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BJJ BUILDING BLOCKS
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BJJ BUILDING BLOCKS

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Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is an extremely comprehensive combative system. There are literally thousands of different maneuvers, considering all of the technical variations. It can take an extremely long time to master them all, and most athletes will never know everything, instead they will have their own systemic approach to BJJ.

What this article covers:

When a beginner starts their journey into the art they will begin mastering one technique at a time like the bjj ankle lock, or a basic guard pass, and this makes it hard to piece together the overall picture. It is not until a practitioner reaches a certain level that they realise learning Jiu Jitsu is all about concepts, and how they can apply each one to maximise how their body works. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game style must become symbiotic with how an athlete thinks, moves, and how efficient their energy systems are.

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building blocks bjj

Building an effective game style that consists of all round components, takes dedication and following the right pathway. Students need to allow time to adapt to the fundamental principles of Jiu Jitsu, and this can only happen if they stick to the basics. Because of the availability of online content these days, it is too easy to go down the rabbit hole chasing fancy techniques. This is all too familiar, as beginners will try to practise the berimbolo, or dive into jiu jitsu leg locks too soon into their early development. It is important not to overlook certain aspects, because it can leave holes in a practitioner's game, which can lead to problems later on down the track. 

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THE IMPORTANCE OF FUNDAMENTALS 

Learning fundamental principles in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is crucial to the development of new students. Fundamentals are the building blocks of BJJ, and these will include all the major control positions, like the mount, side control, back control, and the guard. There are other important aspects like when, where, and how to pass the guard, how to maintain posture, how to stay postured, and how to offset an opponent's balance in order to achieve the sweep. Submissions are not as fundamental as other components in BJJ, but there are basic submissions that new students need to know. Submissions like the kimura, the arm bar, the triangle, the rear naked choke, and the bjj americana are some of the first few submissions that students will learn. Piecing all of these aspects together is vital in building a comprehensive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu game style. 

There is a reason why students need to learn fundamental techniques, and this is because Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be extremely stifling. The high intensity of submission grappling, along with the intense pressure that an opponent can bring into a match, means that students need to learn basic concepts in order to create space when they are on the bottom, to either retain their guard, sweep an opponent, or set up a submission. When they are standing, or on top of an opponent, they will need to close the space in order to infiltrate an opponent's base to set up takedowns, or maintain a dominant control. This is how they will be able to advance their position in order to set up submission attacks. All of these concepts are extremely important, and will lead to success as a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner.

WHICH FOUNDATIONS DOES AN ATHLETE NEED TO LEARN

There is no definitive pathway to building the right game style in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. However there are certain aspects that need to be covered early on so that the athlete can build the right foundation. Conceptually thinking, a strong house has a strong foundation, and this is the only way it can withstand any sort of impact later on down the track. This is the same with a BJJ game style, as an athlete that cannot pass the guard, or break out of a guard will be unable to utilise any of their highly advanced submission techniques. Posture is one of the important aspects from the beginning, as a student needs to learn to stay postured, and know how to break posture. This is crucial for many aspects in grappling like sweeping, submitting, escaping, and defending. 

Learning control positions is vital to understanding how to use a student's pressure from the top position. This also feeds into passing the guard, and maintaining balance while attempting any sort of control, or guard pass. Students should always stay in base, and this means to have a solid structure that cannot be compromised from the standing position or other important positions in BJJ. Early on in a student's development they will be too rigid, and use too much strength, so it is imperative they learn to stay calm, and not over exert themselves. Commonly this is an aspect that is only learnt after a few months of training. Becoming good at Jiu Jitsu means that a student must find the flow, and understand how to maximise their efficiency without compromising their energy systems, or their structure.

