The ‘Art’ of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

brazilian judo
The Art of BJJ is much bigger then just gi, no-gi, IBJJ rules, or even MMA.

In the past when I have talked about the larger delivery system of Jiu-Jitsu I’ve demonstrated it by writing a large square on the board, one corner had ‘GI’, the other ‘No-Gi’, the other ‘MMA’, and the other ‘Self Defense’. The point was that each corner of the box represents one aspect of the same, when seen as a whole, delivery system; Jiu-Jitsu.

kids mma

I think all of us at some time, will temporarily loose grasp of the totality that is well done Jiu-Jitsu.

Throughout the course of a career we may spend a considerable amount of time focusing on tournament style gi BJJ, or instead no-gi style submission wrestling, or any of the variations that exist within them. However, if we want the larger picture, the view that encompasses the whole delivery system of BJJ, we need to make sure our games can adapt to all four corners of the square. And the quickest and really only way to ensure we can do that is by focusing our games around, and on, proper

And as you should know if you are familiar with the SBG methodology from our Portland Oregon Gym, in Jiu-Jitsu that means only two things, posture and pressure.

mma for kids

Good examples of those that have trained the entire box would be Rickson Gracie, who seemed at home gi, no-gi, MMA, and fighting in general. As well as our own athletes like John Kavanagh, Rick Davison, and Gunni Nelson.

As far as teaching and coaching go, it is close to impossible to cover all the bases with absolute beginners. The fundamentals of movement, various positions, objectives, how to roll, etc, all take a certain amount of time for the student to grasp in any sort of meaningful way.

However, once they past that blue belt phase, and enter into their mid range and upper belts, finding a class time where they can experiment and learn to develop strategies that will allow them to transfer the fundamentals of their game to all four corners of the square, can be extremely useful.

To make it work, students will have to feel comfortable trying new things, and taking risks with their partners.

In order to facilitate that, I think it is important the coach establishes an environment where people are not keeping score. The moment one person starts to brag about how they passed another persons guard on such and such day, is the moment that person will no longer feel open to trying new things. It all becomes a competitive, roll only to win class at that point; and although I think that is extremely important as well, that is not what I am looking for with this particular class time.

I don’t refer to this type of training as “slow” or “flow” wresting, because that implies something different; instead I call this ‘advanced‘ rolling, because that is exactly what it is. And although many people may find it hard to train this way prior to a decade or so of BJJ mat time, there is no reason one cannot begin trying, just after blue belt.

self defense classed for kids

Here are five objectives I have written out to help create that training space:

1- Have fun. Have a playful light attitude, and operate at a pace you can play for hours.

This is probably the most important thing. If the pace is too fast, or too tense, then the students wont have a chance to see openings, or experiment. The tendency then is to go back and work your A game, I think that is vital too, but we have separate rolling and competition times for that every week at my gym. In fact we have lots of them. That is not the purpose of this particular class.

A simple sign to test if you are rolling to hard is if you are gassing out quickly. And by quickly I mean within a ten minute round. Rolling at the pace I would like to see students use here, should mean that an intermediate to advanced player should be able to go for an hour straight, or longer.

Here is a video of SBGr Gunnar Nelson, in 2007 when he recieved his purple belt from Matt Thornton. Note how relaxed Gunni was, even back then. Watch his energy level, and finally, look at the time. He took on one opponent after another for nearly a full hour, without a single break.


2- Experiment with new ideas.

That is essentially what this type of class time is specifically for. Learning how best to deal with certain kinds of games, and certain kinds of environments, requires experimentation.  And in order to experiment people have to feel open to making mistakes, playing slow, and most of all relaxed enough, to see the possibilities.

3- Develop strategies for all types of players, fast & aggressive, big and heavy,
stallers, take down artists, frame based guards, upright, spider, rubber, and
upside down guards, etc.

This get’s down to the major objective to the class. As Gunni said to me recently, he has a game for big heavy players, for fast aggressive players, for MMA, for gi, etc. And yet, when you watch an extremely high level player like Gunni roll, you don’t see a whole different set of “moves” or “techniques” for each kind of opponent. Instead what you see, and this should come as no surprise to SBGr’s, is perfect posture and pressure, also known as fundamentals, applied with the right strategy for a particular kind of opponent.

In some ways this may be a ‘post’ black belt objective. But there is no reason why everyone can’t start that process at blue.

4- Fill in the corners of the box.

To a degree this objective fits in with the previous one, but where we are looking to develop our games against different types of players above, here we are looking to develop it within different kinds of environments.

When was the last time, as one example, that you worked your Jiu-Jitsu while someone was looking to strike you?

When was the last time you put on a gi?

When was the last time you took one off?

As most of you know, I am not a big believer in “street” training. Nine times out of ten I think it’s a scam, which tends to be operated by people too lazy, and too soft, to actually put in the time required to develop real, meaningful skill at the various delivery systems.

But that stated, thinking about how a particular posture, position, or strategy might actually play out when defending yourself in various environments can help sharpen your game down to the real core movements that matter in those kind of environments, and situations. This is where I think some of the older school players, like Rickson, really stood apart.

5- Work your weaknesses.

I placed this last on the list, not because it isn’t important, but because the purpose of the class is the expansion of ones game, not the refinement of your A game. That, as I have stated, is really important as well; but there are other classes and other times where that should be the focus. However, it is still nice to have a time when nobody is keeping score, where you can take stock of the things you are bad at, and improve those. This is an excellent environment to consider adding that thought into how you play.

self defense for kids

Those are the five objectives for the class. I think it is important to remember that as we seek out answers for various types of games, and differing environments, the key word isn’t going to be ‘gentle’, ‘flow’, ‘power’, or even ‘speed’, the key word is going to be ‘efficiency’.

To me, efficiency of movement is the true ‘Art’ of Jiu-Jitsu. I consider the ‘gentle’ art to be a mistranslation. I think the more appropriate term is, the Efficient Art.

Accomplishing as much as possible, with as little energy, muscle, and risk as possible, is the sign of mastery. Once we ‘get’ that, then it should be self evident that when we find solutions to these various venues, they will by their very nature be efficient, simple, fundamental answers based on posture & pressure; the only two things that matter in the delivery system of Jiu-Jitsu.

And remember, the only “goal” that ever really matters, objective #1, have fun.