Beginners in all training ventures of life often believe they can achieve greatness in just a few lessons. The bitter truth is that it takes heart and commitment in order to learn anything worthy to be learned. If that applies to most journeys towards knowledge, it applies even more to grappling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is not your regular martial art. Usually, there are four different types of students who join a BJJ school:
1. MMA or martial arts fans who want to give BJJ a try without even knowing that BJJ is a sport with no strikes and a sport often trained with no real relevance to MMA or self-defense.
2. Individuals with friends who train Jiu-Jitsu and are influenced or convinced by those friends to give it a try.
3. Athletes of other grappling arts like wrestling or judo, whose aim is to take their grappling one step further.
4. People who have experimented in different types of sports in order to get fit and decide to give BJJ a try.
TRAINING FOR SELF-DEFENSE
This article focuses more on the BJJ beginner who trains in order to compete in our great sport. However, self-defense is a big part of BJJ and I feel I have to address a couple of issues.
If self-defense is your goal for learning BJJ you must note this to your instructor. Some instructors focus only in sport BJJ, so you must clarify this before you join a school and get disappointed with the spider guards and the guard pulling.
BJJ versions for no-gi or MMA or self-defense generally employ curriculums that are significantly smaller than sport BJJ. Berimbolos, inverted guard attacks, etc. are not very functional when you get punched in the face and no-gi BJJ does not even use berimbolos, worm guard or spider guard techniques. My advice is not to limit yourself and work in all aspects of our great art. Even if you want to train BJJ for self-defense only, sport BJJ will make you sharp and there are schools that provide all kinds of training. BJJ is like a multifunctional tool that can be used in many ways.
Even if you are only interested in sport BJJ, if your instructor offers complimentary self-defense training do not neglect to train in these techniques as they are as important, if not even more important, than sport BJJ. Rolling with MMA rules that allow light strikes from time to time will keep your training honest and can also enhance your ability to apply your BJJ in self-defense.
THE MODERN BJJ CURRICULUM: ARIADNE'S THREAD
According to Wikipedia, Ariadne's thread, named for the legend of Ariadne, is the solving of a problem with multiple apparent means of proceeding - such as a physical maze or a logic puzzle, - through an exhaustive application of logic to all available routes. A particular method must be used to completely follow through and trace the steps or take a point by point series of found truths in a contingent, ordered search that reaches an end position. It is the process itself that assumes the name.
What does Ariadne's thread have to do with BJJ? BJJ nowadays is so complex one can get lost or discouraged and quit without a roadmap, an Ariadne's thread that will lead him out of the maze.
Modern Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu requires more than 10 years training in order for someone to achieve black belt status and that happens for a reason. A modern BJJ curriculum has to utilize 200-350 techniques depending on the main objective for training in this art. Whether it is training for self-defense, sports competition, gi, no-gi or MMA or for all the above, the number of techniques you have to learn is frustrating.
If that was not enough, it seems that every couple of years somebody invents a new guard or submission adding more techniques to be learned, more counters and more options to explore. The 50-50 guard and the worm guard are now common terms in the BJJ vocabulary. Let us not forget that deep half guard and x-guard did not even exist 10-15 years ago.
I feel that it is tough for “old school” instructors to keep up with the plethora of new techniques that are being taught by younger instructors who are in their athletic prime. These are new techniques that require the athlete to be of lighter weight and flexible and are hard for a 50-year-old to practice and learn.
If you attend seminars by old school instructors you will notice that they hate it when their techniques are not appreciated and the only thing the participants want to see is worm guard or berimbolo variations. Sometimes instructors notice this in the school, when they teach beginners an escape from side control and when they turn their back the students try all these fancy moves without taking the technique being taught seriously.
And you even can see nowadays white belts competing and dropping directly to inverted guard or going for berimbolos. How can an instructor avoid teaching these techniques if his/her students will have to encounter them in competition? And probably lose as these techniques are hard to deal with. Unfortunately, the answer to that is that a lot of instructors are forced to add these techniques to their white to blue belt curriculum along with the side control escapes and the scissor sweeps from the closed guard.
