BJJ Tips: What's in a BJJ / Grappling name?

An excellent post on Allie The Clear Belt got me thinking about the power of language and how it (can) influence our actions, in this case specifically within BJJ / Grappling. I started thinking about trigger words or phrases and how we could take advantage of them in our training. I am certain that there are hundreds and hundreds but I’ve only listed 4 below:

“Sit back for the leg lock.”
This kicked in when I was getting caught with leg locks a lot when playing open guard, or even just going for Scissor Sweeps from closed guard. I was not succeeding in sweeping and instead I was getting caught in heel hook after heel hook. I knew I was doing something wrong, but couldn’t figure it out. One day, I was rolling with someone who really liked leg locks and as I opened up for a Scissor Sweep, I heard Karl tell them “now sit back for the heel hook” and that’s when it clicked:

If they want to heel hook me, they need to be able to sit back!

I wasn’t controlling their head/neck/collar and hence their upper body, which gave them the opportunity to sit back for the leg lock. Of course, controlling the upper body and “loading” the shin with their weight is an essential detail of the Scissor Sweep but it’s easily forgotten when people focus too much on the scissoring action of the legs.

I see this all the time, especially with beginners. Eager beginners. Continuing with the Scissor Sweep example and sweeping to their left, the bottom sweeping leg is way too high.

I don’t know about you but when you sweep with a broom, you have to touch the floor. If you are expending too much energy and/or generally struggling with sweeps, chances you’re sweeping leg is not low enough. Chop the tree a little lower.


"Knee on belly"*
This is the other side of the coin. The name is Knee on Belly but, firstly, the best position for your knee is not always on the belly. Sometimes higher up actually affords you better control. Secondly, you can place your knee on the belly and still be in terrible balance/not get the best out of the position (e.g. if your foot is still on the mat). In other words, getting the knee on the belly is not the make-it-or-break-it detail of the position. It’s just a name.

"Arm lock"
Again, this can deceive in a couple of ways:

  1. Some subs are termed “arm locks” when they are actually shoulder locks.
  2. Some players focus too much on locking the arm with their grips, holding on for dear life, losing sight of locking the upper body and neck with their legs and hips.
Yes, locking the arm is what gives you the tap, but the position is likely to fail if you don’t precede that with control of the hips, upper body, shoulder and neck.

Now I know many of you will look at this and think big deal, I already knew about these, but these are just 4 simple examples. Your game would benefit tons from thinking about how language is, both positively and negatively, affecting your actions on the mat.


*The best Knee on Belly tutorial I’ve ever seen is the Saulo one from his first BJJ Revolution set.

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A.D. McClish said...

I really like the one about "sweeps". I never thought about it that way, but it makes complete sense. A few other things--not names, but illustrations--our instructor always uses in demonstrations that give me a good mental image are "You have 4 legs on a table. You need to take at least one out." He talks about arms and says they need to move like "boa constrictors" around the neck and when you swim. Great post!

The Part Time Grappler said...

Thanks for that Allie and for reminding me off the "Sit back for the leg lock” with your post :)

I'm glad you liked that Sweep part. I learned it back in standing sweeps in traditional Karate from a very small instructor who always said that he could never get away with sloppy sweeps like the bigger players who would just, incorrectly, whack at the mid-calf and topple you.

He didn't have that kind of power or size so he always attacked with sweeps that brushed the mat and he could sweep people much bigger than him.