Quite often when the legs are entangled, both top and bottom players end up in the seated position. If the match does not use points, the top and bottom positions don’t matter because both players in a leg entanglement have opportunities to submit his opponent, and the player who has the better strategy for leg entanglement often gets the submission. If the match uses points, the top and bottom positions matter only if there is no submission by the end of the match. Conclusion In conclusion, BJJ is generally a game where the players vie for a position that prevents the legs of the other player from impeding access to a submission hold. Although the primary goal of a match is to achieve a submission, it matters greatly if a player can prevent his opponent from using the legs to impede a submission hold. The top player usually needs to pass the legs of the bottom player to achieve a submission. Thus, the main goal of the top player who is not in a dominant position is to pass guard of the bottom player so that he can secure a dominant position. The bottom player who has guard can easily use his legs to prevent the top player from getting a submission, while having easy access to submission holds of his own. In essence, the guard player can be considered to have passed the guard of the top player by the nature of having guard from the bottom position. This is why it is common for bottom players who have guard to get submissions. A player normally prefers either the top or bottom position when it comes to executing submissions. If a player who prefers the top position ends up being in the bottom position, it is common for him to attempt to sweep the top player, then pass the guard to set up his attacks. If a player who prefers the guard position ends up in the top position, it is common for him to attempt to pass the guard then yield the top position before setting up his submissions. Some players prefer submissions from the leg entanglement, so it does not matter to him whether he plays top or bottom position because he can be seated in a leg entanglement from either top or bottom position. Thus, the standard BJJ game theory still apply when knee reaping and heel hooks are added to the rule set because the game is still about preventing the legs of the other player from impeding access to a submission hold. However, submission techniques with knee reaping and heel hooks allowed are abundant while the legs are still entangled, whereas submission holds where knee reaping and heel hooks are not allowed usually require the legs of the players not be entangled. #bjjgametheory #jiutjitsugame #bjjcompetitiontheory

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