Unless they are professional athletes who can train 2 times a day for 3 hours each time, 5-6 days a week, there is only so much students can learn if they train 3 times a week for a couple of hours each day.
This makes BJJ more difficult to teach. As a student, the temptation is always there to try new fancy techniques. And it is not wrong to try different things from time to time. However, do not neglect the basic techniques. The basics are being taught to beginners for a reason. Basics make the difference in winning against the elite in the long run.
TRAINING IN THE BASICS: TWO MAIN CATEGORIES
Old school instructors always stress the importance of "training in the basics." However, the so-called “basics” can be divided into the following categories:
1. Basic techniques (armbars from the closed guard, guillotines, rear naked chokes, etc.)
2. Training in basic sport specific fitness skills and attributes. These are mostly enhanced by drills and exercises which in coordination with the basic techniques are designed to prepare your body for the advanced techniques which require a higher level of athleticism and a close attention to details.
In the past BJJ training was 90% technique training. However, as we now have more and more competitors who combine athleticism with great technique, this has started to change.
We all learned the basic kimura lock in our infant stages in the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu world. While basic, the move can be very effective and damaging when done properly.
However, they are plenty of cases in which you’ll be forced to adjust and adapt the hold!
No matter what position you’re in—for instance, the kimura trap—the one constant remains is that you’ll have to rely upon your grip strength to execute the move properly.
While it may look tough, it really isn’t.
Setting Up And Attempting The Kimura Lock
In this specific setup, we’re assuming that our opponent is in the top half guard. In this given position, the kimura lock is almost the most readily available move, which makes it very easy to defend against if you are on the receiving end of it.
The trick of going about this hold is how strong of a grip you’ll have on your opponent when goingn to lock on the hold. The kimura can be easily broken if your opponent is bigger by them simply ripping their arm free, or by hiding their hand underneath them.
Your opponent hiding their hand is the most likely of the two, which can be tricky to deal with. Rather than trying to free it by using brute force, there’s another way of going about attack the arm you have already isolated.
As they hide their hand, shoot your hips backwards. Upon doing so, you’ll be able to take your far side leg, and bring it over the top of their shoulder, trapping the isolated arm.
This is where your grip strength comes into play; you’ll be placing yourself in an awkward position that your body isn’t used to, causing your grip to loosen up a bit. Really focus on maintaining the hold, allowing you to continue with the submission attempt.
Staying Tight To The Body & Transitioning Into An Armbar
Once we have the foot over and the arm isolated, the next step is crucial. While we focus on maintaining the grip, we’ll also want to make sure that the arm is placed firmly to the chest. To do this, you’ll want to hug the arm by bringing whichever shoulder is on the mat to their elbow.
Now knowing that the hold is firmly in place and their arm isn’t going anywhere, it’s time to start posturing yourself to get the submission finish!
While keeping their arm tight, you’ll want to slowly extend backwards. Avoid leaning back as if you were doing a traditional armbar, but slowly arch backwards as the arm stays tight to your sternum.
If done properly, this will lead to an armbar finish. Even if they attempt to roll out—which they likely will—maintain this hold, as they would then just be rolling right into a traditional armbar setup.
Remember: grip is key! The second you feel the grip come undone, your opponent has the chance to escape. Even in a tough lockdown position such as the kimura trap, a weak grip can cost you the position and even the win. What I recommend anyone looking to improve their grip strength is the Finger Master Grip Strengthener. I wish I had a tool so helpful when I was beginning to improve my grip strength. Check it out for more details. The next best option is using incredibly heavy and inconvenient buckets or sand or beans like in this video.
Focus on keeping a firm grip and proper body position, and you’ll be well on your way to earning the submission victory and in impressive fashion!
Dan Faggella is a BJJ Academy Owner, No Gi Pan Am Champion at 130 pounds, and recognized expert in the area of leg locks. Dan writes or Jiu Jitsu Magazine, Jiu Jitsu Style, MMA Sports Mag, and more - find more of his leg lock articles and resources at www.BJJLegLocks.com
There are few things in this world that make me cringe like seeing someone get hit with a perfectly timed heel hook. I understand why some people hate leg locks of any sort—personally, I love them!—and it doesn’t take a seasoned vet to understand just how dangerous this type of submission attempts can be.
