The Isolation Stage in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Isolation Stage in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


With only a few minutes remaining of a recent Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class at SBGi PDX, coach Cane Prevost decided to outline one of the key training techniques employed at the gym; the I Method. In this post, I am going to focus on the impact of one stage of the I Method in particular that has greatly influenced my learning of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu so far; the Isolation stage.


A Brief Overview of the I Method in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Coaching

The I Method is split into three stages; Introduction, Isolation and Integration. The Introduction stage is designed to introduce the details of a new posture, position or technique. The Isolation stage is a chance to implement this posture, position or technique against increasing resistance. Finally, the Integration stage is a change to incorporate what you have just learned along with your other skills in a live sparring session.


Isolation in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The Isolation stage of working postures, positions and techniques against ever increasing resistance is essential to a thorough understanding of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It provides a bridge between the theoretical and reality. If the live-sparring Integration stage is equivalent to being thrown in at the deep end, and the no-resistance Introduction stage is failing to even get your feet wet, the Isolation stage provides a means to wade out comfortably and get a feel for your surroundings, before putting your head under the water. It is the perfect opportunity, particularly for beginners like myself, to appreciate how a particular technique works in practice and fits in to the rich tapestry of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This middle Isolation stage has provided me with three main benefits:


1. Situational Recognition & the Ability to Think Under Pressure

The first benefit of the Isolation stage is that it has made me more aware of various situations as they arise in live sparring. The drilling of postures and techniques under resistance has better allowed me to recognize situations I end up in, and recall more easily the options available when particular pressures are being applied to me. Running through a technique with no resistance fails to provide such an accurate simulation, and the application of pressure in Integration can make previously practiced scenarios seem almost completely foreign. Essentially, without this Isolation stage, situations that seemed so simple in the Introduction stage become all but unrecognizable when a partner is resisting and applying pressure.


 2. Improved Awareness of Mistakes

The second benefit I’ve found is that drilling against increasing resistance has allowed me to understand how a technique should feel in reality, whilst also giving an early indication of mistakes I am making. For example, I can feel the effectiveness of a correct posture, as well as notice errors I’m making, as resistance from my partner builds. If my partner succeeds in breaking down my posture, I have time in the Isolation stage to understand my mistake and make the necessary adjustments. Running through a posture or technique against a limp and compliant training partner fails to draw attention to such mistakes when they are made. Without the Isolation stage, I will not realize these errors until it is too late, if at all. Such mistakes will be easily punished in a live roll because I wasn’t aware of their existence when practicing without resistance. What is worse, in the live sparring, I will not necessarily have the time or wherewithal to realize what went wrong, and the mistake may go unacknowledged completely.


 3. Remaining Calm(er)

These two benefits have allowed for a third benefit; they have improved my ability to remain calm. It is a common mistake of almost all who begin learning BJJ that once they enter into a live sparring session, they begin to panic. Prior to training at SBG, I was as guilty of this as anyone, but I like to think that the SBG approach to teaching has allowed me to remain far calmer when I roll. Having the ability to recognize the situation I am in due to feeling a familiar resistance, and therefore having the ability to think through the options available to me, make it far easier to refrain from panicking when in the Integration stage. From here, having previously worked through mistakes against resistance in Isolation, I will be better able to utilize the correct technique to improve my situation. I won’t become dumbfounded when an error-ridden technique I breezed through against a limp partner won’t work perfectly any more, and I am less likely to go into a panic because I am better accustomed to what makes for correct or incorrect technique against resistance.


At previous Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gyms I have had plenty of exposure to the Introduction stage; running through the basic posture or technique of choice, with no resistance from my training partner. I have also spent plenty of time in variations of the Integration stage, in so much as I have engaged in live sparring. However, there is a large gap between these two stages; a gap that often goes unbridged in a lot of BJJ schools, and one that can leave beginners with a lot of confusion and questions about how to actually utilize the skills they’ve been shown, in reality. I have experienced a bridging of that gap with the presence of a thorough Isolation stage in my recent classes.


Working on a posture or technique, not against a completely compliant partner, but against light, and then gradually increasing resistance, provides a crucial link that can improve both the understanding and practice of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

For more on the I Method visit