Analysis Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
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Part One – The Use of Space and Weight
by Roy Harris
The foundation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is built on the correct use of space and weight. When these two components are used correctly, the amount of effort you’ll expend to effect your techniques will be minimized. When used incorrectly, you will still be able to effect your techniques. However, the amount of energy you’ll expend to effect the same technique will sometimes increase substantially.
First, let’s discuss the correct use of space:
When you find yourself in a superior position, you will need to close the distance (minimize the space) between your body and your opponent’s body. For example, when you are in the side mount position (on top), envelope (wrap yourself around) the opponent’s upper torso with your forearms and upper torso like a wet towel would envelope a basketball. By decreasing the amount of space between your upper torso and his, it will be more difficult for him to push you off of him. Why? Because he will find it difficult to locate a platform to push off of, as well as gain the correct angle to effectively apply pressure to your body. (i.e. when your opponent cannot use the heel of his hands or the lower third of his elbows to push with, he will not be able to push with leverage – especially when your body is so close to his.)
Now, let’s look at a similar situation (but with a different twist). Let’s say you are side mounted on top of your opponent. However, this time, your body is stiff like a board. While you may be able to hold him down, the amount of effort you will expend will increase substantially! Why? Because you will be giving your opponent more space to push your weight off of his chest. Where? At the neck and at the hips. If your body is stiff, your head will be elevated up off the ground and so will your hips. So, if your body is more relaxed and you make more of an effort to envelope your opponent’s body, you will decrease the space between your upper torso and his and thereby decrease the amount of leverage he will gain over your body. However, the opposite is true. If your body is stiff like a board of wood, your head will elevate and so will your help. And, you will increase the opponent’s leverage over your body.
Do you see how decreasing the space between your body and your opponent’s body will help you to hold him down with less effort?
Let’s talk about the use of space from an inferior position:
If you allow your opponent to wrap his body around your body from the side mount position, you will find it extremely difficult to escape his hold down. Why? You know the answer: not enough space to push. Let me give you an example. Have you ever lifted weights? Have you ever performed the bench press without someone spotting you? Have you ever “GONE FOR” (tried to push very hard on) that last repetition on the bench press when you were near muscular failure and got the bar stuck on your chest? Go ahead admit it! We’ve all been there.
Now, what made it so difficult was not so much the weight as it was its relationship between the bar and your chest. As soon as you asked for help and someone lifted the bar off of your chest, you felt relief. However, think for a moment what just took place. You had weight on your chest that you could not push off. It was so close your chest that you did not feel you had the leverage nor the strength to push off. But when someone lifted the weight a foot or so off of your chest, you found it very easy to push the weight off. Well, the same is true in Jiu-Jitsu.
When you find yourself in an inferior position, you must create space between your upper torso and your opponent’s upper torso. To create space, you will need to maintain posture AT ALL TIMES, as well as move your hips and head away from the center of your opponent’s body. Escaping involves three simple movements:
1. Precise limb placement for leveraged pushing, which is a good way to describe posture,
2. Good vertical and lateral hip movement, and
3. Good head and shoulder movement away from the opponent’s centerline.
So, do you see how important it is to create space from inferior positions? Also, do you see how important posture is for escaping? Too many beginning students overlook posture. Many of them have the “Yeah, I got it” mentality and then struggle with side mount escapes for one to two years.
The bottom line is this: Use space to your advantage regardless of whether you are on top of your opponent or caught underneath him!
Now, this same concept not only applies to the positional game (escapes and control), but it also applies to submissions (chokes, locks and strangulations). For example, when you apply a straight arm lock from the side mount position, it will be important to decrease the amount of space between your buttocks and his shoulder, your heel and his head, your other heel and his armpit, your knees, your forearm and his elbow, as well as his wrist and your sternum. I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the idea. Decreasing the amount of space between your body and your opponent’s body is paramount to good Jiu Jitsu.
One last comment about the use of space:
When you find yourself in a superior position, there should be a certain amount of tightness to your game: A tightness that makes the opponent feel uncomfortable. This tightness is caused by your position, the driving power of your legs and the pulling power of your arms and back. The uncomfortable feeling should persuade your opponent to push on your body with his arms. When he does, it will give you an opportunity to lock his arm or apply pressure to his neck – a very nice benefit!
Now, let’s discuss the correct use of weight:
In a superior position, you will need to keep your weight centered on the opponent’s upper torso. To keep your weight centered on his upper torso, you will need to have a driving or maintaining force (your feet) and at least one anchoring tool (one forearm) buried deep under the opponent’sbody. You will need to stay mobile with your knees and hips because you will have to adapt to your opponent’s movements (i.e. his attempts to escape). You will also need to keep your hips and head down to stay balanced and to decrease the space between your bodies. The higher you raise your hips, the easier it will be for your opponent to bridge and roll you. The higher you place your head, the easier it will be for your opponent to place his forearm under your neck, elevate your head even further and then push your weight off of him.
From an inferior position the opposite is true. You will need to either suspend the opponent’s weight above your body (for a short period of time), or, push the opponent’s weight alongside of your body. When you temporarily suspend the opponent’s weight above your body, you decrease the amount of friction between your back, your butt and the ground. With decreased friction, you can move your hips a lot easier. When you push the opponent’s weight alongside of your body, you substantially decrease the amount of friction between your body (your back and butt) and the ground. The decrease of friction will make it easier to escape.
Pushing the opponent’s weight alongside of you is the best of the two!
Now, regarding the use of weight for submissions: It is an absolute must! For example, it is important to apply weight to your opponent’s body AND limbs during the transition that occurs between the superior position you held and the specific submission you are attempting to effect. Let me give you a more specific example so that you can see what I mean.
Let’s say you are attempting a straight arm lock on your opponent’s left arm from the side mount position. It will be imperative to place most of your body weight on the upper arm of the opponent. To do otherwise will give him an opportunity to escape. Why? Because if you don’t control his upper arm and elbow by immobilizing it and pinning it to his upper torso, you will allow it the freedom to move wherever he wants it to go. Controlling that elbow is paramount to finishing the arm lock. So, to immobilize it, place your weight on it and then maneuver your body into position for the finish!
So, as you can see, using space and weight to your advantage has many benefits. Now, there are numerous other considerations besides space and weight, but by learning how to use space and weight correctly, your game will improve: GUARANTEED!
Good training to you,