Learning guard principles is another vital cog in building a student's foundations. The guard is one of the most iconic positions in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and it involves being comfortable, and able to neutralise an opponent who is attempting to pass. Using the guard will not only help a student stifle their opponent, it can also be an attacking platform to utilise sweeps, submissions, or even advance their position into back takes. Another important aspect about the guard that all students must learn from an early age, is guard retention. This means to find their way back into the guard, after being put into precarious positions. For instance, when a student is stuck underneath an opponent's mount they must learn how to escape, and use technical movements to first secure the half guard position, and move into the closed guard. Once a student has become higher level they can move out of bad positions into an attacking open guard movement like sweeps, or leg entanglement positions. These are core fundamentals that all students need to learn if they are to improve their ability on the mats.

Probably the most important foundation that a student needs to apply is to simply learn. Too many students enter into the art wanting to win every battle from the start, and this is just not possible, as most training partners they will come across have already been training for longer periods of time. A new student needs to focus on their learning processes, and not compare themselves to any other student inside of the gym. All students learn at different levels, and learn in different ways, so for a new student they need to identify how they learn the best, and how they can maximise their learning intake. This comes down to being humble, and leaving all egos at the door, as this way a student will allow other members of an academy to guide them, and teach them different concepts on how to adapt to the rigorous grind of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu learning process. Fundamentally the best option a student has is to focus on the movement based warm ups, which are great ways to mimic different techniques they will begin to learn in BJJ. This will not only strengthen their body, but will help them to develop the right movements, which will only benefit them as they begin to progress through the art.

THE RIGHT TRAINING MINDSET

All students need to have the right mindset in order to achieve longevity in the sport, and training in BJJ can take a heavy toll on the student, both physically, and mentally. Creating the right mindset is the only way to cut through many of the obstacles that a student will face along their journey. Forming good habits begins at the core, and this means that all students should be diligent in how they approach their training sessions. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can be an extremely rough sport, so there is a need for students to pace themselves in order to maximise their training ability. Going too hard at training too many days in a row will only lead to injury, or mental burn out. Maintaining the right balance within their training schedule, and their home life is a crucial part of a student's mindset.

Having the right mindset for training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu means a student must be humble and integral. Otherwise they will fall into the trap of thinking they are better than they actually are, which can lead to extreme ego problems. This can also lead to many holes within a student's game style, as they are missing the important concepts of humility. Being humble means a student is more capable of learning, as they will listen more, and take on board constructive criticism. Egotistical students are displaying the wrong mindset, and will often wind up learning slower, and missing some of the core values a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner needs to become successful on the mats.

STRENGTH AND CONDITIONING 

There is an old fairytale in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and this is that technique beats strength. The problem with this old saying is that a really strong athlete that has good technique will commonly beat the weaker athlete. All world class athletes are training their bodies comprehensively in strength and conditioning, and this is so they can have the edge during their competition matches. If a student begins bullet proofing their body, then they will maximise their efficiency output, and this means less injuries, and a faster progression, as well as a better chance at success. Looking at the world's best grapplers like Gordon Ryan, Craig Jones, Nicky Rodriguez, Andre Galvao, and Felipe Pena they all have common traits, and most people might think it's their ability to utilise the bjj ashi garami position to secure leg locks, but in fact it is their comprehensive strength and conditioning that sets them apart from the rest. 

Injuries are the big killer in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and is what commonly stops an athlete from staying consistent in training. Strength and conditioning is more than building bulk strength, as it is more about injury prevention. The stronger an athlete is the more likely they are to remain safe from injury. In BJJ there are multiple avenues to sustaining injury, especially when a choke turns into a bjj neck crank, or a high velocity impact is felt during a takedown maneuver. Using strengthening techniques will only enhance a student's ability to train safer, train more consistently, and improve their athleticism to a point where they can challenge on a world class level.

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ADVANCED TRAINING METHODS

All beginners need fundamental Jiu Jitsu to be able to improve their ability on the mats. Once a student moves through the belt ranking system, and earns promotions into the higher levels, they need to step up their learning ability, and begin to access a higher level of grappling. Early on in the development of a student's game style the techniques they learn are very hard to piece together, as it becomes even harder to use these techniques in an efficient flow system. The higher level that the student becomes, the more important it is to understand concepts, and this is how they will not only access more intricate movements, but it is how they can adapt their game style into creating their own systematic approach.

