Monthly Archives: January 2012

January 30, 2012

The Perfect BJJ Armlock

Basics win fights. With that mantra in mind let’s discuss one of the most fundamental bjj submissions: the armlock from mount (ending with you and your opponent having your backs on the floor and bellies to the sky).

Learning and drilling fundamentals are essential for the beginner. It is impossible to spend too much time on the basics! Even the advanced practitioner knows it helps to review and drill basic techniques; not only does this ensure that you don’t make rookie mistakes during the fight, but it helps you when it comes to teaching others. What are some of the key points when you are finishing a belly-up armbar? Here are a few critical tips:

1 – Hips close to his shoulder. You don’t want your hips to be so far away from his body that your opponent can easily escape his elbow down to the floor.

2 – Knees pinching the arm. A tight pinching reduces the strength and mobility of his arm limiting escape options.

3 – Thumb pointing to the ceiling. This ensures that the alignment of his elbow is correct and you won’t be wasting energy bending his arm the wrong way.

Following these 3 guidelines will help ensure the correct application of the armlock and subsequently earn you the tap. There are of course are many variations of the armlock and in most cases these rules will apply (there are always exceptions to rules). Learn them , drill them, perfect them! Want to learn a few more armlock tricks? Check out our platinum member area for exclusive instructional videos!

January 28, 2012

What Is Your BJJ Style?

There are two basic games in grappling: “fast and loose” and “slow and tight”.

The fast and loose game is based on speed and movement (i.e. mobility) – many transitions between positions and attacks and reversals executed with atheliticism. A mobility based fighter might use explosive speed to pass the guard, and then transition from cross body to knee on belly, to mount to armbar so fast that their opponent has difficulty keeping track of what is going on. Marcelo Garcia is a good example of a mobility fighter: he uses his athleticism, explosiveness, and mobility to run opponents through a confusing “funhouse of grappling”!

The slow and tight game is based on weight distribution, control, and pressure (i.e. position). Position fighters emphasize being in control of their opponent’s body at all times, using their weight and grips to shut down the opponents movement. Transitions are usually accomplished with slow and punishing pressure. Royce Gracie is the embodiment of the position game: when he gets his position (any position) you feel so immobilized that your will to fight is cut in half. It’s hard enough to breath, let alone formulate a plan of escape and counter attack!

There is a tendency for smaller, lightweight fighters to use a mobility based game and for heavier, stronger fighters to use a position based game. This generalization is far from absolute: there are many larger grapplers who use a lot of movement and mobility in their games (Roberto Abreu) and many smaller fighter that use a position based game (Royler Gracie). There are also people who can switch between the two games, for example using the mobility game to pass the guard and then using the position game when they get to crossbody or mount!

Rodrigo Gracie addressed this issue at a recent seminar – he believes that one of the best thing you can do to improve your overall grappling is to work on the game you don’t ever use. If you are a fast and loose fighter, then you should work on your position game. If you are a slow and tight fighter, then work on your mobility game. A well rounded and unpredictable game is best! Look for specific recommendations of what you can do to develop these games in upcoming articles.

January 26, 2012

Leverage in Jiu Jitsu

“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it and I shall move the world” – Archimedes, Greek Philosopher

Archimedes understood the principle of leverage and is given much of the credit as to its discovery and subsequent formulation (torque= force x distance); Archimedes would have been great at Jiu Jitsu! As students we are constantly reminded to use technique over strength. This mantra can be frustrating to new students who do not yet comprehend the coorolation between leverage and technique. The same idiom can prove a bane to the more advanced student who when trying to master a new technique finds himself frustrated by the details. Every Jiu Jitsu technique can be broken down to the simple idea of leverage versus anatomical constraints! For example; the elbow joint is meant only to operate in one direction, when bent against its anatomical purpose the results can be devastating.

As a student, take your time in learning the basic principles of leverage and anatomy in order to greatly increase your Jiu Jitsu progress. Understanding this corrolation between leverage and technique will help you unravel the mysteries from the most basic armbar to the most advanced sweep!

Turning the arm into a lever

January 25, 2012

Balancing Mat Time with Conditioning

Forget the work-life-training dynamic, let’s talk about something much more important: the balance between mat time and conditioning. One of the questions most frequently asked by students is about how schedule one’s training and conditioning for maximum benefit; and then how to fit said schedule in with work, family, social events and everything else life throws your way.

Balancing mat time with your conditioning time can be a very real problem. There are only so many in a day, a week, a month and doing more of one thing almost always means doing less of something else. If you have 3 free hours a day, and you want to be the best grappler you can be, then the question arises whether you should spend all 3 hours on the mat or spend at least some of those hours on conditioning.

Every practitioner struggles with this: it’s a dilemma for the 25 year old professional mixed martial arts fighter who has eight hours a day to train as well as for the 45 year old father of three with his own accountanting firm who has but a few times a week to train. The pro fighter worries about over training and getting injured while the father of three worries that his family will forget his name if he disappears for yet another evening of training.

To get closer to an answer you need to first determine how much time you do have to alot to training each week. If you can train a lot then you also need to determine if you have the ability to recover from all that training. If you grapple more you will get better. If you do more conditioning you will get better. But if you do too much overall then you get sick or injured.

Let’s work with some average numbers. For the “layman” this number will be low 3 or 4 hours a week, for serious amateurs with a lot of extra time on their hands this might be 8 to 10 hours a week, and for professional fighters it will be much higher, sometimes 40 hours per week. There are no cut and dried answers for this topic, so here are some thoughts and guidelines you might want to consider while planning your weekly routine.

•If your goal is primarily the development of skill and technique for self defense then do more grappling and less conditioning. Mat time is usually the best way to improve performance especially early on.

•If you have dual goals of skill development AND improved fitness then allocate about 25% of your available training time to conditioning and the rest to grappling.

•Professional fighters have had great results only doing 2 to 3 pure conditioning sessions per week. They do a lot of additional conditioning, but it comes from sports-specific activities like grappling drills, hitting thai pads, wrestling takedown drills, sparring, etc.

•If you’re already doing alot of grappling then 3 hard conditioning sessions per week are plenty.

•One way to prevent overtraining is to use periodization, in which you vary the quantity and intensity of your training over the course of weeks and months, at times training at maximum intensity at other times taking it easy.

•If you despise any form of conditioning; running, CrossFit, etc then relax – it’s OK to do more grappling and less conditioning; just be sure to push yourself during your grappling workouts.

•For the old head grappler at least one CrossFit training session per week is highly suggested. This session can be as short as 30 minutes, if you use a lot of multi-joint movements like squats, pullups, lunges, presses, etc. What ‘old’ is of course is debatable. Let’s just say a grappler is past physical prime by age 35 to 40. Proper conditioning slows the loss of muscle mass and injury-proofs your body, both of which will really help your grappling.

•Finally remember that any conditioning is better than no conditioning. If you hate running, hate weightlifting and hate pushups but love swimming, then do swimming. It may or may not be the perfect complement for your grappling, but doing something you enjoy is better than finding excuses not to do the hypothetically “perfect” conditioning.

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