Three Techniques for BJJ Beginners
Being a beginner in any anything can be a confusing time...
Where BJJ is concerned, the excitement of the mere discovery of the art is enough to make your head explode. Not to mention the feeling out process we all go through at the start of the journey. Of course, some will pick things up quicker than others, but there is a process of acclimating to your new endeavor that no one will skip. You will likely become inundated at some point in your quest to begin to navigate another resisting body.
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If you begin your training at the right academy, basics will be a large part of your early studies. Learning the positions themselves, the fundamental techniques, and how to defend yourself should be at the top of every beginner’s list. Though I feel many of us aim to make this our goal, its very easy to get distracted. Jiu-jitsu is so vast and so incredibly interesting, that it can be tough to stay the course as a beginner. With the amount of information available, you can easily get lost in the ever-growing sea of amazing technique that seems to evolve daily. Its ok to experiment and expose yourself to these things, but do your best to stay on track, and grow your foundation first.
The “basics” will always vary from academy to academy. I’ve been to many schools around the country, but every time I go somewhere new, no matter what my rank was at the time, I always preferred taking part in a basics class. It was always pf great interest to me, how the basics were being taught from different teachers in different parts of the country. While many teachings share some common ground, the lessons would differ greatly, making it likely that I would pick up some fresh detail that I had never seen before. This is the beauty of the art.
So, what techniques should we be learning as beginners? Should we learn leg locks? Should we only use the closed guard? Should we only be worried about survival, and not attacking? The way you approach your training will certainly depend heavily on your academy curriculum and the methods of your head Professor, but I think keeping it simple and direct is best. WE need to learn how to move our bodies in a jiu-jitsu manner before we can begin to do anything really. The big movements, the big themes, the etched in stone ideas of jiu-jitsu.
There are some techniques that do a wonderful job of demonstrating these particular ideas. Techniques that shed light on common movements, and teach us to move our bodies in ways that will remain applicable across the board to hundreds of other techniques.
Let’s look at a few basic techniques that include some of these beneficial movements. As a beginner its important to remember that we must build a solid foundation of basic technique before we begin to insulate that foundation with more advanced ideas. In my opinion this doesn’t mean that you should limit yourself to only training 5 basic techniques, for example. But I do recommend learning how to hip escape before you tackle the kiss of the dragon back take. Choose techniques that are rich in fundamental principles and that don’t require tons of movement.
Let’s start with this simple back take from Lucas Leite. There’s a great element of self-defense here, and a strong emphasis on the under hook, which I feel is important to any beginners tool box. Take a look.
Often times the closed guard is touted as the preferred guard for self-defense, and for good reason, but the half guard definitely has its place as well. This is where Leite begins. He shows us how a knee shield in combination with the use of his frames can be used to defend strikes, and create distance between us and our partners.
When the opportunity arises Leite becomes offensive by kicking his top leg through the space between his partners body and arm, and replaces his knee shield with an under hook. In a non-beginner setting there may be the threat of a whizzer here, which stops the path to the back. But for this application, his partner provides the space for Leite to shuck him forward and easily set his seat belt grip. From here, Leite can step over the body and establish his second hook.
From this position, Leite can easily stretch his partner, crumbling his base, and flattening him out. This leaves him with little hope of defending the application of the rear naked choke, and brings the inevitable submission.
Contained here in this technique are several ideas that every beginner should work to grasp. The finishing position itself has reared its head in countless early videos of jiu-jitsu being tested in no rules scenarios and became famous for its effectiveness in real life combat situations.
Let’s move on to something that everyone that trains BJJ will encounter early on in their training. In this video Joel Bouhey shows us how to open the closed guard from his knees, an important skill for any beginner. Check it out!
Bouhey begins with acquiring some grips. He takes one at the lapels, bunching them together and uses downward pressure to mitigate the distance between him and his partner. He takes his other grip on his partners pants at the hip. He uses this grip to sandwich his partners thigh, and pin the hip to the floor. As far as grips ar concerned, this is pretty common placement. They can be adjusted to your partners movement, as you may need more downward pressure, or the ability to move your arms around as the resistance changes for example.
To open the guard Bouhey makes some space between him and his partner and brings his knee in to the center between him and his partner. He uses this as a wedge, and begins to rise up tall, keeping good posture, and turning his body to a slight angle. He lines up his lower back with the crossing of his partners feet. He begins to push down on the knee, and with the addition of pushing out with his lower back is able to open the guard. From here Bouhey can begin to use any pass of his choice.
Good posture is a cornerstone of any BJJ program. Its an inescapable theme that transcends many different avenues and methods of passing. Bouhey also gives us ideas here on how to position our bodies to maximize our efforts when passing. Learning to pass the close guard effectively will assist you in understanding guard passing in general, and provide you with that basic foundational passing knowledge that we all need moving forward.
Let’s have a look at one more technique. I’ve chosen escaping side control. The depth of fundamental technique in escaping side control is plentiful. Escaping side control employs lots of basic movement and principles that will be applied to techniques across the board for the entirety of your BJJ career.
Lachlan Giles has recently released some content on the subject, and its phenomenal. Take a look!
I love Giles’s variation of this escape. Within it are contained some key elements of jiu-jitsu movement that we must all have ingrained If we hope to be successful in any capacity.
Giles begins on the bottom with no advantages and must work backward to un wind himself from the bottom position.
Making a small movement with his head and shoulders and walking his upper body away from his partner a bit, Giles is able to fit in his first frame at the hip. With this bottom frame in place, Giles is able to keep his partner from getting too tight to him. The next order of business is to begin penetrating the space with his bottom knee, but to do this he’ll once again have to make some room. To do this he’ll use one of the most important movements in all of BJJ, the hip escape. As he escapes his hips, pockets of space open up where he can now enter his bottom knee in to the mix, establishing a string second frame. If your partner is a little tight to only use a hip escape, Giles offers some more advice. Pushing your partner’s head into a more parallel position with your body can help to open this space if you’re having trouble.
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With these frames in place, Giles can now add the top frame across his partners neck and flare his elbow upward. This acts as a place holder until Giles can enter his opposite knee creating a nearly impenetrable network of solid frames. Giles offers us an idea here on how to release the head if the control is bothering us, but with all the frames he’s acquired, and the space that’s been made, he’s now in great position to begin to pass however he chooses to do so.
Giles offers one last important detail, and that is lead with your foot instead of the knee to regain your guard. Bringing the knee across your partners lap will most likely result in you being jammed up and unable to recompose guard. Giles spans the body with his leg, planting the foot on the far hip of his partner. He can now begin to establish any guard he would like, while maintaining the space and distance he’s created.
Giles covers some incredibly beginner friendly ideas here. Hip escaping, framing concepts, and knee elbow connection are all heavy hitters in the realm of basic BJJ. Great stuff here!
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