Unintended Benefits: How Attacks Open Up Other Attacks In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

One of my key training methods for intermediate to advanced students in BJJ is to specialize in a specific technique or position for a minimum of one month.

After a couple of years of doing jiu-jitsu, students are no longer as dependent on their instructor to tell them what to be working on in their game. By blue belt, most people have some preferences to certain positions and their favorite submissions.

A month or more of focused drilling, positional sparring and prioritizing those positions in your free rolling can elevate a specific position up a full belt level compared to before.

Afterwards, a curious and unexpected benefit will most likely happen. Your proficiency in a separate position or technique will accompany your improvement in the primary technique that you are working on.

I call this the “law of unintended consequences”. Here are two examples of how I experienced this in my own training.

1) Back Takes And Side Control

I got obsessed with back takes and seat belt control for a period when I was a brown belt. In every exchange or scramble, I was looking to catch my opponent’s back and get a tight seatbelt. My training partners learned to be wary of exposing their back which led to…

…my side control attacks suddenly spiking. My opponents became aware of not going to turtle, for example, and preferred to keep their backs on the mat. That means it suddenly became much easier to control my opponents in side control and I got more submissions from there.

2) Mounted Cross Choke And Straight Arm Lock

Inspired by Roger Gracie finishing multiple opponents by cross collar choke from the mount in one World Championship, I was determined to learn to finish with this move. While rolling, I would avoid other submissions that I was already competent in and go only for the cross choke.

My arm locks spiked! I was not looking for arm locks, but my training partners were so desperate to avoid the choke that they completely surrendered their arms for easy arm locks. How could I pass up a submission that was delivered like a Christmas present?

Above the positions that I improved in my one month specialization, I learned that specializing in a position can have unintended, secondary effects on your game.

The Martial Arts Encyclopedia’s Erik Paulson was teaching leg locks at a seminar I attended. Paulson illustrated how threatening a leg lock will create openings for open guard passes and vice versa.

Do the primary threats in your A Game open up attacks in other, secondary positions for you?


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