Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a highly complicated, and strategic form of ground fighting. The art incorporates many highly dynamic transitional components like guard passing, and different variations of the sweep. The systematic form of BJJ enables athletes to neutralise their opponents with heavy pressure used in different control positions.
What this article covers:
- Learning the Fundamentals
- Progressing Through the Belt Ranking System
- Applying BJJ Systems to Competition Matches
There is also escape artistry in BJJ, as their opponents will attempt to find sneaky ways to escape from these positions. The art of BJJ is highlighted by the formidable submission component that governs every athlete's ambition to become world class. Learning how to win in jiu jitsu involves developing a game plan, and understanding how to execute their BJJ systems. These days there are many different forms of Jiu Jitsu that can be developed into their fighting styles, as athletes are continuously innovating different variations within the art.
LEARNING THE FUNDAMENTALS
All Brazilian Jiu Jitsu students need to learn the fundamentals before they tackle more advanced systems. It can be enticing to start practising more advanced movements, especially after watching world class grapplers like Gordon Ryan, Mikey Musumeci, and Mica Galvao. Students will need to fight the temptation, and make sure their game styles are constructed with fundamental elements. Fundamental Jiu Jitsu is the building blocks to a strong foundation, which will help the athlete later on with their bjj progression. Spending too much time watching YouTube videos can be detrimental to an athletes overall game style. Even though the evolution of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tells us that learning leg entanglement techniques, and various other moves like berimbolo to back takes, are the modern trend of today's BJJ, there is still a significant need for fundamental movements. To put this in perspective, every high level athlete that a student watches do advanced movements, have all learnt fundamental techniques early on in their Jiu Jitsu. If a high level athlete like Marcus Almeida, or Ronaldo Souza jumped straight into the leg lock game, they would have a very poor quality of guard passing, or submission defense. This means that learning the fundamentals of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu needs to be a top priority to all new students of the art.
PROGRESSING THROUGH THE BELT RANKING SYSTEM
Learning Jiu Jitsu is an extremely time consuming art, as the intricacies involved go far beyond a simple set of techniques. There are many different concepts to understand, and a multitude of techniques to learn, all with their own set of counter movements, and defenses. Students will always start off not being able to understand the simplest of techniques, but as they begin to show consistency on the mats, their understanding of the art slowly begins to filter in. After a significant amount of time, athletes will start to show competence, and proficiency within their Jiu Jitsu. There are many different bjj rules to follow, and students will need to comprehend all of these if they want to move through the belt ranking system. Moving up in rank is more than just becoming proficient within the art, there are also elements of humility, and integrity that goes along with it. Students must represent their academy, and the ideology of their instructors. Developing fighters is not always the number one priority for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu academy, rather developing people into becoming better humans is always the main goal.
Moving up in rank is a huge achievement at any level, but moving from white to blue quite possibly is the hardest of all. Being a white belt at the very beginning of a BJJ journey is the time that the student knows the least amount about Jiu Jitsu. Moving up to the next level, and earning a blue belt can be quite difficult, as most new students struggle to grasp even the most basic of movements. It can take an extremely long time for beginners to start to understand not to use too much strength, and allow their bodies to naturally flow. Understanding the mechanics of how a guard pass is meant to work, or how to offset an opponent's balance by trying to sweep them, or even the attacking principles of applying pressure in various chokes, and using leverage for submissions like arm bars and leg locks, can take a long time to master. One thing is for sure, that the only way a student will progress to the next level is by showing continuity in their training, having a winning attitude, working extremely hard, and never giving up.
DEVELOPING A GAME PLAN
To be successful in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, athletes need to have a solid game plan, and having just one is not enough. Athletes always need contingency plans, because an initial plan may not always work out like they would have hoped. The one variable that will always counteract a game plan is an opponent, as they may have their own plan that makes an athlete need to change their pathway. This is why it is extremely important to have several plans so that an athlete can be ready for anything. A game plan needs to be genuine, and shouldn't just be copied out of a textbook, because a solid game plan should be unique to fit each individual. An athlete will need different game plans depending on their divisions, as one that works for an open weight division may not work for their bjj weight divisions. Game plans should also alter depending on the size, skill, and the strength of an opponent, as trying to sweep a larger opponent, or trying to pass the guard of a leg lock specialist may not be feasible.
