I have seldom seen a person make significant progress in Jiu Jitsu without becoming a student of the art. Learning Jiu Jitsu isn’t just an athletic endeavor. The fastest car in the world is of little use if you don’t know where you are going, how to get there, or even drive it. Athleticism is just one attribute. Mental clarity, emotional control, and presence of mind are required to consistently execute technique. This is reflected in our curriculum.
It is important to make this delineation, (physical attributes vs mental/emotional attributes), because we need to understand the individual attributes and how they contribute to the whole endeavor. The techniques presented in the individual programs are carefully selected and work together very well. In order for a student to progress from the fundamentals into the intermediate program the teachers and I look for control, competence, and ability to string the fundamentals together well.
Right now in our academy there is a pretty cool learning opportunity. We recently finished a big block on side control and the transition to mount. We are now on big block of obtaining, maintaining, and finishing from the back. We are going to stay here for roughly the next month. There are a few concepts that are consistent across the curriculum and the positions that might help you better understand the bigger picture.
I am going to list off the rules or concepts of interest and hopefully explain each well. I will probably fail and leave things out. That is why it is important that you study. We meet in the middle, where ever that happens to be.
The academy is a special place.
A common sign that used to be hung over the front door of many old academies said “leave your ego out here”. Not only is learning Jiu Jitsu difficult, on a very real level I am trying to teach you how to beat me up. The implied ethos there is that you will not. We are all here to improve and help each other learn. I am only interested in those students. If I had to pick between having an academy of 1,000 dolts or 100 people like our current student, I would pick you guys and girls every day. While growth is important, it isn’t more important than our community.
That said, lots of people want to to learn Jiu Jitsu. We have all been in work environments where new people are left to flounder. Then one day, if they haven’t given up, other people slowly start to help the newb out. That isn’t the Jiu Jitsu academy. I look for people who want to learn, help others, and can give a good honest effort.
Having the mindset that the academy is a special place, we are learning a difficult thing, we are coming from different backgrounds and have different motivations for training is essential to our learning environment. They are prerequisites to the study of Jiu Jitsu.
We don’t wrestle from the knees
One of the things that makes MMA fascinating are the large number of pathways a fight can take. I have seen a ridiculous amount of fights, but I still get excited for a lot of them because you never know what is going to happen. Similarly when you wrestle from the knees there are a large number of outcomes that could happen. Many of them involve your limbs moving in directions they aren’t supposed to. That is one reason we don’t wrestle from the knees in fundamentals.
Technically, once you start training live in the intermediate program, we do wrestle from the knees but it is a learned skill. In fundamentals we introduce it in a very limited fashion. You recognize it as attack and defend the turtle. The position can be very dangerous, this is why in fundamentals I just want you to know how to get back to guard (from the bottom) or take the back (from the top). That’s it.
When you progress to intermediate we maintain scale and progression. The training doesn’t just turn into a goat rodeo. There are still many limitations in place. To better illustrate some of the differences here is an instructional from an intermediate class. The audio is poor so turn up your speakers. Remember, if you are in fundamentals THESE ARE NOT TECHNIQUES FOR YOU TO USE IN TRAINING. This is just to illustrate the complexity of the position and get your mind thinking about Jiu Jitsu. There are a few concepts here that are present throughout the curriculum. See if you can spot them.
The curriculum builds on itself.
So in that instructional I talk about even when I have a dominant position my first goal isn’t to “win”, it is to not lose the position or allow it to be degraded. Just as my position can slowly degrade and fall apart I can also slowly advance my control all the way up to a finishing position.
I talked a lot about the finishing position in this instructional on the darce. Please review it. If you take the time to master the Darce, when you get to intermediate you can focus on the meat of attacking the turtle instead of having to review the fundamentals again. You will notice that I just touched on it briefly in the intermediate video above.
If you are in fundamentals and bummed about not learning the cool roll into the anaconda take a little comfort in knowing that some of the students in that class were bummed that we didn’t get into the guillotine. It isn’t allowed in the fundamentals class and I really don’t get into it much in the intermediate class all that often either.
