BJJ Tips: On Systems in BJJ / Grappling

Have you ever heard about someone with upper-back, or even neck and shoulder, problems who goes to a physio or a chiropractor only to hear the problem actually lies in their hamstrings or knee or even the type of shoes they wear?

The body is not by any means one rigid structure but rather a system of systems and an influence* anywhere will have two effects:

  1. Local effect: You bump the toes on your left foot. They will hurt and, depending, may need medical attention.
  2. General effect: the pain forces you to avoid putting pressure on it, which can lead to overcompensation when you walk, run or roll.

This can potentially turn into a curse (excessive tension, predictable game...etc.) or a blessing (innovative solutions, higher focus on hip movement…etc.). Just look at the innovative half guard of Nino Shembri.

Some of you might recognise this in your BJJ Grappling and wonder how you can neutralise it. In other words: how do I put my current game thru an MOT Test? The answer is of course not to by learning new techniques but by going back to basics. There are fundamental concepts that are the building blocks of technique. If you always work to improve these, the techniques themselves will stay top notch and you will start discovering your own versions and small additions that make your game YOURS.

Now this all sounds nice and tidy, but what are those magic fundamentals? Well since you ask, I am in the process of releasing a series of DVDs and…..just kidding!

Your instructor can show you the fundamentals
Saulo’s Jiu-jitsu University can show you the fundamentals
Saulo’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Revolution DVDs can show you the fundamentals
Stephan Kesting’s Roadmap DVDs can show you the fundamentals
Roy Dean’s Blue Belt Requirements can show you the fundamentals

Or…and you can tell this is my favourite as I’ve saved it for last…you can discover (most of**) them thru the 3P – Aliveness approach! Thanks Cane!

If you’re under mount and keep getting armbarred, you need to realise that you are letting your elbows leave your sides. That’s a fundamental posture. You don’t need me, Saulo, Stephan or anyone to tell you that. The armbar will tell you that.

So to wrap up:

  1. Realise that you are a system of inter-linked systems.
  2. If you run against a problem or a challenge, retrace your steps back to where you broke a fundamental or two, rather than adding new techniques that will in turn be resting on shaky fundamentals.
  3. Once you correct that error, keep your awareness level high and try to notice what general effects this correction may have had on the rest of your game (going back to the armbar from mount example, once you learn to keep your elbow glued to your side) are you getting less and less arm-dragged or Kimuraed? Are you giving away the under-hook less often when playing guard/half guard?)
  4. Saulo, Stephan Kesting & Roy Dean release top notch material.

I just got an idea! I’m going to right down a list posture fundamentals and ways in which my Grappling would suffer if I broke them. I suggest you do the same.

*It could be a positive (preference) or negative (injury) or neutral (mimicking of peer)
**This is 2010. You don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Please feel free to get some good resources but remember that reading/watching/talking about the fundamentals and knowing/doing/experiencing the fundamentals are not the same thing. Why not get one or all of these resources and combine them with what your coach/instructor is giving you to discover the fundamentals for your self.

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