BJJ: Don’t Stop at the Stop
In BJJ, don’t Stop at the Stop. Stopping an opponents move doesn’t end the story. It STARTS the story. Too often, athletes will do good work stopping an opponents move and then subconsciously fall into mode of thinking whereby they think they’ve done enough and settle into neutral position. Don’t congratulate yourself for stopping a move. Furthermore, that’s exactly when some of the greatest attacking opportunities arise. That is when things start to get interesting. Remember, the basis of your opponents defense is always his stance. At the moment you’ve stopped their move, their stance will be temporarily broken, making offense so much easier. That’s why you should see the act of stopping an opponents move not merely as a successful defense, but also as one of the best possible times to launch into offense. When an opponent’s stance is compromised, and it almost always will be after a stopped attack, that’s when the chances of a successful attack are highest since there is so much less to have to fight through to complete your counter attack. So turn your mind in the direction of attack every time you stop an opponent’s attacking move, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much easier attacks become. This is something we really stress at Savarese BJJ (www.njbjj.com). Counter attack are so important in BJJ on the sport side, just like there are in the upper realm of Wrestling. In Olympic level or NCAA College Wrestling or the World Championships, counter attacks are vital to being successful.
How to deal with larger opponents
How to deal with larger opponents has always been a problem for many BJJ practitioners. Want to know how to deal with the big men or women? Answer is…get behind them! As the head instructor here at Savarese BJJ Academy (www.njbjj.com), probably the most common question I am asked is – how do I defeat people bigger and stronger than myself? Here is my general advice. When in matches against bigger people maintain inside position underneath them and carrying their weight. In offensive situations, favor leglocks and more than anything else, attack their back and get behind them! This was the case in one of my favorite matches of all time and one of the biggest upsets ever in BJJ history, MacKensie Dern vs Gabi Garcia. Inside position is the key to managing greater body weight from underneath. The legs are the hardest thing for heavyweights to hide from a smaller and more agile player and once locked, a heel hook will break anyone regardless of size. Also, the bigger the foot, the longer the breaking lever and the less chance of slippage. And the back, I don’t care how big and strong they are, they can’t push or pull someone who is behind them. So get there soon and stay there to beat the big opponents! Mackensie did exactly that and got the win! So remember the basic strategy when fighting bigger, heavier and stronger people. Inside position when underneath, focus submissions on the legs and position on the back! This strategy will not fail you in your matches and will have a much higher winning percentage for you against those large opponents than any other attack.
Takedowns from the back in BJJ
The back and mount in BJJ
The back and mount in BJJ are your two biggest positional goals. When you first begin Jiu-Jitsu, you get introduced to the basics of the positional game and taught the idea of position before submission, especially getting to the back and mount in BJJ. This is a great way to start your development. As time goes by, you can get much sophisticated and start breaking down positions, grips and control into very finely distinguished categories. It’s important however to have some simplicity to give you a basic sense of direction no matter how complex things get. Make your 2 positional goals the mount and the rear mount, also just known as the back. You can never go wrong with that. They are the two highest scoring positions in the sport and the two positions that best create the physical and tactical pressure that result in submission. From your first days in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu until your last, make the mount and rear mount your goal every time you train and compete and you’ll always know where you’re headed and give yourself the best chance of victory.
Inside position in BJJ
Inside position in BJJ is a game of control. In my opinion, the ideal spot in BJJ is that it be in particular a game of control that leads to submission. Nonetheless, it all begins with control. The most commonly talked about means of control is position. When people talk of position in Jiu-Jitsu, they typically are referring to tactical position, i.e how the two athletes are positioned relative to each other as defined by the scoring system of the sport. That being side position, mount position, rear mount position etc. But there is a an entire different class of position that is just as important for control purposes…limb position. Example is how are my limbs positioned relative to my opponents limbs? The fundamental choice here is between outside position (my limbs outside his limbs) and inside position (my limbs positioned inside). Each has their good and bad points. When working from underneath a heavier opponent, I generally recommend an emphasis on inside positioning. This makes it very difficult for an opponent to pin you by wedging his limbs around your torso and reinforcing those wedges with body weight for the simple reason that you are inside any wedge he can create. This enables you to create effective movement underneath an opponents body weight, the basis of being effective from bottom position. Here, our student Franklyn works from on top an opponent and has secured all the inside real estate. His chest dominates the space between himself and the mat and doesn’t allow his opponent to win back an underhook. This will allow him to slowly work towards a submission. In the guard, don’t fear your opponents weight, fear his ability to create immobilizing wedges around you, and inside control is a powerful antidote to this danger that has the added benefit of facilitating your own attacks.