At the higher levels, athletes are definitely more in tune with how to switch in between different variations of movements. This may be setting up a bjj omoplata, and using the position to move into other submissions like a triangle, or even a darce choke. Higher level athletes are more likely to use inversion techniques, as they look to secure back take positions by using the berimbolo. Becoming more comfortable with out of the box thinking, and utilising upside down techniques, or even building a comprehensive leg entanglement game is vital when competing at the world class level. Using positions to secure a bjj knee bar, or other submissions like toe holds, heel hooks, or calf slicers can only become effective once an athlete has truly mastered their ability to flow between one position, and another. This includes using considerable defensive positions, and knowing how to use a countermeasure to successfully gain a dominant control position.

THE COMPETITION MINDSET

Training for competition is a completely different aspect than just training for the sake of learning Jiu Jitsu. There are different types of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners, where some are pure hobbyists, some train for fun and fitness, some even train just for the social aspect, but there are a lot of athletes that train for a much greater purpose. Training to become world class level, or even just to become a really good competitor takes a different type of training. Athletes must take their training more seriously, and utilise definitive training methods to improve their overall ability to train efficiently, and more consistently. Athletes must incorporate strength and conditioning, the breakdown of technical movements, competitive rolling, mobility training, and significant rest periods, so they can maximise their ability to train competitively.

Becoming a successful competitor will also take more than just improving all of a student's attributes. It takes a considerable mental aptitude to be able to sustain such a high workload, as well as deal with all of the stresses that come along with being on show in front of the BJJ community. It takes heart to step onto the competition mats, and it takes a considerable resolve to get through competitive tournaments without hitting the breaking point. Competing can be extremely fun, but it can also become extremely tough, as many athletes will face obstacles throughout their competitive career. Because there is only one winner in each division a lot of athletes will go home with losses under their belt. This can be disheartening, and detrimental to the mindset of an athlete, so they must be able to learn to deal with these types of events. Learning different coping mechanisms to help a student deal with loss is extremely important, as they need to use this as fuel, and also as a way to improve their game style.

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Sometimes a loss is better than a win, and this means that a competitive athlete can go back to their training academy and know exactly what they need to work on to improve their game. Athletes that win all the time may have built momentum, and confidence, but it is the athletes that lose that will be able to fix the holes within their game style. It all comes down to attitude, and how an athlete holds themself in front of the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community.  Sometimes it can be daunting stepping out in front of all of the spectators at a competitive tournament, and this is even more scary due to the fact that each student is representing their academy. No student wants to let down their instructors, and their teammates, and this can put a lot of pressure on an athlete to perform. This is where the competitive mindset needs to be formidable, so they can put in their best ability to utilise the tools they have under their tool belt.

BUILDING CONFIDENCE IN CHILDREN

Nowadays Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become one of the premier combat sports, even for children. Some kids are lucky enough to begin their BJJ journey from extremely young ages, and this is amazing for their confidence as a young person. Nowadays there are many unique challenges that children will face in the real world, so they need to develop different learning mechanisms to cope with the tough challenges they may face. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu can offer an outstanding platform for a child to not only learn self defense, but learn many other aspects like working together in a team, using the appropriate decision making processes, and understanding and identifying dangers, and then how to deal with them appropriately. The hardest part about making the right decision is that a person can be put under significant pressure, which makes this concept extremely hard. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport that will constantly have children in precarious positions, and under intense amounts of pressure, and this is a great way for them to learn how to deal with this, and then make the right decisions. These are great building blocks for a child to develop their skills in a lot of different components, as the team aspect of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy will give them empathy, respect, integrity, and humility, which is what the kids of today need the most. Training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the best decision that a parent can make for their child, when trying to deal with the modern world.

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