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Measuring Technique Success
The evolution of Jiu Jitsu has brought about new positions and techniques that often times favor abandonment of previous ones. The introduction of unorthodox guards such as rubber guard and worm guard and those to be warranted in the future are supported by advances in new ways to defend the guards that existed before them. Every so often a grappler will come along and use the classic closed guard to dominate skilled opponents and remind us not to undertrain basic positions.
Roger Gracie is an excellent example of a practitioner who uses old school techniques to defeat some of the best in the game, including Marcus ‘Buchecha’ Almeida. The changes have led to an obscure and needless rivalry between what is known as old Jiu Jitsu and new Jiu Jitsu. Proponents of old school Jiu Jitsu proclaim that new techniques such as leg locks should not be used as they are not safe to use in self-defense situations.
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Recently, Vinny Magalhaes has also proclaimed that leg locks do not work. Vinny goes on to say that he has competed against the best leg lockers in the world and they were not successful in submitting him in their preferred way, leading him to conclude that leg locks are implicitly ineffective techniques. These claims against technique effectiveness got me thinking as to how we exactly measure technique success. Is a technique successful if when properly attacked, it is always finished? Is there a certain percentage of successful attempts that are required for it to be considered successful? And if there is, is it 99%, 80%, or 50%?
Unfortunately, I could not come up with a great way to determine if a technique should be considered an effective technique. The reason is that for a technique to work, its defense has to fail. The submission and the defense cannot both be successful in a given attempt. If I, for example, attack a basic armbar and the person successfully defends it, my attack was by definition a failed attempt. I cannot conclude from that, however, that the armbar is an ineffective technique because it has been used countless times to submit many people.
Rather than worrying about whether a specific technique or position is effective, we must look at the attacker’s system as a whole. Jiu Jitsu is a sport of options, and the more options we have, the more successful we will be at submitting our opponents. I typically ignore pundits who go on raving about which techniques work and don’t work, I much prefer to add as many options to my game as that is the only thing we know of that will definitely improve our submission rates.