BJJ / Grappling Tips: Efficiency vs Effectiveness

Helio Gracie is quoted to have said: “Jiu Jitsu is personal efficiency to protect the weaker, which anyone can do. It is the force of leverage against brute force”.

We throw these words around sometimes, whether at the gym, on the BJJ / grappling mat or even in the office. But what do they really mean and are they interchangeable?

Efficiency is using less energy to provide the same level of energy service.
Effectiveness means the capability of producing an effect.

In other words, you’re effective if you get the job done but you are only efficient if you do it with less energy.

In BJJ / Grappling, being effective means you escape bad positions, dominate people and tap them with submissions. Being efficient means you don't expend too much energy while doing so*.

The goal in BJJ/Grappling is to, ultimately, be both. But it’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to come overnight!

So where do we start? I believe that the goal initially is to work on your effectiveness, but keeping efficiency in mind. You come to the gym to learn grappling techniques that work (effective). The goal is then to try to do them with less and less energy (efficiency). Once you pass that blue belt stage, I feel it's most beneficial to stop hunting more techniques and focus instead on efficiency with the techniques you already have. Investigate the different ways people with a variety of body shapes and builds perform the same technique and it will add richness and depth to your understanding of these techniques and your efficiency with them.

While most people know that and aim to do it, some confuse the two.

For example: To escape Mount, you need to employ a series of movements and to a beginner, or outsider, they don’t all look effective or efficient:

1. Fixing his hips with your hand(s) uses energy but doesn’t get you out on its own
2. Neither does bridging and turning on your side, if done on its own.
3. Nor does fanning your leg out to the side, if done on its own.
4. Nor does crossing your opposite leg over, if done on its own.

Roy Harris and Roy Dean demonstrating effective and
efficient foot drag escape from mount.
Also, see the video below of the same technique.

So you are using energy and performing several movements and you are still not escaping mount.

What you ARE doing however is spreading the energy expenditure, both over time and over a number of muscles and structures. Together, these actions will ultimately make escaping the mount possible.

It’s an old physics principle that the Egyptians used to build the pyramids. Rather than lift the building blocks (which the technology of the day couldn’t do anyway) they put them on long surfaces and push them along. It took longer and the total energy expenditure was probably the same if not more (low efficiency) but it was the smarter (and for the Egyptians the only) option (effectiveness).

Therefore, if sometimes a BJJ/grappling technique is not working, think about replacing it with 3-4 smaller, tighter techniques.

*It is easy to imagine being "effective" but not "efficient". We advanced white belts / new blue belts doing that all the time. It's harder to imagine what it's like to be "efficient" but not "effective". Think about a BJJ player who's too tired / scared to attack / escape so they just devote all their attention to not getting tapped. They are conservative with their energy, but they are not being effective in getting the job done. Another example is top grapplers playing a boring game (stalling at the end of a match, feeling the waters at the beginning of an ADCC match where the points don't count...etc.)


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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