Jiu-Jitsu Techniques and Position Outline

Jiu-Jitsu Techniques and Position Outline

The amount of technique in jiu jitsu can be overwhelming especially when you are new to the activity. It helps with learning to organize technique into categories and names. The Japanese did this very well with Judo. Techniques are grouped into two general categories for example, ground and standing techniques. There are subgroups under this. Wrestling has not done as thorough of a job of naming and organizing techniques. Organization and naming is, in my opinion more important in the beginning learning stages of jiu jitsu. Because competitive rules and, hence, priorities in jiu jitsu and mixed martial arts are so different than Judo, and other techniques not used in Judo are involved, the following can serve as a guide to organizing jiu jitsu techniques. Another reason I believe that Judo names don’t suffice is that something is lost in using Japanese language words for English speakers. [1]

John Danaher, who is recognized as one of the world’s top jiu jitsu instructors by many people in the community, attempts to define the goal/purpose of jiu jitsu techniques as the science of winning a fight by control leading to submission of the adversary. This definition brings up the possibility of two groups of techniques; control techniques (including techniques that put the executor in a better position) and submission techniques. The following is an outline of these two groups with major subgroups listed.

Control Techniques

  1. Takedowns
    1. Throws
    2. Leg attacks
    3. Trips and foot sweeps
    4. Sacrifice takedowns
    5. Pulling opponent to your guard
    6. Snapdowns and head control pulldowns
    7. Go behinds
    8. Joint pressure and submission attempts that solicit reaction
  2. Sweeps/reversals
    1. Hip rolls
    2. Hook sweeps
    3. Rolling/”berimbolo sweeps”
    4. Spider guard sweeps
    5. Leg attack sweeps
    6. Arm and head crank sweeps
    7. Drags
    8. Hip bumps
    9. Cross corner control or “flower sweeps”
    10. Go behinds
  3. Pins
    1. Side control
    2. Knee on stomach
    3. Headlock
    4. Mount
    5. Back control

Basic Submission Categories

  1. Chokes
    1. Strangles
    2. Blood chokes
    3. Windpipe crushes
  2. Armlocks
    1. Elbow locks
    2. Wrist locks
    3. Shoulder cranks
  3. Leglocks
    1. Knee bars
    2. Straight footlocks
    3. Twisting leglocks
  4. Neck and Spinal attacks
    1. Neck cranks
    2. Facelocks
    3. Spine attacks
  5. Crushes
    1. Muscle crushes
    2. Tendon and bone crushes
    3. Joint openers
  6. Other submissions that can be important but are either not specifically a technique or are not relevant to grappling are Fatigue, Strikes, and pressure to soft tissues such as eyes.

Another way jiu jitsu techniques are organized is by positions. This organizational outline coincides with the point system of Brazilian jiu jitsu . It is simpler. It stresses starting positions and groups techniques by the positions they are initiated from.

  1. Takedowns
  2. Guard
    1. Halfguard
    2. Fullguard
    3. Open guard
  3. Side Mount
  4. Knee on stomach
  5. Turtle
  6. Back Control

These positional categories are important for competitions. They are also very good for beginners to orient themselves while training. Under this organizational outline there is a clear hierarchy that allows a practitioner to know if he/she is gaining or losing the battle for control.

The postions are listed below in order from best to worst.

  1. Back control
  2. Mount (top)
  3. Side control (top)
  4. Guard (top and bottom) and also, both people standing on the feet are considered even positions but it is rare that one person does not have an advantage based on skill or size/athleticism.
  5. Half guard
  6. Side Control (bottom) and Turtle (bottom)
  7. Mount (bottom)

At Renzo Gracie Pittsburgh our fundamentals program is built around the positional organizational outline. Focus is primarily on understanding these positions and how to move from one to the other. A secondary focus is on some of the basic submission categories from an offensive and defensive perspective particularly armbar techniques, chokes from the back, cross chokes, “kimura” lock, and triangle choke. Before Students move to blue belt level they should have an understanding of all of these positions and be able to move from one to another against resistance. At blue belt students should start to be able to use at least a couple of techniques from each of the three Control headings above against resistance. Blue belts should also be able to attack and defend Armlocks and Chokes. We work on basic leglocks particularly straight footlock in the bluebelt program as well as giulotines, and armtriangles without-gi.

After people get a basic understanding of positions some will focus on a few techniques and master them. For example armdrags can be applied as takedowns and sweeps. Someone could get very good at armdrags and not know any throws (under the general heading of Takedowns) or spider guard sweeps (under the general heading of reversals). If this armdrag expert was able to impose the opportunity to armdrag on opponents, then he may defeat an opponent with a more broad set of skills. Another way to illustrate this idea is by the following example: someone could learn a triangle choke from the guard, an armbar from side control, a single leg from the standing position, or, as an alternative, someone could learn how to apply a triangle from all three positions. Of course eventually, when someone has been learning jiu jitsu long enough these two paths merge. The issue is which one best serves beginners. I think the answer to this is very complex. It is also subjective for each individual depending on their goals and learning styles. At RGA Pittsburgh we emphasize the broad positional learning at the beginner level and introduce delving deep into one technique (to apply it to multiple positions) to some degree in our blue belt program. Lloyd Irving for example seems to focus on a few techniques in-depth and applied to many positions for his beginner competition team members. They have good success with this method usually in a relatively short amount of training time.

Another feature of our teaching system is that beginners focus on ground techniques and guard position in particular. After students get three stripes they are expected to start to learn takedowns and techniques applied from the standing position. There are several reasons for this that could be subject for another post. Hopefully the positional outline helps organize your thoughts on Jiu Jitsu technique. Please post comments and questions.

– Warren

[1] Studying Judo terminology can be very interesting. A great resource is the book “Best Judo” by Inokuma and Sato