My youngest kids are girls that are less than two years apart in age. The
older one was not too interested in driving so delayed taking drivers education
and getting her permit. By the time she did start the process her younger sister
was almost ready as well. This resulted in me doing a lot of driving and teaching
for almost a year straight. Whether they were driving, or I was behind the wheel,
every time we were on the road it was a lesson. I would say “we’re a few blocks
from the Jr. High and it’s 3:00 we should be keeping an eye out for kids, right?” or
“this is the first rain in a few weeks, be aware the roads could be slick” or “can
you see the mirrors on that 18-wheeler in front of us? If not, we’re following too
close” etc. etc. etc. These are all just basic safe driving practices that experienced
drivers follow without thinking about. But after a years’ worth of conscienceless
thinking about and actively discussing these issues I felt like a safer driver.
I’ve been driving for over 30 years with 2 tickets and zero accidents in the
last 20. After all that time of safe driving, if spending some time consciously
focusing on the basic principles of safe driving can make me a better driver, I’m
willing to bet the same logic applies to jiu jitsu? If you spend some time focusing
on the basic principles of good jiu jitsu your techniques will get tighter, you will
become more efficient, your defense will improve….in short, your grappling will
It’s tempting to make a list of “5 basic principles and concepts…..”, but the
reality is every person will be different. If your top game is weak or not
progressing the fundamentals you choose to focus on will be different than they
would be if your go-to guard game needed some improvement.
Focusing on the basics in general will help your jiu jitsu. Focusing on specific
basics that are directly relevant to your game will help you even more. In my
mind, this is an example of a time that paying your instructor for a private lesson,
will be worth every penny you spend. Tell your instructor you would like to
improve upon the foundation of your game – that you would like to make sure
your jiu jitsu is fundamentally sound and ask him for a private lesson, so you can
roll, and he can assess your game and make suggestions.
In conclusion, no matter how long you have been training jiu jitsu, there is
always value in getting back to the basics. No amount of slick moves and fancy
techniques will ever make up for a game that is not fundamentally sound. It’s
never too late to get back to the basics.
These two things may seem to be the same, but they are actually significantly different. In this short article you will find out the difference and learn why I am such a fan of one over the other.
Let’s say we are rolling, and I have side control. You are doing a pretty good job to build a frame and you try to escape. Then your arm relaxes a bit and I isolate it and take the armbar. My critique would be that your should keep your arms in a safe position. That is good advice, and I hope you can put it to use next time someone has you in side control and tries to put your arm in danger.
Let’s look at the same scenario and use correction instead of critique. Now where were we? Oh yeah. Your arm relaxes a bit and I isolate it and start to take the armbar. I know you feel something bad is headed your way. Then I say “pause for a second, can you feel your arm is out of position?” You agree. “Let’s rewind and see what happened, to get you to this spot.” It turns out that as you attempting to get your legs in to recover guard your arm became a bit too loose “Let’s do it again but this time as you are working your legs in also pay attention to your arm, especially your left one.”
With the correction you get to try to fix the problem in the moment. You get to feel it working and make adjustments to your game in a more live setting.
If you tell me what mistakes I made after I tap, thanks for the critique. If you have me pause and rewind a few steps to show me my mistakes, thanks for the correction. They are both good learning tools but the correction allows me to practice what you are telling me. The correction allows both my body and mind to experience the practice together, and this greatly helps with long term retention.
Think of giving someone a critique as giving them a tip, and giving someone a correction as giving them a short pertinent lesson.
The words “pause” and “rewind” are becoming some the my best coaching words while I roll.
Are you trying a new guard and it’s not working? Are your opponents and training partners having little trouble breaking and passing? There are many reasons this could be happening. If you have found yourself in this position, take a look at the five things below and see if they help.
Five things that can kill your guard:
Poor posture. From every position, top or bottom, there are things you can do to have a strong posture and structure and things you can do that make it weak. With a weak posture and structure, you will not be able to absorb or exert force. In other words, you won’t be able to keep your opponent from putting you on your back and you won’t be able to create space and set up attacks. To learn more about strong and weak structures and posture go hereNic Gregoriades-Strong Structure This is a key element to playing any guard and something we can all improve on.
Not recognizing when your opponent is no longer actually in your guard. When your opponent is in your guard their objective is, obviously, to pass/improve their position. You could say there are three steps in this process: They are in your guard, they are passing your guard, and they have passed your guard. Another way to look at this is that there is a zone that your opponents are in for playing guard, and when they are no longer in that zone, you are no longer playing guard. For more on this idea go here: Jason Scully-Guard Retention Recognizing early when your opponent is out of your guard zone will not only give you the opportunity to prevent the pass and regain your guard — you will also see opportunities to catch submissions in transition as well as sweeps or reversals.
Not knowing the other side of the equation well enough. If you have learned to defend and pass a particular guard well, then when you are playing that guard you will have a pretty good idea what your opponent is trying to do based on the grips they choose, their posture, base, pressure etc. This allows you to anticipate and counter a move almost before they try and make it. If you are not familiar with the other side of the equation, then your opponent will have this same advantage.
Not staying busy enough. ABA…always be attacking. As a general rule, if you’re positionally sparring with an equally skilled opponent and your only objective is to hold them in your guard, it might take some time, but they will eventually pass. On the other hand, if you are looking for sweeps and submissions and are attacking relentlessly, your opponent is likely to either tire or make a mistake. When this happens the sweep or finish will present itself.
Missing some key details of the specific guard you are playing. The first four points are general ideas/concepts that apply to every guard. If you play multiple guards well, it’s likely you already understand these concepts. If that’s you, and you’re struggling with a new or different guard you’re trying, it’s possible you are simply missing some key details regarding grips, points of control, or the specific techniques from that guard. Ask your instructors and senior teammates for advice.
The great thing about jiu-jitsu is that often times what will fix one problem will fix many others as well. Look at the first four points of this article. If you apply these concepts to your spider guard for improvement there, you will likely see improvement in all other aspects of your game as well. So, if your guard game is a struggle, try looking at these concepts and then see how the rest of your game improves as well.
Thanks to Nic Gregoriades and Jason Scully for providing quality content to help illustrate the points made in this article.
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.