My next few posts are going to do very much with more of an abstract view on Jiu-Jitsu. They won’t be typical “BJJ” in nature, so I thought I should really lay some groundwork before I spend all sorts of time writing. After all, if no one gets what I’m attempting to say, I’m pretty much wasting my time. Well, perhaps not – I’ll at least be fleshing out some thoughts for myself, it’d be nice to square up some definitions in my own mind.
In my last post, I referred to Jiu-Jitsu theory quite a bit. I also referred to principles, techniques, concepts and something I like to call “constants.” I know a few of these terms may be considered one and the same at the edge of things, but really, they aren’t and I’d like to clarify at least a few of them in this post.
I’m going to first offer up a definition of “Theory” the way Wikipedia puts it. I’ve always had a strong disdain of these types of definitions in posts (the author seems so desperate when they rely on other’s words), but in this case, it’ll help out with what I’m trying to do.
Theory is a contemplative and rational type of abstract or generalizing thinking, or the results of such thinking. – Source: Wikipedia
Pretty much, if you’ve ever taken any sort of science class, you’re familiar with what theory is. It’s what I just copy/pasted above. It’s not difficult to understand, so I thinks it’s beneficial to apply and act upon the term to our Jiu-Jitsu training. I’ve already done this a few times and I’ll tell you first hand, when sparring with an overhead view of your actions in mind, you’re served so very much more with a “path” or a “trail” to follow. Once you begin to think this way, aimless reactions begin to disappear.
In Jiu-Jitsu, a theory is something that can be, if practiced, found to be true. It doesn’t take skill to achieve and it doesn’t take practice to achieve. It is what it is. Commercially, I’ve only found one available theory so far. It’s called the “Straight Line Theory” by Demian Maia. I discussed it here. There’s also something I found that’s called the “Intersection Theory,” which wasn’t a theory at all. It was more of a concept, so I’ll save it for later.
I’ll talk about the straight line theory and then I’ll touch on something I made up just as I was typing right now.
In Jiu-Jitsu, there’s a theory that states a player is safe as long as he remains “aligned” with his opponent. If one person is laying on his back in open guard position and the other player is attempting to pass guard, it’s theoretical to believe that the open guard player is out of harm’s way if he remains in open guard position (excluding foot locks). Once the guard passer passes open guard and the alignment scenario is broken, danger ensues. So, if an open guard player is to recall and rely on straight line theory as he’s fighting, he’ll have a guide and will continually attempt to stay in a straight line with his opponent, instead of simply reacting haphazardly to whatever comes his way. He changes the battle from one of reaction to one of proaction. I’d venture to guess that proaction in BJJ is always better than reaction.
I’m going to put something out there – and this is merely to paint a picture here. It may not be true, but I think it’ll help the conversation when it comes to understanding what theory is in the framework of Jiu-Jitsu.
I’m going to make up something called the “Pressure Theory” that states that if you apply 75% of your body weight to your opponent as “pressure” during a match, your opponent will suffer and submissions will be 50% easier to complete. Again, I’m making this up on the fly to make a point.
Now, I’m calling this a theory because the idea’s been practiced under a testing environment. All things being equal, when I’ve tested this theory, it’s been true. So, I put this out there for others to attempt and follow up on.
If this were true and if others decided to try my theory out and if they found success, here’s what I would expect to see more and more of as the theory caught hold of the BJJ world and became more popular. I would see more and more players using crushing guard passes, top game, some sort of reverse pressure hooks from bottom and submission from a pressure position. They’d be doing this because they’d be practicing their game from a perspective of pressure and success. If they simply follow the belief of the theory I created, they’d have a well defined path.
Theory really is that simple and I truly wish I saw more of it clearly defined. It’s not that it doesn’t exist, it’s just that it hasn’t been assembled the way I’d like to see it. With so many intelligent players out there worldwide, I’m surprised daily that all I see is technique. Theory is so easily understood while technique is complicated. Theory is the academic view and technique is the physical. Theory can be read about and technique must be practiced. I’m debating whether theory is an entry level discussion or an advanced one.
Which brings me to my next point – technique. What is technique when referring to Jiu-Jitsu? Again, from Wikipedia, but without the apology:
A technique is a procedure used to accomplish a specific activity or task. – Source: Wikipedia
In Jiu-Jitsu, technique is the mechanics that are required to accomplish a task. It’s the movement into back control to initiate the bow and arrow choke. It’s the opening and grabbing of the collar, the turning of the hand outward – it’s the digging of the thumb under the chin and the position of the foot inside the leg of the opponent. And so on and so on. Again, it’s each and every movement that’s required to pull off a submission in BJJ – without the overarching view of things.
And it’s what’s often the most misunderstood. Technique is what many beginning players think is required to become better. Technique is like a glossary in the back of a textbook. It’s a term that’s useless by itself. Without the glue to hold technique together, technique is nothing.
I’ve said this a thousand times, so people are probably getting sick of it. I’ll say it once again here to help illustrate a point.
How is it that a black belt and submit a purple belt using white belt moves?
Have you ever thought about that? If the black belt is only using white belt moves, then both players are well aware of each and every technique in the match. The purple belt can defend everything that’s going to transpire, yet somehow, he’ll still get tapped out.
It’s because Jiu-Jitsu isn’t about technique. It’s about everything in between.
How is it that some “phenoms” out there become black belts after only a few years of training? Take B.J. Penn for example. Began training BJJ in 1997 and was awarded his black belt in 2000. Roberto Traven began practicing BJJ when he was only 16 and was awarded his black belt four years later. Strange? Or do these guys understand or perceive things differently than the average person. Because I can tell you right now, if there was a list of techniques these guys mastered between the years of their white and black belts, and I mastered them myself in the same number of years – I can guarantee you that I still wouldn’t be a black belt. I’d be hanging around in late blue or beginning purple somewhere.
We can hash out what technique is and its benefits and pitfalls for years. All I wanted to achieve in this post though was a mere definition to assist in things to come. I need something to link to in some of my future discussions.
The last term I’d like to define here is principle. What is it when it comes to BJJ? Well, Wikipedia defines it as:
A principle is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something… – Source: Wikipedia
If I continue to apply backwards pressure to the elbow, the arm will break. If I continue to apply restrictive pressure to the neck, either the blood will cease to flow, air flow will stop or both. If I twist the arm past a certain point, pressure will increase on the shoulder as to cause pain.
These are all examples of principles. The principle of any effect is the cause that produces it. So I can say that the principle of the shoulder lock is the torquing of the arm. The principle of the armbar is elbow pressure and the principle of the blood choke is the reduction in size of the carotid artery. All of these examples make sense and the definition will hopefully assist in understanding of what I’ll write later. Or, it’ll at least help me write – period.
Those were the three bigger areas I think I wanted to cover in this post. I tossed around the idea of including “concepts” and “constants,” but I think I’m going to save them for later. These three cover enough ground on their own and will keep me busy for some time to come.
If you have any disputes on or suggestions for what I wrote above, please let me know in the comment section below. If something is inaccurate or flat out wrong, I’d like to correct it.