FREE Speed? NO COST Strength?
That’s right… you can have these attributes FOR FREE. If you’re new to Jiu Jitsu, read on for how you can have more strength and speed!
It’s a simple idea. When you achieve a top position in Jiu Jitsu, you have the benefit of gravity to help you pin your opponent. Obvious, right? Maybe not so much. It’s not as easy as just flopping over and trying to crush your opponent. They’re certainly not just going to give up when they’re down… they will fight like crazy to get back up! Your understanding of applying gravity in the right way is key to taking full advantage of it.
Over Balancing: Strength Through Kuzushi
One of my most successful moves for escaping bottom positions is the simple re-roll. I’ve often been “complimented” about my strength in rolling someone over, but almost all of the time they roll themselves. Why? Because they aren’t applying their weight correctly. Many people overcommit to holding positions and send too much body weight to one side, making the balance manipulation (kuzushi) easy to find and exploit. The next time you are stuck in a bad bottom position, pay close attention to exactly where your opponents weight is being placed. Oftentimes in order to attack we need to relinquish some control over the opponent. This is usually done by lifting our body in some fashion to free our arms to attack. To compensate, often we drop more weight with our upper body onto the chest of the bottom person. However many times this results in us putting too much weight across the body instead of down through it… meaning we are unbalanced and susceptible to being countered more easily!
Perpendicular vs Parallel
Mount is usually described as one of the most powerful positions to attack from in BJJ. However, many people don’t find a lot of success there, often being bumped and rolled off. When we first learn Side Control we are introduced to the idea of perpendicular weight application. Using this idea from the top in Mount will help tremendously with maintaining the position, especially when you’re lighter than your opponent. Of course we already know we can base out wide with our arms and be harder to escape from… but then we can’t really attack from that “starfish” looking position! Angle your body on a diagonal whenever possible as you attack from the Mount. Try to angle your feet out to the sides (keeping them low to the mat) to help spread your weight more effectively. Aligning your body with your opponent’s will give them the greatest chance to bridge your weight up and over. This alignment is vital at the end of the submission (X Choke for example) but during the attack you risk being rolled.
This one is trickier but crucial if you want to speed up your movements without traveling into spaz territory. How do you actually get faster? How do you maintain this speed over time when fatigue, illnesses, injuries or even just age set in?
One Step Ahead
You know how you sometimes get caught by a submission that came out of nowhere? Like, lightning fast and suddenly you’re tapping almost as fast? And yet… the person who just did that move is at least 20 years older than you, lighter, not as strong, maybe even out of shape? How the hell did they move that fast? By staying one (sometimes 7) steps ahead! It all comes down to planning ahead and knowing where the other person is going to be. This requires a high degree of insight and is tough to do in your early days of training. You’ll often find yourself doing this while on defense; defending a choke before the collar grip is even there, for instance. Were you faster moving than the opponent? Nope, but timing beats speed… so you weren’t necessarily faster, you were there before the race even started!
Work on your defense until it’s instinctual. Learn and discover the core principles behind your movements so you can more readily identify submissions before they land. Observe where the body lands on a throw or sweep so you can land your own submissions before they ever touch the ground. Study this idea until you are so far ahead of your opponents that they’re afraid to move!
As with all new skills, it takes a lot of time and effort to build. The correct study and purposeful effort you put into understanding weight distribution and timing will pay huge dividends in your training. Besides the obvious effect these ideas will have in supporting your BJJ skills, they will also help you with longevity in long training sessions, teaching others and injury prevention… All well worth the time!