Power of Cross Collar BJJ grips
I am always amazed by the remarkable power of cross collar BJJ grips. There are no universal remedies for the myriad problems and scenarios of Jiu Jitsu. One must be able to be adaptable and look for individual solutions to every problem. Nonetheless, there are some moves and concepts that have incredibly wide applications and come as close to a remedy as we can get in this art. One of them is the cross collar grip. This is probably the single most effective and versatile grip we can employ from guard position and many top pin scenarios as well. It is a grip that gives excellent and immediate control of your opponents head, arguably the most important part of the body to control. Here at Savarese BJJ Academy (www.njbjj.com), we always preach that if you control the head, you control the body. In addition, it creates an immediate danger of choke attempts to harass, intimidate and even finish an opponent. It gives a bottom guard player good distance control for both offense and defense. Perhaps most important it enables a bottom player to constantly break their opponents posture and thus create strong action/reaction attacks as an opponent tries to resist and recover. Experiment with different ways of holding the grip based upon what end you want to achieve. Learn to switch hands and grip and re-grip side to side so as to lead actively into attacks rather than just holding on with a death grip without purpose. Create a sense of push/pull and action/reaction. This is the element that makes Jiu-Jitsu interesting and artful rather than a slogging match. There is a reason why so many great athletes made this simple yet devastating grip the basis of their attacking grip game. Professor Rafael Lovato has used the power of the cross collar grip quite effectively in his career. Make it part of yours too!
Direct routes to the back in BJJ
Get outside your opponents elbows and you have a direct routes to the back in BJJ. There are many highways to an opponents back. All of them are important. But the simplest and most direct and the one you need to master first is to get outside your opponents elbows. This can be done from standing, from top and from bottom. In addition, it can be also done in many ways – arm drags, elbow posts, arm-triangle etc. Make it a habit to constantly fight to get outside your opponents elbows and you will always find yourself in an advantageous angle that will give you access to the back. As an added bonus, if the opponent defends his back by squaring up to you, he will make himself vulnerable to many submissions performed from frontal positioning or attacks on the other side of his body – all because of that initial threat you created by clearing his elbow. The elbow will always be the clearest and simplest demarcation line between frontal and back positions. Remember always that the back is the single best attacking position in all of grappling – learn to navigate your way there from everywhere and by every means – but understand that beating the elbow will be the most direct path you can take. Here at Savarese BJJ Academy (www.njbjj.com), we really preach getting to the back to finish. In this photo, I am attempting to get to the back after trapping my opponent arm across the body, giving me a direct route to the back in BJJ and enabling me to gain a power half-nelson on the far side.
Things to do to improve your BJJ in 2023
Things to do to improve in 2023:
I hope all my Savarese BJJ (www.njbjj.com) students use this list.
Chokes from the back in BJJ
Here is a great lesson about chokes from the back in BJJ. Take your time trying to choke when you take your opponents back. In a match, our biggest battle in Jiu-Jitsu is a battle against the clock. We have to make decisions and perform moves in less time than our opponent if we are to put him under the kind of decision/action pressure that breaks people and let’s us finish decisively. Chocking from the back is a different sort of affair. Unless there is limited time left in the match, you will generally get better results focusing on maintaining chest to back position and making sure you are securely hooked into both sides of his body first and only when these are pre-conditions met, switching focus towards the choke. Understand that often position and control are partially lost as you attempt a choke. Should this happen, stop the submission attempt and re-establish chest to back contact and control of both sides of your opponents body. Quite often there will be an extended period of time where you have to fight for position and control on multiple occasions until finally you get the strangle opportunity. This is normal…TAKE YOUR TIME. Nothing is more heart breaking that getting all the way to the back and losing the position due to over zealousness. Here, the great Jean Jacques Machado shows admirable poise and calm as he positions himself for a choke vs Cael Uno in an ADCC match. Note that he has established the two main prerequisites – chest to back position and is hooked into both sides of his opponents body (a leg on one side, arm on the other). You can see he is in no rush to strangle, there is no reason why he should be, when you are in a winning position, let the position do the winning for you. Let your position be the main focus and your finish merely an afterthought.
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