The first aspect that a practitioner should be focusing on is transitioning. All athletes should be able to transition from one position to the next, this is the core principle in developing a solid game plan. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is about advancing from a control position, and finding the most viable attacking position, so they can launch a series of submission attacks. An athlete must figure out what they are good at, whether that's fighting from the guard, or attacking from the top position, either way it's a good starting point. A top position player will begin working out a series of takedown maneuvers that effectively land them past their opponents guard, as they look to control. From here they use a series of transitions that will allow them to work their way into their go to submissions. A guard player will simply set up ways to initiate the guard, and from there look to stifle a guard passer by initiating wrist grips, and elevating their hips. This can lead to many sweeps, and submissions that best suit each guard player.
Some athletes are highly guided by the submission game, as they look to secure submissions at all costs. Some athletes would rather develop a game plan that allows them to score points in bjj matches, and this can be seen as a stalling tactic. However both styles have merit, as each way will help the athlete secure the win. Whatever game plan an athlete develops it needs to be worked on extensively in class, and has to be highly functioning to suit the specs of an athlete. A game plan needs to be designed specifically down to each detail, meaning if their opponent counteracts a simple smash guard pass, the student needs to have a countermovement ready, and waiting. Using a flow chain of movements is vital to a successful game plan, as the most functional way to defeat an opponent is by baiting them with a certain move, and after they begin to counteract that move, then the secondary technique comes into play. A good example of this can be after a student secures the mount position, they may attempt to land a mounted triangle, as they loosely bring their leg up over the neck, they actually give their opponent an easy escape. Their opponent will then turn onto their side to come out from under the leg, as the student glides their leg over the head, and slots in the underhook securing a darce choke. There are many different types of game plans, and each athlete needs to see what works best for them, and adapt them on the fly depending on their opponents reactions.
MASTERING ADVANCED CONCEPTS
Learning intricate grappling systems is extremely hard for beginners, and realistically they should be sticking to the fundamentals. The more advanced concepts are there for higher level practitioners to play with. Once a student has reached the purple belt level, they are halfway towards the coveted black belt rank. Most students set out with the goal of tying a black belt around their waist, and for most it is achievable, and all they have to do is persevere. Although consistency, and perseverance won't get them there alone, a student needs to develop a high level Brazilian Jiu Jitsu system. Mastering advanced techniques can only be done once a student understands the flow of Jiu Jitsu. For example attempting a berimbolo back take can seem extremely complicated, so a student should first begin practising how to invert. Rolling from side to side across a student's shoulders will open up the concept of inversion, the next step would be to practise a granby roll, which is a full sideways roll after inverting onto their shoulders. Once a student can master these movement based drills, then attempting a berimbolo is much easier to understand.
In these modern times Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has become extremely diverse, with many innovations now being developed by athletes of all cultures. The once pure Brazilian art has now seen high level athletes from the United States of America, Australia, the UK, and many European countries showcase their extraordinary abilities in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The rise of international No Gi grappling has seen a domino effect with the leg entanglement game. BJJ legends like Dean Lister, Marcelo Garcia, and Eddie Cummings have risen the level of what some people call submission sorcery. Nowadays there are an incredible amount of leg lock positions, and finishes with superstar athletes like Gordon Ryan, Lachlan Giles, Craig Jones, and Gary Tonan all exceeding expectations, as they take these advanced techniques into the twenty first century.
APPLYING BJJ SYSTEMS TO COMPETITION MATCHES
One of the hardest aspects in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is taking what a student learns in the academy, and applying it to the competition level. Some students are natural born competitors, while others seem to struggle stepping into the middle of a competition arena. Some students may often wonder do you have to compete in bjj, and most academies will not enforce this, but all academies will highly encourage their students to compete. Delving into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitions is a great way to battle test a students skill set, and it is the closest that a student will get to a real life fight scenario. Competitions can be fun, but can also be brutal, as many competitors are hungry to make it to the top of the mountain. Training for competition means students must take this seriously, because their competitors will, and the relentless, and intense grappling that goes on inside a competitive match is second to none.
Students must learn how to apply their game style to a competitive match. This is not always easy, as an opponent will have their own ideals about how the match will go. It is a good idea for students to practise rolling from the standing position, instead of starting the fight sitting on the mats. Practising from the standing position means that a student will get used to the main element that does not get taught in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which is engaging their opponent. This overlooked concept has significant merit, as a competitor needs to know how to close the distance, how to use the proper footwork, and how to secure the dominant grip position. Understanding these mechanisms will go a long way for athletes to have successful competitive matches. Applying a students game style to competition matches is all about confidence, and being realistic, as a student must understand what they are capable of, and what is out of the realms of possibility. Knowing your opponent is another dominating factor that students must identify from the start of the match, as this can dictate how the fight will go. Above all else, getting out on the mats, and having fun, and trusting in themselves is how an athlete will tackle a competition match successfully.
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