Tag Archives: system

Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals: An Argument for Berimbolo and X Guard

Aesopian wrote an interesting blog post about where Berimbolo fits in with the “basics”, and it reminded me of something that I’ve been thinking about and evolving on for quite some time.

I have long heard instructors and top-level competitors teach the value of focusing on the “fundamentals” of jiu jitsu. When I first started training, I took that to mean doing a set of basic techniques of the kind Saulo Ribeiro teaches in his awesome book Jiu-Jitsu University. But it wasn’t the techniques that made that kind of jiu jitsu “fundamental”. It was having a complete cohesive set of underlying principles…

Some Basic Principles of Jiu Jitsu

  • Posture: Similar to judo, wrestling, and even olympic weightlifting, jiu jitsu has its own posture rules that have to do both with resisting off-balancing and applying maximum pressure with your hips through leverage. Posture includes the lower back, shoulders, neck, and hips, but every part of your body contributes (including toes, hands, eyes, quads, etc.)
  • Base and balance: Maintain balance throughout the entirety of a movement when you’re on top and work to off-balance your opponent when you’re on bottom.
  • Grip control: Use grips (gi or no-gi) on wrists, elbows, ankles, lapels, pants, belt, neck, etc. to control the opponent.
  • Use their force against them: Move around the force applied by your opponent not against it. When he pushes, don’t simply push back, push and pull and use the moment of defenselessness to transition into a more dominant position or to submit.
  • Protect your limbs. Elbows in. Heels in. No floating wrists and feet.

The above is just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many more and the list is always growing. The above has a lot of exceptions, but the point is you can win 99% of your matches without knowing those exceptions. That’s what makes these principles fundamental.

Evolution of Principles

Just as new techniques rise into popular use in competition, new principles are also uncovered and clarified in our collective jiu jitsu mind. The community learns and shares new ways of generating leverage, of applying pressure, or utilizing grips for control.

In fact, I believe that ANY system of techniques based on consistent application of the above principles (and more) is what I would refer to as fundamental jiu jitsu. So in that sense, the x-guard is a fundamental technique because with the help of people like Marcelo Garcia, Fredson Alves, and a thousand other black belts, the x-guard system has evolved a set of rules to a point where you can have a complete game within just the butterfly guard and x guard positions. You very rarely have to venture outside that if you don’t want to. You can win with it at white, blue, purple, brown, and black.

The Future of Berimbolo

berimboloI believe the same is or eventually will be the case for the Berimbolo. This de la riva guard sweep system has evolved in the last few years from a set of technique to a complete system of principles. I believe you can limit your game to just the de la riva, reverse de la riva, and inverted guard and not have to venture outside of that 99% of the time. That’s fundamental jiu jitsu.

I think people freely (and I believe incorrectly) interchange the concept of “old school jiu jitsu” with “fundamental jiu jitsu”. I’m guilty of this as well. Probably because my favorite game to play and to watch is the takedown, smash pass, mount, x-choke game a la Xande or Roger. It’s tempting to assume that this game is somehow the closest to the underlying principles of what makes jiu jitsu work. But that’s, of course, not the case. The principles are simple physics. But like all laws of physics, it only seem simple once you discover it, and there is always more to be discovered…

Teaching Jiu Jitsu Systematically With Numbers

One of the first postions I was taught in jiu jitsu was the x guard. The person who taught it to me was Ray Huxen. He broke it down into several steps. First, he presented his favorite x guard entry, then the basic details of what makes a good x guard position, and then he went on to the magical system of numbers he follows for the many sweeps possible from that position.

I believe the “magical system” has 5 sweeps with a couple having (a) and (b) options. Of course, a lot of guards have 5+ sweeps commonly associated with that guard, but there is something special that happens when you assign a number to each sweep.

First of all, it somehow makes it much easier to remember. Secondly, the brain can somehow play around with the sweep options much easier when they are reduced to simple numbers. It’s difficult to really explain why it works. I don’t know. All I know is it does works and is the reason x-guard is one of my favorite and most effective positions.

He has taught this “module” in judo and bjj many times over the months and years that I’ve learned from him, and every time something magical happens. The concepts behind the position emerge with clarity. Perhaps the numbers don’t just help me (as a student) learn, but also help him (as an instructor) teach. Perhaps the numbers enforce a certain structure from which a more general system of sweeps can emerge.

I don’t have video of Ray teaching these, but I was reminded of this method of teaching from watching the following video. Steve Koepfer shows his take on straight footlocks by presenting #1, #2, and #3 options for the basic positions he likes for finishing that submission. See the 24:00 mark for the discussion of those three options.

I should emphasize that it’s not the options that are important, but rather it’s the structured presentation of those options in the same way every time. Assigning numbers to each option helps ensure that a system is solidified around these techniques over time.

That said, assigning numbers ain’t easy, though it looks easy. I believe the instructor needs to first have a deep understanding of the game behind each technique before assigning a number to each.