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John Danaher Leglocks
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Breaking the BJJ Rules Like an Artist

Breaking the BJJ Rules Like an Artist


Pablo Picasso is credited with saying "Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist."  Jiu Jitsu is a martial arts that's filled with rules and fundamental concepts that we all must pay attention to.  But think about the first time as a white belt that you roll with a purple belt or higher.  If you're like me, you probably found yourself as much admiring their work as being dominated.  It's fairly common to see these higher belts as magicians who are able to do things that you simply cannot fathom at the time.  Let's take a look at this quote and see what it can reveal to us about our study of BJJ and how we can apply it to our game.

What are some of the rules of BJJ?

Over the course of your BJJ training you will learn and experience a number of fundamental truths that get drilled into our heads over and over. There are probably an infinite number of rules or foundational principles in BJJ.   Let's look at a few of them.

Don't stay flat on your back.

If you are flat on your back, you can become more vulnerable to be mounted and you also must bear more of the weight of your opponent when in bottom side control.  Being flat on your back can also put you in a position where you are exposing your neck or arms to more danger.

Don't expose your back.

Exposing your back to an opponent taking back control and potentially executing chokes is something I was taught to fear even earlier than the dangers of being flat on my back.  Perhaps it's because being flat on the mats doesn't necessarily mean that our hips are taken out of the equation, whereas when we are being attacked from behind, we are limited to only our arms and the movement of our torso primarily to fend off the attacks.

Breaking the rules

For years you've been fighting to not stay flat and to work to avoid being mounted at all cost.  Then you see someone like Gordon Ryan who has been known to actually lure his opponents into taking mount and once there, he quickly launches the opponent in the air with a mix of arm and leg entanglement to end in a devastating heel hook variation.

Another person who's created an entire system out of a position that is typically looked at as a purely defensive, even a stalling position, is Eduardo Telles and his creative Turtle Guard.  In a way, the "turtle guard" is a bit of an oxymoron in that "turtling up" has a passive, stalling connotation and guard typically implies keeping one's limbs between them an their opponent.

In the video below, Eduardo explains how the Turtle Guard concept came to be.  Here was someone who was presented with two very distinct problems from two legendary training partners and rather than strictly follow the rules, i.e. Do Not Expose Your Back, Eduardo chose to break the rule and develop his Turtle Guard.

Where did the turtle guard come from?


Can I attack from the Turtle Guard? 

The video below shows several submission options from the Turtle Position.  



This final video shows Eduardo's interesting spin on the classic shoulder lock, the Omoplata.  

 Eduardo Telles is a one of a kind jiu jitsu practitioner.  He was presented with a scenario where his good friend and training partner Terere consistently achieved back control.  Rather than follow the traditional path, Telles worked to break the rules and create a new problem for his opponent to solve.

If you want to explore the various attacks to your turtled opponents, check out this previous article from BJJ Fanatics here.

The key to understanding a position is to look at the various options available from an offensive and a defensive standpoint.  The turtle position is typically seen as a purely passive position, but Eduardo Telles shows us that with a little creativity an entire game plan can be developed from the position.

 Learn more strategies to effectively attack or defend the turtle position straight from BJJ black belt and Judo Olympian Travis Stevens with his crucial DVD series here.


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