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.

0 thoughts on “Teaching Jiu Jitsu Systematically With Numbers

  1. Josh Vogel

    Good post! I like the idea of numbering things also. It makes it easier to break down and see where the tree branches off into other things. (if x does this during step 2 then I can do option 1,2 or 3) etc…

    1. Lex Post author

      You should label every node in your mind maps with a number. That way you can teach by referring to the #137th counter if your opponent does technique #17 😉 And then get really mad when the white belt student gets it wrong.

  2. Josh Gaffney

    Not sure if the numbers would help me (if I were good at math, I wouldn’t be a lawyer), but it would be a great system to work out with a coach for competition. I love yelling “right hand on his left knee and pry”, but it does give away what you’re going to do next…


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *