Best Strategy for Submission Only Jiu Jitsu

I had a conversation with internet’s grappling guru Josh Vogel about submission-only tournaments. He showed me the following video from Gracie Worlds of Ryron Gracie giving up position without much care, almost seemingly experimenting as you would during a roll back at the academy:

Josh made the observation that the point-centric sport jiu jitsu is so ingrained in competitors’ minds that they often expand an enormous amount of energy to improve position assuming that the submission will be much easier in a dominant position. But this is not necessarily the case. Josh’s style reminds me of Roger and Kron Gracie, who are known for simple fundamental jiu jitsu but most importantly are escape artists, meaning they are very good at escaping “bad” positions. They fall behind on points regularly in competition and come back in dominant fashion as the match progresses to get the submission.

There is something to the idea of “pulling mount”. As a stand-alone strategy it’s certainly not optimal, but as an approach to training jiu jitsu it could have some value in the long term. In my mind, this approach can help develop two skills: (1) escapes and (2) the ability to fully relax while defending submissions.

One of the other competitors I like watching (and try to emulate) is DJ Jackson, who is known for his relentless top game. Somehow I have trouble imagining him ever “pulling mount”.

It’s an interesting open question to me whether a super relaxed escape artist can do well against someone with relentless top pressure in a submission-only setting. I hope that the recent growth in popularity of submission-only tournaments will help answer that question.

0 thoughts on “Best Strategy for Submission Only Jiu Jitsu

  1. Dave Liepmann

    This reminds me of Marcelo’s approach to top game: he’ll fight like hell to pass guard, but he talks a lot about the importance of loosening up your control once you’ve passed, so that the person on bottom can make a mistake as they escape. His ADCC matches are great examples of this. It struck me that Ryron has discovered a strategy that prioritizes not falling into that trap. I can’t tell whether I like it or not, aesthetically or strategically.

    Reply
    1. Lex Post author

      Me neither. I think aesthetically I don’t like it. But the idea of “survival” until the big guy gets tired is appealing intellectually, and on that level, has a lot to teach us.

      Reply
  2. Alan

    Considering how obsessive Team Lloyd Irvin is about drilling positions, I have no doubt that DJ has been forced to fight his way out of any number of bad positions over and over again. You couldn’t pick many better role models than DJ Jackson.

    I had the good fortune of rolling with JT Torres at the end of a seminar a couple of months before the ADCC tournament and I realized within the first minute of the round that there was nothing I could show him or do to him that he hadn’t seen 1000 times before. That can only come from hours upon hours of drilling positions, variations, and counters. That was my first brush with truly world class jiu-jitsu (excluding seminars, I mean rolling here).

    Long story short, I’m a big advocate of drilling bad positions and working tirelessly on escapes.

    Reply
    1. Lex Post author

      It’s amazing isn’t it. There’s nothing I love to see more than a brown or black belt that spends a huge amount of their time on the mat drilling. I think there are many paths to great competition jiu jitsu, but drilling is certainly one of the best ones.

      Reply
    2. Ze Grappler

      i’ve found that i’ve rarely spent time mounted or with my back taken in tournaments from drilling the escapes and starting from inferior positions in training.

      i’ve also managed to spend little time in my mma fights in bad position when i got put there as a result.
      saulo says in jiu-jitsu university white and blue are surviving and escaping. a guy that visited our school that trains directly with saulo said that’s not just in his book. that’s the mentality in training. that only at blue belt do you even begin to submit people for the most part, and even less so for the smaller players. it was cool to hear his book from what the guy told me really is a representation of saulo’s thought on jiu-jitsu and the progression of learning.

      Reply
  3. Josh Vogel

    Great post! Especially the parts about me. Those were especially good:)

    What was posted above about Marcelo Garcia’s idea about loosening up after passing to give people room to make mistakes while they are escaping is interesting. I feel the same way about actually escaping, like the best opportunities to escape come from the person on top having freedom to move and seeing an opportunity for something that is not really there. I think Judo shows this beautifully. If someone is pinning without the intention of moving or letting go, as is pretty common in Judo; then it’s damn near impossible to escape. But if someone starts to attack a submission, or switches from one pin to another or one dominant position to another, the transition opens up opportunities for a savvy escape artist. Sometimes all it takes is one millimeter of space, or taking an ounce of pressure off of something.

    I guess the same concept is true everywhere in that from every position and situation, as long as you can predict accurately what’s going to happen you can benefit from giving your opponent enough rope to hang him/herself with.

    Reply
    1. Lex Post author

      Very true, and you’re certainly a great practitioner of that style. I also really like (especially to watch) the style that doesn’t loosen up though. That uses tiny details and power to keep going after the same submission over and over and over. I think DJ’s kimura is an example of that. It’s the relentless assault that creates openings.

      Reply
      1. Josh

        I agree, Dj Jackson is terrific to watch for that relentlessness. I feel like galvao is also, though he has a more smooth relentlessness if that makes any sense

        Reply
      2. Ze Grappler

        when i rolled in Brazil that was what struck me first.
        the guys weren’t spazzing, but they were rolling with intention and intensity.
        they forced me to make mistakes and capitalized rather than just laying in wait and expecting i would make a mistake at some point.
        i think the heat and the mentality was a bit different than what i expected. at both places i trained, i was told to rest every 3rd roll so i could come back and roll hard, rather than roll for 40 min’s straight at half speed, if that makes sense.

        Reply

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