Two No Gi Grappling Styles: Hummingbird vs Viper

I came across the following picture that is now on display in Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C (source). The photographer is Bence Máté. This picture, like most pictures of animals in conflict, made me think of jiu jitsu.


It reminded me of the range of grappling styles in no-gi: from the super-quick back-take specialist “hummingbird” to the slow strong heavy-pressure-based “viper”. In gi, the hummingbird loses its “wings” because grips can slow down even the most creative chain of movement. But in no-gi this style can flourish. Note: this is the part of the post where I start feeling bad about overusing the animal kingdom analogy.

Being an aspiring “viper” myself, I like training with other “vipers”. I can go 50% with another slow deliberate pressure-based player and learn a lot from the experience while almost never getting injured. But when I go against someone who is very dynamic and constantly making quick sharp movements, I have to go closer to 100% in order to get on the same wavelength as them, and then the probability of injury goes up.

I like the fact that jiu jitsu allows a 130 lbs guy to go against a 250 lbs guy and it be an even match because they are each working with a different set of weapons. Very few combat sports have that. Being a 180 lbs middleweight, I get to see both sides of that coin. There are plenty of people who are lighter than me and plenty who are heavier. In the white, blue, and purple belt ranks I have definitely struggled much more with the 130 lbs competitor than the 250 lbs one. But when I watch the black belt divisions, the picture is reversed. Size does matter after all, when the number of flaws in your game decreases.

0 thoughts on “Two No Gi Grappling Styles: Hummingbird vs Viper

  1. Alan

    This mirrors a conversation I had with Gracie Barra black belt and world medalist, Bruno Fernandes. He told me that technique will beat strength and size, only when there’s a great disparity in skill levels. If opponents are at a roughly even skill level, the one with the better attributes (strength, speed, conditioning) will have the advantage and likely win.

    1. Lex Post author

      I think that’s very true, but nevertheless, investing more time into technique vs strength and conditioning is better in my view in the long term until you get to the elite level, but very few people are there.


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