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The Pressure of Time: The Invisible Jiu Jitsu of The Old School
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The Pressure of Time: The Invisible Jiu Jitsu of The Old School

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Are you Old School or New School?

For a beginner or an older player, these are important questions to ask, as they will inevitably form the foundation of his or her practice. But what do these terms really mean and how might your choices play out on the mats? It is critical for students to understand that there is an actual difference between what is termed as Old School jiu jitsu and most of the newest styles of play that have been developed in the past decade. Old School does not necessarily mean old.

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What is often referred to as New School is jiu jitsu has based its technique development on the accepted rule sets of competitive BJJ.  While many of the dynamic open guards, the entire 50/50 game, the flashiest of berimbolo and Imanari Roll attacks depend on athleticism, they also reflect the very real time restrictions for matches.  It tends to flow and be quick until points are scored, then the entire game often comes to a halt as the athlete with the advantage aims to hold it until time runs out. It is a game full of explosive maneuvers and acrobatics that bedazzle spectators depending on the rule set. It also has been questioned as to its efficacy against situations wherein there are no such rules.


Whereas, what is often referred to as Old School is jiu jitsu that uses pressure to solidify positions and wear down an opponent's body and will until he can be submitted. It is a brutal game with subtle nuances of angles and leverage, but it is one that appeals to traditionalists and those who prefer a slow game that can be played long after youth has left the building. Whatever game you choose to build your foundations upon, a little bit of Old School is never a bad vibe to add to the mix.


In my search for the secrets of the Old School game, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take a private lesson with Kurt Osiander in San Francisco. When he asked what I wanted to learn during our hour together, it was an easy answer: your Over-Under Smash Pass and the infamous Animal Planet.  With a simple nod, we set to work. The first thing you might notice from Kurt's techniques is that they look deceptively basic and slow. Animal Planet appears to be a basic form of Side Control, when it fact your hip placement sags down into the diaphragm which is skillfully braced with a flat palm on the back until all of the air is squeezed out. It is a move that a python might use to kill prey in the jungle; large snakes take time to crush animals both large and small.


What cannot be seen, must be felt.  The pressure that comes from the Over Under Smash Pass found at the seventeen minute mark of Volume 4 of Fundamentals of a Jiu Jitsu Renegade just feels horrendous on the bottom. It is a slow, grinding thirty seconds of agony when it is done for the full effect, and that is the challenge for sports-focused jiujitsu whose main goal is to capture points in a small time frame. Most athletes cannot afford to "cook" their opponent into defeat, especially if they fall behind in advantages or risk being called for stalling.


Fellow American black belt, Chris Haueter, actually begins speaking to the dilemma of time as he offers strategies for the Masters Division at the beginning Volume 4 of his video series, Old School Efficient BJJ. He makes the argument for giving Masters Division competitors more than the five minutes given for IBJJF events. The assertion is that we "need time for the game to develop." When the reality may well be that "whoever scores first wins," it becomes clear why Old School techniques are less desirable than quickly flowing positional maneuvers when it comes to running up the scoreboard.

I was equally fortunate to be able to take two classes with Chris Haueter in Iceland, and he continually reminded students of the difference between sport, the art and the street. Indeed, he spent an entire session showing the group why I was wrong to rely on The Turtle as my safe position. For an entire hour, he strangled, slapped, lapel dragged and kicked his uke to demonstrate how it is a sport position that is easily destroyed by more traditional fundamentals.

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At the midway point of the first volume of Old School Efficient BJJ, Haueter demonstrates a simple scissor sweep, but from the loud groan that his uke makes as he sinks his sweeping knee into his abdomen it is obvious that Chris' pressure in unlike anything most of us have been taught in our fundamentals classes. What is most compelling about Chris' explanation of pressure is that it is not always downward pressure. He might suggest crushing thigh pressure from Closed Guard, upward driving pressure from the Knee Shield or more traditional shoulder pressure while sinking into a pass.


Any survey of the Old School pressure game needs to include the work of Murilo Bustamante which can be found in his series, Old School Crushing Pressure and Submissions. In fact, his approach to the Baseball Choke from Knee on Belly has become a regular soul-stealer in my own game. Whenever I need to slow down a strong white belt or a slippery opponent with explosive power, his controls and grip suggestions are what I immediately turn to for security.

Whether you are looking to build an entire game around the tenets of the Old School or just wanting to pick up some ways to increase your ability to slow down opponents during a frantic roll, everyone can benefit from the wisdom that comes from jiu jitsu that was founded in extended battles on the mats often found in the garages of suburbia.

“It’s not who’s good, it’s who’s left”

Get the old school edge! Check out Chris Haueter's DVD "Old School Efficient BJJ" and learn from one of the original US BJJ practitioners! Get it here!

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You probably will be interested in old rules of Judo, check this Judo by Old Rules by Denis Zenikov

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