Make everything as simple as possible but not simpler

That quote is generally attributed to theoretical physicist Albert Einstein. When someone as brilliantly intellectual as Albert Einstein says that simplicity is a good thing, I think the idea is worth looking into and that it may be worth considering applying this concept to all aspects of our lives….. including jiu jitsu.

To come to a mutual understanding of what we’re talking about let’s take a look at how this might apply to something simple that almost all of us use almost every day: A car. There are features such as four-wheel steering that have been around for years but are not widely used. Why? There may be many reasons, but I would suspect that it boils down to the fact that it would be a steep learning curve for most drivers, might be prone to failure, would be difficult and costly to repair, etc. – in short, it would be too complicated. On the other hand, in an effort to make cars easier to repair, easier to operate, and cheaper to build you could start removing many of the features that are currently available. If you started removing blinkers, lights, mirrors, all climate control, etc. I think we could all agree that that would be too simple. In either case the driving experience would not be as good as it could be.

Now let’s talk about jiu jitsu. From my perspective, while we practice jiu-jitsu as a sport, it is at its core a martial art that should enable us to defend ourselves in a fight. Even if you don’t completely agree with my assessment of what jiu jitsu should be, I think the idea of evaluating your game to ensure that it is neither too simple nor too complicated can still be of some benefit to you.

Let’s look first at what elements need to be in place in order for jiu jitsu to not be “too simple”. In my mind, there are some things that must be in place for jiu jitsu to be complete and not too simple. This is not about a list of techniques, but more about having a complete system that allows you to defend yourself (or compete) at all ranges of combat.

  • I believe first of all that you should be able to manage distance and control an opponent on your feet. Greco Roman wrestling may be king in the standing clinch, but a jiu jitsu practitioner should at least have a level of proficiency. Takedown drills and sparring that starts on the feet will help with this. You should be able to determine if the fight goes to the ground or not.
  • If your specialty is ground fighting then you should have more than one reliable method of getting a fight to the ground. Pulling guard is one option, but in a fight in a parking lot or at the beach, might not be the place for guard pulling. If you can take the fight to the ground and immediately be in a dominate position, that might be a good thing. You don’t have to become a judo expert or an Olympic caliber wrestler, but having a decent throw or takedown is, in my mind, essential.
  • You should be able to fight from every position at all ranges on the ground. You don’t have to master the De La Riva Guard, x guard, single leg x guard, etc. but you need some tools for dealing with an opponent who has knocked you down and is attempting to stand over you and punch you or pass your guard. You don’t have to be an expert at closed guard, half guard, butterfly guard…. but you need to have some tools to deal with an opponent who is trying to flatten and crush you. You should have offensive options from all top positions as well as bottom positions. You should have defensive answers from all positions as well. Part of your strategy for dealing with every position and all ranges may include means of transitioning to your strong positions. Disengaging from the fight is also a something you may want to ensure you are capable of. Going from side control to knee on belly to standing and disengaging, or breaking your opponent’s guard to standing and backing away, or using the technical stand-up are all good strategies for disengaging from the fight.
  • Your jiu jitsu should not fall apart if punches are introduced. I’ve come to be of the opinion that you don’t necessarily need to train with punches, but you should at least be aware of them. You can be a sports jiu jitsu specialist and still be aware of which techniques you are good at that are designed specifically for the competition mat and which techniques will save your ass in a fight.
  • Ensuring that all of the above elements are incorporated in your jiu jitsu game will ensure that it is not too simple, but how about the other half of this quote? How do we ensure that it is “as simple as possible”, or not too complicated? Are there certain sport techniques such as inverted guards and flying triangles that don’t belong? I don’t think so. All of the techniques that I see currently being practiced on the competition mats are valuable and legitimate jiu jitsu techniques. However, if you are so obsessed with having the flying armbar, flying triangle, and multiple variations of the berimbolo incorporated in your game that you are neglecting some of the core elements of jiu jitsu then perhaps you’ve allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated. If you are trying to be the resident expert at every variety of guard that can be played and have become a jack of all trades, but master of none…you might have allowed your jiu jitsu to become too complicated.

In conclusion: your jiu jitsu system should be expansive enough to allow you to work at every range from every position, but limited enough to maintain and manage. I believe a good rule of thumb is a good jiu jitus practitioner be proficient at 2-3 moves from each position or range of combat.

Find more articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 196 Nathan Orchard- Grappling Systems, Creativity, Competition, and Much More

Nathan Orchard is a Tenth Planet black belt under Eddie Bravo. You will find Nathan training in his gym in Portland Oregon.

Nathan Orchard talks about:

  • Wrestling as a kid
  • Doing MMA when he was 16 years old
  • His start to Jiu-Jitsu
  • Seeking knowledge over comfort
  • Learning by studying instead of a traditional coach
  • The development of his double under system
  • Closed loop and open loop systems for grappling
  • Watching competitors to develop a game plan
  • Working with a Samuri sword and learning about footwork
  • Advice of not comparing yourself to others
  • How following his desire to draw has benefited his life
  • Why it is important to tollow your passions
  • The Book of Five Rings
  • Jiu-Jitsu broken down into transitions, positions, and submissions
  • Submissions broken down into bars, twists, and compressions
  • His thoughts on when to learn heelhooks
  • How he is able to train defense with lower belts
  • His attitude toward his teammates
  • Taking the role of a servant to his students


Quote of the week: “Practice makes permanent”

Article of the week: BJJ Seminars…. get the most out of them

Roll-a-Thon July 22 at Fox Fitness BJJ












Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Epi 195 SBG Black Belt Leah Taylor

Leah Taylor is a BJJ black belt under Matt Thornton and Travis Davison training at Straight Blast Gym of Montana. Leah is a competitor and coach, she recently took bronze at her weight class at worlds.

