What Are The Fundamentals in BJJ / Grappling?

Martyn posed a great question on Facebook yesterday about how BJJ may resemble a tree. After many a silly answer (thanks Jake!) it came clear that he was hinting to the support the branches receive from a strong and sturdy trunk (the Foundation). Manik also made a very smart, out-of-the-box contribution that, to me, sounded very Avatar-inspired.

A lot of weight is placed on the fundamentals of BJJ, and of course rightly so. But what are they? What are the fundamental techniques of BJJ?

The first time I saw a good list of fundamentals was on Mr Roy Harris' website (which has a wealth of infromation and articles free for all to access. The man is a genius!). The funny thing is, when I saw that list back in the day, I didn't really understand much of it! Adding to that, I wasn't really doing much BJJ / Grappling at the time so I had no training partners or coach to ask and in 2001, the internet wasn't as overloaded with BJJ information as it is now.

Nevertheless, a day or two has passed since 2001 and I have come to re-arrange Mr Harris' list into my own progression which is what I use as a guidline both for my own training and for private sessions.

Basic BJJ Moves:
-Sit shrimp
-Roll over your shoulder
-Box Drill
-Flip hips over
-Flip hips under
-Light legs

Guard Bottom
-Breaking posture
-Shaking base
-Working towards the back
-Arm wrap pit stop
-Head and arm posture
-Knee Shield posture
-Biceps ride posture
-Harness control
-Scissor Sweep – Standard variation
-Scissor Sweep – Knee push variation
-Hip Bump Sweep
-Flower / Pendulum sweep
-Technical standing from guard
-Triangle choke
-Cross choke(s)
-Guillotine choke
-Straight armbar(s)

Half Guard Bottom
-Stone Squirrel Posture
-Getting to your knees (dogfight)
---Knee tap
---Plan B
-Pull Guard

Half Guard Top
-Circle to flatten
-Underhook to flatten
-Tight knees
-Cross Face
---Escrima pass

Mount Bottom
-Survival posture
---Elbow knee
---Back door shrimp Escape
Mount Top
-Low Mount
---Mount maintenance
---Arm triangle choke
-High Mount
-Technical Mount
---Arm wrap pit stop
---Arm bar – Wing choke – Americana Triple attack
---Back take

Back Bottom
-Survival posture
---Turn to face escape
---Shrimp down escape
---Mount Awareness

Back Top
-Hooks and Harness
---Transition to mount
---Bow and Arrow Choke
---Arm triangle Choke

Side control Bottom
-Survival posture
---Bridge, Shrimp and Connect: BSC
---Pull guard
---To your knees
Side control Top
-Weight awareness
-Position 1: Far Harness: Cross face & Underhook
---Knee on Belly to Mount
-Position 2: Modified Scarf Hold
-Position 3: Reverse Scarf Hold
-Walk side-to-side incl. North/South

-Guard posture and breaking
-Base and posture
-Standing in Guard
-Sitting guard break
-Standing guard break
-Defence against:
---Triangle choke
---Cross choke
---Guillotine choke
---Straight armbar
-Combat base Low
---Double under
---Knee-thru Pit stop
-Combat base High
---5 Passing energies

-Grip fighting
-Arm drag
-Head snap
-Duck under
---Walk past the guard pull
---Double Underhooks
---Leg hook trip
---Fold over
---Knee Tap
-Over Under
---Leg attack combo

Of course, there are loads more techniques that some may consider as essential fundamentals and I'm sure some will look at my list and think "I don't agree that that technique should be there". That's cool.

Once again, to me, the techniques are just stills from the moving picture that is BJJ. Put two grapplers together and they will form postures, exert pressures and open up a number of possibilities and the way I look at what makes the cut for the fundamentals list is simply "Which techniques will enforce the best overall habits, using the least energy, creating the biggest posrture deficit with the opponent and open up the best possibilities?"

The much-discussed Gracie University looks at the fundamentals in a somewhat different light. Their Gracie Combatives Course define them as: The 36 techniques that are most likely to save your ass in a no holds barred fight (my words, but the gist is there). It's a very refreshing view that simplifies many things in BJJ (to open the guard of an a non BJJ schooled attacker, simply punch his face once or twice) but of course leaves a number of questions unanswered with regards to sport BJJ or Submission Grappling. Slideyfoot did one of the best reviews I've ever read on the Gracie University material.

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A.D. McClish said...

Great list! As important as knowing the basics are, understanding the concepts behind them is equally important. It is one thing to memorize the details of the move. It's another thing to understand the concept and be able to adapt the move to a situation presented in a grapple.

The Part Time Grappler said...

Exactly, because the concepts translate all over rather than just in the particular technique/situation. The thing is, I really believe that heightened awareness is where it's all at. I think that a small number of situational exercises that allow you to work on your awareness in a non- (or at least minimised) threatening environment will lead to the fastest progress and understanding (and internalising ) of the concepts.

A quick example, there is an infinite array of pull/push forces that whack you around when you are trying to surf/snowboard/sandboard...etc. but you don't go thru each a nd everyone of them. That's no way to learn surfing! You learn the basics of stance and posture, lower the intensity (calmer waves, lower incline...etc.) and work a couple of situations, letting the body learn how to deal with the forces. I don't think BJJ / Grappling is any different.