Thinking through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Thinking through Brazilian Jiu Jitsu


An Early Review of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu New Year’s Resolution

It has only been a week since I set out my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu resolutions for the new year, so it is obviously too early to judge any of them as successful or not. But in my last training session I definitely noticed a change in the way that I sparred with one partner… and it was a simple difference that has allowed me to take lots of positives from an otherwise negative situation.

One of my resolutions for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was to slow down and think. I resolved to resist the mistake that so many white belts fall foul to, and not let myself panic, over-exert myself, and try to use strength and speed to find my way out of situations at the expense of strong Brazilian Jiu Jitsu fundamentals. With that resolution at the forefront of my mind, I wanted to quickly review what happened in a roll from a class this week. It was a situation that I previously would have looked at as disappointing, but which I now see as full of positives.


Portland Boxing Classes to the rightA Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Roll Description

Having pulled guard on my partner during an open sparring session, only to have my guard subsequently passed (which I won’t focus on in this post, and for which I don’t feel too bad; we had just finished a class on guard passing!), I found myself in side control bottom. So here I lay, with a stronger, faster, more experienced opponent on top of me, who has quickly passed my guard. Time to put my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu resolution into action! My first reaction is: ‘how have I ended up in this bad position so quickly?’, to which I make a note-to-self to understand this later ( a note that was no doubt portrayed by a look of concern on my face). From here, I take a moment to stop and think back to a recent class on my very situation and attempt to recall what needs to be done.

Portland Boxing Classes to the rightEstablishing Effective Frames

I recognize the need to begin establishing some effective frames. My near arm works its way down inside his hip and blocks his lower body with my forearm. Meanwhile, I attempt to create enough space to fit my far forearm under his neck and shoulder.

Portland Boxing Classes to the rightEnsuring my legs aren’t lazy

I notice that my legs are not doing the work they should be; I am resting one foot on the other knee to defend against him advancing his position in a lazy way I was told not to do in a recent class. I fix this; lifting the leg nearest his hips up so my knee comes into contact with his side. I hold it there, whilst on my opposite foot I begin to move and hop, creating small movements in an attempt to not allow my opponent to settle, and begin creating space.

Portland Boxing Classes to the rightUpa & Shrimp

From here comes the moment of truth; the upa. I ready myself in my head, doing a little count of three as I prepare, plant both feet, arch back, and look to quickly get my bottom knee inside his hips… It doesn’t work. What went wrong? I think through the process… Frames? Check. Legs? Check. Upa? Check… I didn’t shrimp! I just lifted the guy up then let him come back down on top of me! I go through the same process again; establishing frames, readying my legs, upa, and this time quickly turn into him, shrimp out, and find the inside of his hip with my bottom knee. For a beginner making a concerted effort to think through and put into action the correct approach, it is a moment of absolute Brazilian Jiu Jitsu jubilation; however brief that moment may be. I hold him at bay long enough to begin regaining guard, but end up settling for half-guard. Whilst attempting to work my way from half-guard back to guard, I open up long enough for him to pass again… He is back in side control… The buzzer sounds and I thank him for the roll.


Portland Boxing Classes to the rightFinding the positives in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

The reason I am recounting such an otherwise uneventful sparring session is that it is a marked contrast from how I would’ve thought about the same situation just a few months ago, and is the reason I made my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu resolution to slow down and think in the first place. To my previously untrained Brazilian Jiu Jitsu eye, the above scenario would have looked like me hopelessly squirming to get out of a predicament, only after a few minutes to end up in the exact same position I started in. A whole lot of effort with nothing to show for it. I would’ve left the situation feeling frustrated and disappointed, and because I hadn’t really stopped to think about what I was doing, would’ve learnt nothing. I would’ve expended a whole lot of extra energy, and despite that fact, perhaps I would’ve ended up being mounted. My resolution to slow down and think my way through my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instead, has left me with plenty of positives to take from the experience; as well as plenty of notes on things to work on. It is great to realize that the with the right approach to your Brazilian Jiu Jitsu you will leave class with a satisfying and positive experience, regardless of the position you end up in…