Believe me, I enjoy teaching the guillotine but understand that we are talking about a technique where I position myself in such a way that I can employ a large amount of force primarily onto your neck. If the self control and awareness of both partners is not on point the risk for injury can be high.
I hope that you can see how all of this relates. In fundamentals we teach the darce from side control and the emphasis is on painful submission vs a blood choke. In intermediate there are a few more degrees of freedom involved. We are still doing what we did in fundamentals, but it is a little more dynamic and we are putting that heightened sense of positioning and body awareness that you learned in fundamentals to work. In advanced class, by the time you have developed super high levels of awareness and positioning, we learn to jump on guillotines.
Tap quick, tap often
I personally have a little bit of skill at Jiu Jitsu. I have also tapped more than anyone in the room. These things are related. One thing I have learned is that generally speaking the sooner I tap the more I can play the game. You should learn this also. Wanting to win and not wanting to lose are powerful motivators. Your ego, (the thing you are supposed to leave outside), will often try to interfere with the time it takes to recognize you should tap and actually tapping.
What I often hear is “I didn’t have time to tap”. Most of the time what this means is “I was busy playing the game and didn’t entertain the notion that my having to tap was a possibility. I was busy focusing on how to win. I was busy focusing on not wanting to lose. So by the time the pain from the submission registered in my mind I was already hurt. Then I tapped”
From the moment you step on the mat you should be prepared to tap, at any moment, in order to stop the action. This goes for when it makes sense that you need to tap, or it doesn’t make sense that you might need to tap.
I will often approach new students training, who I can tell are not aware of the point I made above and lightly tap them on the back. I will continue tapping, progressively harder and harder, until they feel it. Just as you should be prepared to tap you should also be acutely keyed in to the fact that someone may tap at any point. Whether it makes sense to you or not you should be prepared to stop in an instant.
If it sounds like braveheart you are doing it wrong
This brings us back to the first point about the academy is a special place. Jiu Jitsu is hard. It’s harder than math. Just as math progresses and gets more difficult so does Jiu Jitsu, except Jiu JItsu can cause much more pain than math. Everyone here is working hard to get better. Work hard, but be patient and understanding with your teammates. When we talk about heavy things like injuries and tapping, there can be an elevated emotional response with it. Remember, you do Jiu Jitsu and by definition that makes you cool as hell. Carry yourself in that manner. If you need to tap, tap, but don’t make a big deal of it. If you go harder than the other person was expecting, apologize genuinely, adjust, and then move on with life. If you are actually in a battle for your life, it is ok to make a little noise. If you aren’t fighting for your life, just be cool and train.
Back to the Jiu Jitsu
By now I hope you see how we work hard to get into the finishing position, but from there we can control and patiently work for the finish. You saw that with the darce. Now we are working on the back. Here is a link to an older class on finishing from the back. My hope is that you see how these relate. With the darce we are exploiting an opening in our partners escape attempt and that leads to its own unique finishing position.
With the back it is sometimes not that straight forward. If you look at high level sub only grappling competitions they will often use a tie breaker method where each person gets a shot at escaping their opponents back control. This is still sportive because finishing from the back is not a guarantee. With the darce I am trying to finish just the darce. While if I have the back I might finish with a choke or I might finish with an armlock. There is still a lot of room to work. This room to work is also room to escape. The task is to slowly close off options for escape and open up options for attack.
Party, super party
Everyone has worked hard to make the transition to our new space go smoothly. I appreciate it a ton. Coincidentally this happens to coincide with our actual five year anniversary. I’d like to have a BBQ to mark the occasion. Can you please email me a) any weekend dates over the next month that you COULD NOT ATTEND, and b) any relevant notes or feedback I need from you regarding the academy or classes. I’m busy, but not too busy to hear feedback, I just can't do it in passing. Please email me and let me know the good, bad, and ugly. If you have suggestions or recommendations this is the time to let me know.
Thanks to everyone for being here and everything you add to the academy. I appreciate it. See you on the mat!