BJJ Mechanics 101: Levers

Helio Gracie did not invent leverage. He did, however, implement them and ingenious ways in jiujitsu.

There are three important points to remember in the study of levers:

A: The point where you affect your force.
B: The point where the object is affected by your force.
C: The fulcrum about which where two rotate.

Naturally that means that there can be 3 general types of levers, depending on the arrangement of these three elements:

How well the lever performs depends on two factors:

1. How much force is used?
2. How long is the distance to the fulcrum?

In simple terms, the longer the distance, the less force you need to generate the necessary torque. Of course, we all know this from our childhood. If you've ever played a game of Seesaw with someone much bigger or smaller than yourself, the bigger person always sat closer to the fulcrum

How does this translate to BJJ / Grappling? The answer to that can fill volumes and volumes of books and if you are not using levers and leverage properly, in my opinion, you are not really doing Gracie jiujitsu. Here is an example that springs to mind:

The armbar defence counter:

Picture borrowed from the amazing LockFlow website

You are in armbar prep position (coined Spiderweb by Eddie Bravo - see above) .

You can see that the point where you affect your force (low on his forearm) is much closer to the fulcrum (his elbow) than the point where the object you want to affect by your force is (his grip).

A smart way to break his grip from a mechanical perspective is to make the distances more favourable to you. Don’t yank at the elbow, but pull his hand instead!

Instead of yanking at a, you should
shift to a' for better leverage
Now go and jot down a few levers that you recognise from your training. When you feel spent, think about an area where you are currently struggling and think about where and how you can use levers to offer a solution.

Here are a few super cool ways to finish the armbar from the Spiderweb, courtesy of Stephan Kesting and

ps: (These two together give you the torque= Force x Distance)

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