BJJ / Grappling tips: avoiding injury in jiujitsu

What is your objective in jiujitsu?

I'm currently reading Nic Gregoriades' excellent volume "The Black Belt Blueprint" and while I can't rave about it enough (full review to come. If you can't wait, check this thorough review by Slideyfoot.), I noticed something that I totally agree with but also want to add to.

For those of you who don't know who Nic is, shame on you. Besides being Roger Gracie first black belt, he's an accomplished writer, teacher and competitor.

The book starts with a thorough introduction to all the major positions of jiujitsu and grappling. In each, e.g. The mount, Nic advises on the most important pieces of the puzzle then he suggests what you should be doing if you were on the offence and defence side respectively. So in the case of the above mentioned mount he suggests the following:

While I totally agree that the best thing to ask yourself at any one point during grappling is: "what should I be doing / focusing on right now?" And that the answer to that question should never revolve around more than 1-2 things for each position / transition, and I cannot fault any of the technical advice Nic provides for each position and from each perspective, I'd like to add a new point of view.

I would like to suggest that the hierarchy of priorities for ANY position in grappling / Jiujitsu / self defence / MMA is always the same, whether you are on the top or bottom, offence or defence, and that that priority is:

1. Stay safe
2. Weaken the opponent's mechanical advantage (steal their leverage)
3. Stay safe
4. Anticipate the opponent's next move and block it
5. Stay safe 
6. Increase your mechanical advantage
7. Go back to point 1

Staying safe is, in my eyes, the most important part of learning jiujitsu, grappling, MMA or any martial art. The reason is very simple:

"A black belt is just a white belt who never quit"

Injury is the true enemy. Here are a few examples of what I mean by staying safe.

On the bottom of the mount:

Shoulder pressure from mount top is a great way to control the opponent,
but have you even had it whacked on by surprise? That's a sure way to get injured.
Always beware of the opponent's potential counters to your escape attempts, specifically their vigour. For example, if you post your hands on their hips to perform a hip escape, stay safe by anticipating that they might turn hard into your hand and wristlock you too fast for you to move them or even verbally tap. And how about opponents who try to counter your UPA by whacking on a crossface, hard and fast? Yes it's often a jerk move but they might simply be a panicky newcomer. Look after yourself. Stay safe. 

On top in mount:
Let's be honest. Who amongst us has never stopped an UPA by posting on their head because your hands were busy choking the opponent? Stay safe: let go of the choke, or at least anticipate the bridge escape and either roll with it or employ some super heavy hooks from a low mount. 

During a guard pass:

Caio is not only performing excellent technique, he's also being considerate and
protective of his partner's jaw when he frames his left arm before bringing in the left knee shield.
When you've passed the opponent's legs, most players' attention will move on to anchoring their weight onto the opponent's upperbody. Having eaten a few knees and feet from an opponent who's scrambling to recover guard over the years, my number one priority nowadays when passing is, you guessed it, staying safe. I'm not even too concerned about the pass most of the time. I just want to move from one safe and secure pitstop to the next, always safe from random attacks, deliberate or accidental. 

The importance of staying safe while learning jiujitsu is, in my eyes, totally underestimated and hardly anyone talks about it as a valuable concept to extend your career on the mat.

(several photos are borrowed from


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