Students of BJJ hear “Focus on the basics” or “Focus on the fundamentals!” all of the time. Sound advice to be sure.
But what exactly does that mean? Do both of those words mean the same thing? How are they different?
Let’s try to clear it up by giving some definitions of what these three commonly used terms mean.
Basics are the core of individual techniques that are more simple in their execution — e.g., a straight arm lock from mount versus Ronda Rousey’s rolling arm bar against the turtle.
A quick scan of the white belt curriculum at most jiu-jitsu schools will list the tried and true techniques that all BJJ students should know. Triangle from the guard, replace the guard from under side control, upa escape from the mount — these techniques work for all levels of experience and basic techniques like the rear naked choke are employed by black belts against black belts.
A berimbolo would not be considered a basic technique.
Fundamentals are not so much specific techniques as they are practices and habits that are behind the execution of the techniques.
Base, posture, pressure, ability to move the hips, managing distance, and using frames are all examples of fundamentals.
Interestingly, solid fundamentals are what make the difference in effectiveness between the hip bump sweep of the new white belt and the black belt: same movement mechanics but executed with very different underlying fundamentals.
In boxing, stance, defensive guard, distancing, and head movement would be considered fundamentals. Basic boxing techniques would be the jab, hook, and cross.
Concepts are the principles of how you apply the techniques. The concepts of jiu-jitsu are both nebulous (look it up mat rat!) and yet simple.
A basic technique would be a scissors sweep from closed guard. The fundamentals would be hip movement and controlling the posting arm or your opponent in all sweeps.
The concepts involved in performing the scissors sweep might be:
Kuzushi: Breaking the balance of the opponent with a pull on the sleeve before attempting a throw or sweep
Action/reaction : Pulling the opponent in one direction and then using their defensive reaction to sweep them in the opposite direction.
It is possible to know the basic technique, have good hip movement and grips, but attempt the sweep in a direct manner without any setup or attention to unbalancing the opponent first. This is often the difference between a blue and a black belt execution.
The basic techniques with attention to solid fundamentals underneath are what is most often meant when your coach advises you to focus on the basics. Hope this helps clear up the confusion.