It’s all too common for us to hit a wall in anything that we do for a consistent basis. Becoming burnt out over time is a dangerous prospect, especially if it’s something that you wish to one day make a living out of.
This happens for grapplers all the time, and what was once an interesting, fun endeavor has grown tedious. Now, with a stale training routine, you strive for something fresh to add to your training to not only make you better, but engaged once more.
When it comes to submissions that fall under the classic saying of “old reliable”, the kimura is right up there. You probably learned this classic move on the first or second day of training, because it’s a staple to every grappler’s arsenal!
A move that focuses in on the shoulder joint, the kimura doesn’t call for a great degree of difficulty, but it sure can get the job done when executed properly.
It’s easy to leave behind certain moves as we progress in our grappling career, but I feel that the kimura is one that shouldn’t be left behind and should always be ready to go!
I’ve been grappling for some time now, and recently obtained my black belt. The pinnacle of my rather young grappling career, earning that black belt was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. Through all the hours of hard work and dedication, it truly was rewarding.
Yet and still, with all the hours logged on the mat and all of the knowledge obtained, I never forgot my humble beginnings in grappling.
For those that know me, you probably know I have a slight obsession for leg locks and variations of the sorts. From inverted to 50/50, if it’s complex and takes some serious studying, then it’s for me! I learned in an interview with Caio Terra that "fancy" is not always best, and in terms of "basics," the guillotine tops the list.
Muscular power, just the sound of those two words together makes me think of muscle bound men deadlifting and bench pressing weight more than twice my weight! That doesn’t have to be the case, you can have great muscular power even if you are in the rooster division! Many of us little guys don’t hit the gym hard every day so we’re unsure of how strong we truly are. To get a good starting point we you should test yourself out!
This article was based off of a 1-hour interview with Stephen Whittier from 40 Plus BJJ. Stephen's given me more article material than almost anyone else, and I wanted to thank him here. If you're an older grapplers, it's definitely worth check out the review of his "40 Plus BJJ Success" course. Thanks again Stephen, and enjoy the article, guys!
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In this article we are going to discuss a couple of chokes shown by Stephen Whittier, these particular chokes are set up from very common positions and could be applied to almost everyone’s game!
The technical explanations in the videos speak for themselves, in this article were going to try and distill the real concepts behind these moves.
Attacking during transition
When is the ideal moment to submit someone? Once you are in the mount or in our opponents back? Everyone is always talking about position before submission so it must be, right?
The answer to this question is kind of two fold.
Why mechanical advantage isn’t always enough
From a biomechanical standpoint the dominant positions seem to be the best place to look for a submission, because all of the dominant positions give you some kind of mechanical and structural advantage over your opponent. So yes, in theory the best positions to finish someone are the major point scoring positions. I mean when I’m in the mount can pretty much use all of my limbs and all of my weight against just your arms and your neck right? In practice it often proves difficult though..
While everything I just said about dominant positions is true, there is a whole other side to this. Every time you mount someone or take his back, your opponent is expecting a submission.
I’m sure that we’ve all been in the same situation before where we learn a new technique and something isn’t clicking, no matter how hard we try to focus on the details we often overlook. With tons of mat time and research, there is still something that isn’t making sense. At a stand-still, you’re ready to pass up on learning that technique and move forward.
However, times are changing thanks to the iGrapple Mobile app.
Recently released, the iGrapple is a fantastic tool that every single one of us Brazilian Jiu Jitsu players can use in order to take the next step forward in our skill development.
If you go back to the first paragraph and think to yourself, “Hey, that’s me!” when it comes to learning new techniques, then you’re in luck because the iGrapple is here to eliminate any issue that you may face in learning.
With a very classroom-like approach to grappling, the app does a fantastic job of breaking everything down so that even the most basic white belts out there can soak up the moves and implement them in a heartbeat!