BJJ Tips: The Science of Luck in Grappling / BJJ part I

As some of you know, one of the subjects I studies at university was Probability (otherwise known as the science of luck) and one of the topics my course covered was called random processes. These are random sequences of random variables*. An example is a man very-drunkenly walking home from the pub. There is a:

1. Probability “p” that he will take a step in the right direction and a
2. Probability “q” that he will take one in the wrong direction, taking him further.

The sum of these is called the Probability of success and alternatively the Probability of failure. Further, his home is called the absorbing state. It is called that because once there, the process comes to an end. He stops walking. Another example is a gambler at a casino. There are definable probabilities behind success and failure and if/when he goes broke, he leaves. You get the drift.

The way I see it, this is very much how Grappling / BJJ must feel to beginners. When you watch the experts roll (BJJ or Grappling, doesn’t matter), you can see them making small (even tiny) gains on each other and quick recoveries. When you watch two beginners roll, you can see them passing guard. You can see them get to side control or even mount sometimes, but you can also see them lose these positions just as easily.

IT’S FRUSTRATING AS HELL! It really looks like a game of luck. The above-mentioned probabilities of reaching a position “p” and losing it “q” are equal and you can see the frustration on their face and how they try to tip the scales by using attributes (speed, strength, agility..etc.) or even sometimes hurting their partner (elbow pressure guard opening…etc.). I suppose the elusive submissions represent the absorbing states: the end of the game.

Do you want to get better? Do you want to move beyond this game of luck? Then focus your training on the technical side of Grappling / BJJ and remember that training doesn't give guarantees. It just raises the probability that you will keep the position long enough or change it to a better one until you reach an absorbing state**.

*The reason I used random twice is to emphasize that both the direction AND number of steps is random

**In Part II I will go into more details of how to raise your odds in Grappling / BJJ


Liam "The Part Time Grappler" Wandi

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