Today is Saturday and it’s the second time in a row I taught Jiu-Jitsu class up at Jeff’s place (Giroux Jiu-Jitsu in Glastonbury, CT). You can read about my last adventure here. Today was pretty much a follow up to that one and most likely my final Saturday teaching, or appearing for that matter.
I wanted to go over a few fundamental principles with the guys to help out their games. Sort of my goodbye present. I didn’t feel like delving into any sort of fancy technique or anything like that – I began calling Saturday classes “the lab” a while ago and have been pretty adamant about keeping things really chilled out. When I’m leading things anyway. So today’s goal was to get them thinking a bit differently than we traditionally do.
One of the big problems I’ve had with Jiu-Jitsu (and I explained this to the guys this morning) is my development of bad habits. The way I’ve managed to create this type of environment is to constantly allow myself to be put in horrible situations, in an effort to discover ways out of them. While it’s true this is probably the best and most consistent way to learn escapes, it’s no way to learn how to avoid the bad situation before it happens. I explained this morning that I once read that a BJJ player should put themselves in so many bad places and learn to escape them that eventually there are no more bad places to put themselves (I’ve said this way too much). The trick is though, and you’ll find this with really good players, is to move your body in such a way that it avoids danger at every turn, with the key word being “avoid.”
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the game of Jiu-Jitsu and have come to the conclusion that it’s basically a combination of a chess match and a ratchet wrench. Or, a chess match played on a really big board with a whole lot of pieces. And like I said this morning, it’s a game of incremental advantages and disadvantages.
The way I demonstrated this theory of mine was to take John in my guard and ask Seth, who was sitting nearby, who had the advantage. Seth answered correctly that the situation was neutral. Then, I raised my hips up a bit on John and I asked Seth again – who had the advantage? Seth answered that I did. After that, I lowered my hips and had John keep my hips pinned to the ground. I asked again and it was confirmed that John had the advantage.
When I try to get a point across, I find it extremely effective to demonstrate scenarios and let the person who’s doing the learning arrive at their own conclusions. This is particularly helpful, I’ve found, with men. I don’t know why, but it’s just what I’ve noticed. And I have done things this way in a variety of settings and it seems to work. The individuals I’ve dealt with seem to enjoy thinking this way. They’re mentally strong guys and by presenting “discoveries” along the way, things are likely to stick.
The reason I went over the guard example with John was to really hammer home the incremental advantage thing – I would need that to be recognized before I went further. I wanted to cover guard passing defense.
I’ve always been fascinated by the guard and by being so, I’ve been similarly fascinated by having my guard passed. Since I pride myself on having a fairly good one, it’s a wonder to me when someone breezes by it. I don’t get upset when my opponent works to get through, but it’s disheartening when it’s no challenge for them. And since this is one area of the game that means a lot to me, I’m particularly interested in the point where my opponent turns my advantage into theirs. It happens right after they finish passing either one of my legs and before settling into side control.
One of the worst habits we bring to the mat from the street is the habit of trying to get our opponent “away” from us – otherwise known as the “push.” In the case of having our guard passed, this bad habit arises when we notice our bodies coming out of alignment, such as a straight line, and into something more similar to an X. As our opponent makes their way out of our guard and begins to pass our legs, we get nervous and unknowingly make things worse by pushing their head towards our hips, or down our bodies. By doing this, and as I demonstrated today, we quickly and effortlessly assist our opponent with passing our guard and setting up side control. If we initially had a straight line position and were safe that way, why on earth would we want to push someone into the dreaded X? I don’t know, but I assume it’s because of impulse and instinct working together. Pushing someone away usually takes much of our strength and defending ourselves has never not been about using strength. Strength was what we were taught to use when we were kids – not when we attend Jiu-Jitsu class.
I watched a really good video this week that gave me all the material I needed for today’s class. I’ll post it below because I know both John and Seth will want to watch it a few times through. It’s put out by Demian Maia and covers two things, the “straight line theory” and “head control theory.” Both are really great principles to learn and understand and can really help your game. We went over the two this morning and I saw a marked improvement in both Seth and John defending against having their guard passed. The improvement was immediate and continued on through all of our drilling. When John stuck to the game plan, I had an extremely difficult time passing his guard.
If you’re currently engaged in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or plan on being so in the future, I advise you to think things through by way of “principles.” If you can learn and remember “themes” and truths about the game, you can apply these truths throughout all you do. While techniques – submissions, escapes and sweeps are critically important, if you don’t have the foundation or understanding of what you’re doing, you have little more than experience and mat sense. You aren’t necessarily studying the art, you’re just wrestling around in an attempt to get a little better each time than last. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love to wrestle, but I also love to learn and Jiu-Jitsu has no shortage of offering these opportunities. But I also love to teach, and when I do this, I try to identify what I struggle with the most, so I can pass on solutions to those who are in the same room with me.
Demian Maia Science Of Jiu-Jitsu Defending The Guard Pass