The Fundamentals of Brazilian Jiujitsu

What are the fundamentals of jiujitsu?

Helio vs Kato

"What constitutes the fundamentals of jiujitsu?" is a question that has been thrown around quite a lot recently. In fact, this is not the first time I myself attempt to wrestle this particular beast. I have, in the past, on at least one occasion, tried to list the techniques and concepts which I felt belong under the banner of “fundamentals of jiujitsu”. Today’s article, however, approaches the subject from a different point of view.

What is a fundamental? Well a fundament, to begin with, is word closely linked to the French word “fundare” or “to found”. It is also linked to the foundation of base of a building. In other words, a fundament or a fundamental component of jiujitsu is something that we learn early not because we want to, but because we cannot afford not to. You cannot build the second floor of a building before the ground (or in some cases the basement). Without a solid foundation, it is just a matter of time before your whole structure is doomed to collapse.

The majority of people will agree with the above. However, saying this we are no closer to knowing what a fundamental technique or concept of jiujitsu actually is. We’ve just established some parameters, that’s all.

My approach for today’s article is to list, rather than the techniques themselves which I feel can fall under the umbrella of fundamentals of jiujitsu, the various reasons that justify a technique being called a fundamental jiujitsu technique.

To me and many like me, jiujitsu is a martial art. Yes it has a sportive component. Yes it has a Vale Tudo component. Yes it has a diet, philosophical and health component but the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

So, therefore, to me the fundamental scenarios that justify a technique to enter my consciousness will, indeed, be different from those of a sport purist or a historian or an MMA enthusiast…etc.

To me, If I don’t know how to react to the following scenarios, my jiujitsu is worthless:

1.Being confronted by an angry male who may or may not want to physically hurt me
2.Being grabbed by the  clothes or a body part
3.Being pushed or pulled against my will
4.Being tripped over or tackled
5.Being swung at with an  empty hand or a blunt object
6.Being rushed aside so my loved ones can be harmed
7.Being pinned (against the wall or on the ground) against my will

That’s it. To me, for whatever it’s worth, the above is my current list of fundamental threats. I reserve the right to change these if I choose to.

What this means in practical terms is that my jiujitsu training better give me answers to the above questions / challenges or it’s fundamentally flawed and, for the lack of a better word, useless.

Therefore, every time I put the Gi on I'm attempting to address these needs:

1. I'm learning to manage the distance between me and the opponent. During training, my training partner might not necessarily punch me, but I'm always thinking about whether they could and how much damage they could cause.

2. This is a given in Jiujitsu. We're constantly grabbing and being grabbed. The art of grip fighting is very important to my JiuJitsu and judo. I thank my judo teacher Sophie Cox for much of my grip fighting knowledge.

3. You'd imagine that this too would be a regular part of Jiujitsu training in academies and gyms around the world but, evidently not:

Luckily for me, my teacher professor Eddie Kone is amazing at sharing this part of the art.

4. Again, judo helps you deal with getting thrown over and over again while jiujitsu, especially without the gi, is great at teaching how to sprawl against takedowns. If your BJJ training, however, always starts on the ground then it's your own responsibility to put in the time to drill takedown defence.

5. For years, my BJJ training was very lacking in this department and it bugged me. It really bugged me. Sure, I had years of competitive karate training behind me and I could manage the distance pretty well, especially  against direct straight line strikes, with foot- and body work but just random, surprising swings scared the bejesus out of me. Not to mention that my then natural reaction to a punching attacker, to punch back, could easily land me in legal trouble. That was why I sought instruction in this particular field first through the Gracie Academy's online program: Gracie University then with professor Kone who truly helped me consolidate the techniques into strategies and a coherent curriculum to practice.

6. Again, this is an area that is seldom covered in modern BJJ schools. I'm not even talking about defending against multiple attackers but rather the simple question of awareness of your environment. Knowing where the walls, the furniture, the exits and hazards are. Can you guide the fight towards- or away from an area? This might not be important to you but it is to me so omitting it would not have made sense. Something as simple as understanding the pros and cons of holding someone under mount vs side control vs knee on belly and when to choose which position. Do I always have to pass the guard? If a submission presents itself, do I always have to go for it? When your goal is survival and protecting others rather than winning, whatever that means, it changes the game. A lot!

7. Pins. As jiujitsu practitioners, we spend a lot of our time pinning or escaping from pins such as from under the mount, side control or knee on belly so we must be getting pretty good at escaping! But ask yourself this: how good are you at standing up and escaping when you've got closed guard on someone and they're pinning you down? How about being pinned against the wall? Or even worse: how good are you at getting up when pinned between the wall and the ground? Once again, this is something I've sought instruction on from a number of teachers and sources and have, in fact, made a core part of my sportive jiujitsu game.

I am constantly improving and refining my jiujitsu to serve the purposes listed above. Of course I venture outside those confines and play and work on the rest of my jiujitsu but I recognise what parts of my jiujitsu are "fundamental" and which parts build upon that.

I apologise if you clicked this link hoping to find a list of fundamental techniques of jiujitsu but you know the saying about the man and giving him a fish. I now urge you to find your own fundament. Your own jiujitsu raison d'être. What do you, not your instructor or friends or anyone else, want to get out of jiujitsu? Find that and make sure your training matches your fundamental needs first and foremost.



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1 comment:

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