We talk about:

  • Her start to martial arts
  • Rolling for the first time with a woman during a competition
  • The mental side of competing
  • Using meditation for get better results on the mat
  • Doing MMA at fusion fight league
  • Dealing with a panic attack while training MMA
  • Teaching women’s self defense classes
  • Non martial arts ideas to help keep women safe
  • Warning signs of a abusive relationship
  • What having a begginer program has done for SBG in Kilispell Montana
  • A beginner class is 50 percent female
  • Dealing with rough training partners
  • When someone should consider competing
  • Her future plans for competing
  • Other competitive sports she has done
  • Why she is always trying to finish the match


Quote of the week: “There is no such thing as a self-made man. You will reach your goals only with the help of others.” — George Shinn

Article of the week: Bronx teacher uses jiu-jitsu teachings to keep kids out of trouble












Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod

Micro Jiu Jitsu

I am not the originator of the phrase or concept of “micro jiu jitsu”, but as I’ve come to understand it, I am a huge proponent. What is micro jiu jitsu as I understand it? In every technique, move, or sequence thereof, there are always one or two small details that everything else hinges upon. Get these details correct and your technique will be unstoppable. Neglect these details and you will either fail all together or be forced to muscle the technique to complete it.

An example of an individual detail that will make or break your chances of succeeding might be the initial cross collar grip when setting up the cross collar choke from closed guard or the scissor sweep. Once you reach for that collar a good opponent will work to break the grip and/or prevent you from improving it. So, developing a method for getting that initial grip deep is crucial. If you use your left hand to pull the collar while sliding your right hand in for the grip, the coordination between your two hands and getting the timing right needs to be refined to the point where it becomes automatic. Once you have the grip, understanding the nuances of the grip (do you curl the wrist? Flare the wrist? Do you grab just the collar or do you grab a handful of extra materiel? etc.), is equally important. Something as simple as this single grip can be explored and improved upon for many years.

A few other examples: If you like the kimura and hip bump sweep then the initial move to dominate and secure your opponent’s arm might be that key detail that everything else hinges on. If you like the armbar from closed guard or the flower sweep (pendulum sweep) then getting your opponent’s elbow across the center line while controlling the arm and moving your hips to create the right angle might be the key detail. I don’t presume to be enough of an expert to identify definitively what the key detail is for every move/technique, but I am sure that each athlete (perhaps with help from a coach or teammate) can identify key details to master based on their favorite go-to moves.

Not only can you improve the rate at which you succeed when executing individual techniques by mastering micro jiu jitsu it can also be the foundation to building your own grappling “system”. I often see people who prefer the cross-collar choke from the guard, knee on belly to kimura from side control, and the armbar from mount. If you like the cross-collar choke from guard, why not also make that your go to move from mount and maybe consider knee on belly to baseball bat choke (similar to a cross collar choke) from side control. You can also use the cross-collar grip from standing for throws or takedowns. That way, you get a little better at one thing (getting that grip and getting it right), and your game gets better from almost every position.

This, to me, is the essence of training “smart”. There’s no way one person can master every technique there is in jiu jitsu…. why not work on the ones that have some basic fundamentals in common and master those fundamentals?

Train hard. Train Smart. Get better.

Joe Thomas

More articles by Joe Thomas here

Epi 194 Steve Maxwell Talks About Fitness, BJJ at 64, Diet, and More

This week we bring you an interview with one of the top fitness coaches in the world and Durty Dozen BJJ Black Belt Steve Maxwell.

We talk about:

  • His start to fitness
  • How Olympic lifts slowed his athletic process
  • Finding success with wrestling
  • Doing BJJ at 64 years old
  • Using less than 60% of your strength while training
  • How to tell if you are using too much strength while rolling
  • The difference between Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and BJJ
  • Body weight exercises vs weights
  • The concept of time under load while working out
  • Avoiding injuries on the mat
  • Traveling and doing BJJ
  • Early training with Royce Gracie
  • Helping your training partners become better teammates
  • Not depending too much on grips
  • The health effects of competitive Jiu-Jitsu
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Some tips he uses to get the most out of his food
  • Exercising while fasting
  • Not eating breakfast
  • The fitness test of a 24 hour fast


Quote of the week: “The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison.” James Cash Penney

Article of the week: The five commandments of the under hook half guard

Jaramie Parrish talks with us about a We Defy Foundation Roll-a-thon at Fox Fitness

Gary’s audio book is called “The Alligator tooth”












The Movie Water Boy was referenced and Gary wanted this link.

Catch us next week for another episode of The BjjBrick Podcast

The BjjBrick Podcast is in iTunesStitcher radio, and Google Play Music for Andriod