BJJ / Grappling tips: stances, movement and great techniques from Eddie Kone, head of EKBJJ

Your basic BJJ / Grappling moves are defenses, escapes, transitions and attacks. Here are a few fundamental ways in how we use our bodies in the initial moments of a match / round / fight:

First the stances*.

Your stance (the way you stand and distribute your weight on the mat) is your base and grounding. They are snapshots of movement so don't imagine that you will be spending any more than a second (even less) in each fixed stance:

'Although there are a hundred kinds of stances, they all exist for the same purpose: to defeat the opponent' - Yagyu Munenori (1571 - 1646)

Get your stances strong and solid and learn to move from them in relaxed manner.

The most important stances are:

Free-movement stance: This is your most prevalent stance and the launch pad of everything else. From here you establish contact with your opponent using your hands, feet, hips and sometimes even head.

Two top level judoka making contact

Weight-bearing stance

In O goshi you need to be stable under weight

Path-blocking stance: The name really gives it all here. You are using a part of your body to block the balance recovery advances of your opponent, while the rest of your body forces them out of balance. The part of your body you use to block theirs and where you make contact may differ but the principle remains the same: Keep your own safety paramount and don't expect to spend much time in this position as your opponent will simply walk around the obstacle.

Spring-loaded right leg blocking path in Tai otoshi

Single leg stance: This is another quick transitional stance, unless it's forced on you by the opponent simply going for a single leg takedown or holding your leg off your guard-pull attempt. The aim here is maintain balance and form a unified mass between yours and that off the opponent while you are working to transition to a better position

How long can you hop?

What the hell do I do with my arms in BJJ?

Let's be clear, I'm not talking about specific grips. I'm not really the best person to talk about that.

I'm simply drawing some generl lines of where I like my arms to be:

-Before engaging, I like to keep my lead hand and arm away from the opponent. There are some really good judo articles that explain the advantages of this so I won't go into it.
-I like to keep my elbow close to my ribs
-I like to use one hand (usually my cross arm - opposite to leading) to open the way and remove obstacles (if anything by baiting) before shooting the leading arm in for a grip

If I'm already in contact with the opponent in a clinch the important things is that both of my arms are busy. Holding something is just not enough. Under/over hooking is not enough. When grappling in the clinch, my arms should be busy breaking my opponent's balance or at least stiff-arming them to block their entry. Often one hand will push while the other pulls. I still like to keep my elbows close to my torso and rotate the torso rather than operate on a big wide arc.

What to do with all this? How can I put this BJJ / Grappling theory to some practical use?

Practice. As Bruce Lee said: "You want to learn how to punch? Punch!"

1. With my partner, I get in a good free-movement stance and practice moving around each other. When I get comfortable doing that, start playing a tagging game going for each other's shoulders and knees (which symbolise lapel grip and double leg takedown entries). Remember to protect your leading hand and to work hard with your cross hand. Be very careful as accidental head butting could happen.

2. Getting in an over-under clinch, I practice breaking my opponent's posture by pushing, pulling, lifting and lowering. When I've done that a few times, I start adding some walking into the drill. Remember to keep the resistance low at the beginning. This helps learn what it means to control someone's weight along with your own. I focus on keeping the key points mentioned above for the stances and arms in mind and work on breaking my opponent's posture before entering their space with the hips. I often find myself going from a free movement stance into one of the other three above. The more energy I spend on breaking their balance the easier that entry becomes.

3. From a solid weight bearing stance I ask my partner to climb on my back. Getting comforable with their weight. Feel what it does to my posture and resist the temptation to straighten the legs

4. Give my leg to my partner and spend a few seconds hopping around with them. Feel what it's like to be a united mass and resist gentle pushes and pulls from them. Like any balance exercise, if given time, this will result in great benefits to your game and life in general**.

5. Starting from lapel and sleeve grips and moving at quarter speed, I transition into positions where a leg, hip or even arm blocks the opponent's path while the rest of my body forces them out of posture. Be very careful how you move and how you move your partner.

But what do I know? Here is someone who knows a hell of a lot more than I do about Jiu Jitsu. In this clip, Royler Gracie black belt Mr Eddie Kone shares advice on Gracie Jiu Jitsu stand-up techniques:

*I'm not sure if there is any literature out there that covers fighting stances within the context of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know the Gracie Barra Fundamentals programme covers the fighting stance, but that's about it.

**Accident due to bad balance kill! Prisons are full of guilty banana peels.


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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: This is the biomenchanically best structure to put your body in to handle a large weight, such as an opponent. Safety to your bones, muscles and joints is paramount and this structure allows you lift and lower (or even throw) someone of equal or larger size.

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