Six Basic Concepts Every BJJ White Belt Should Know

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Techniques are an integral part of the art of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ). In fact, without techniques, there would be no BJJ. Therefore, as a BJJ white belt, a lot of your time will be spent learning and practicing the fundamental techniques and movements of the art, such as:

  • The bridge
  • The hip escape
  • The straight armbar
  • The triangle choke
  • The cross collar choke
  • The hip bump sweep

However, there is an additional, equally important aspect of BJJ that all students should keep in mind while training­: concepts. Concepts are the broad, general principles underlying the application of BJJ’s movements and techniques. For example, a straight armbar (technique) from mount should be applied only after gaining control (concept) of your opponent. Keeping concepts in mind while training can lead to rapid improvement and a greater understanding of the art of BJJ. Below are six basic concepts that every BJJ white belt should know

1) Position before submission

One of the core tenants of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the establishment of a dominant position prior to a submission attempt. The reason for this is simple — the more dominant the position, the more effective the submission attempt is likely to be. In addition, when a submission is attempted prior to the achievement of a dominant position, the overzealous student runs the risk of being swept or reversed. While there are certainly exceptions to this rule, white belts should very rarely seek to submit an opponent prior to obtaining a dominant position.

2) Control your opponent

While the concepts of positional dominance and control are closely linked, the latter is important enough to warrant its own discussion. Most BJJ students have had the experience of achieving a dominant position only to be immediately swept or reversed. This can be extremely frustrating, particularly if a lot of time and energy was expended in the process. In order to prevent such outcomes, control must be immediately established upon the achievement of a dominant position. Control maintains the position, and the position leads to a submission. Remember — control is the goal.

3) Maintain good posture

Anyone who has trained long enough knows that most submission attempts begin with the breaking of an opponent’s posture. Generally speaking, the worse one’s posture is in any position, the easier that person will be to sweep or submit. Therefore, the concept of good posture should always be kept in mind while training. In fact, when a white belt ends up in a training partner’s closed guard, the first thing that he or she should do is work to establish a strong, upright posture. Good posture is also important when practicing BJJ standup techniques, as leaning too far forward makes it easy for opponents to execute throws and takedowns. White belts who make an effort to focus on posture during training often experience an immediate improvement in submission and takedown defense.

4) Stay relaxed

For white belts, staying relaxed while rolling can be difficult. After all, it’s not easy to relax when someone is trying to choke you! However, relaxation is a key concept that BJJ white belts must learn to grasp if they want to progress quickly. Relaxation allows BJJ practitioners to preserve energy, stay attuned to their partners’ movements, and move effortlessly and naturally. One key to relaxation is proper breathing. Deep, steady breathing while training preserves energy and keeps the body loose and relaxed. Conversely, quick, shallow breathing depletes energy and creates tension in the body. It takes practice, but learning to relax while training is one of the first steps towards mastery of the art of BJJ.

5) Prevent your opponent from posting

The most common method of sweep prevention in BJJ is the placement, or “posting,” of a hand or foot on the mat in the direction of the sweep. Posting creates a barrier between the body and ground, and it provides the student being swept with an opportunity to regain his or her posture and balance. For example, the hip bump sweep requires that the arm and leg of an opponent be blocked in order to successfully complete the technique. When the arm and leg are not properly secured, the student being swept can simply reach out and prevent the sweep attempt. The removal of the ability to post, however, leaves the opponent unable to prevent the sweep. Keep this concept in mind while rolling, and you’ll be surprised at how often you’re able to sweep your training partners.

6) Look for opportunities to create mismatches

The creation of mismatches is one of the reasons that BJJ practitioners are able to defeat bigger, stronger opponents. BJJ students, through the calculated achievement of positional dominance, seek to pit weak parts of their opponents’ bodies against strong parts of their own. For example, one of the things that makes the armbar submission so effective is that it creates an extreme mismatch. It pits the BJJ student’s entire body against his or her opponent’s arm. This could hardly be described as a fair matchup, and it’s exactly the type of situation that BJJ fighters strive to orchestrate. Similarly, the rear naked choke is basically a contest between the BJJ practitioner’s entire upper body and his or her opponent’s neck. Needless to say, the neck rarely wins in this situation. Learn to create and exploit these anatomical mismatches, and you’ll soon be giving the upper belts at your academy a run for their money!

So, do you employ all of these concepts?


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