Building Your Jiu-Jitsu Game: Universal Jiu-Jitsu

This week I shared an article on how you can start to build your personal jiu-jitsu game around a submission that works naturally for you.

This is an important factor in building your game but only one of the pieces of advice you should take into consideration.

“What should I be working on?” is one of the most common questions that I get from BJJ students. OnceĀ jiujiteiros have a certain level of experience, they recognize that they can start to direct their own training.

But which way to go? There are just so many different areas and a multitude of techniques in each position. Gosh, you even have to decide which guard to try?

One of the best guidelines I’ve ever heard was: try to develop a universal jiu-jitsu.

Focus on techniques that are applicable across all of the different expressions of jiu-jitsu: self-defense, no-gi, sport BJJ with the kimono, submission only, and MMA.

We have only a finite amount of training time. It is not possible to master every position, sweep, submission, and escape. The most efficient way to build your jiu-jitsu is to focus on techniques that are applicable in all of the different areas.

The Kimura works in every application of jiu-jitsu, but the heel hook doesn’t. Jumping to guard is a sound strategy in IBJJF matches, but a takedown is better in all of the modalities of jiu-jitsu.

I’ll share three ways I made my own jiu-jitsu universal.

1) Universal Takedowns

I learned takedowns that were applicable gi or no gi. Some judo throws rely heavily on specific gi grips that just don’t seem to translate well to no-gi.

Also, many effective judo throws have a risk of exposing the back if they fail. In judo competition this is not a problem as the referee will quickly restart the fight standing if the throw fails and one stalls in turtle for a few seconds. No referee is coming to the rescue in BJJ or MMA if your throw is countered, though.

Select trips as well as single and double takedowns, which are more universal.

2) The Spider Guard

For my first two years of jiu-jitsu I enjoyed playing spider guard with strong sleeve grips. It is a great attacking and sweeping guard and it was easy to defend a strong pressure passer by keeping distance with my legs.

However, I still remember my shock when I tried it out no gi! My work schedule changed and I could only make it to the no-gi classes. The first several times trying to translate my spider guard moves to no-gi were a disaster.

My guard was exposed. I had no guard and felt like I had to start all over again in developing guard grips. Little of my previous training carried over to no-gi guard.

Lesson learned!

3) Avoiding Tricky Lapel Techniques

I love the creativity of some of the techniques that you can do with the kimono. Some of the strangles are ingenious! You surreptitiously pass your own lapel to your other hand and soon your opponent is tapping. They never see it coming.

Yes, lapel techniques are fun and show the possibilities of the art, but when you switch to no-gi or MMA, all of that training goes out the window.

Kimuras, arm bars, triangles, and omoplatas are all submissions that can be entered into from top and bottom positions, and from gi and no-gi. The skills and body awareness that you build by getting good at those submissions are transferable to all of the other expressions of jiu-jitsu.

Is your BJJ game universal?


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