Understanding concepts in Jiu Jitsu is just as important, if not more important than strictly learning techniques. In the art of Jiu Jitsu, it is difficult to make just one technique or a single attack work. Instead, it is your constant attacks adapted and varied to the game that will eventually wear down your opponent and have them fall behind in their defense and counterattacks. The ability to adapt your approach is based on your ability to understand the concepts of Jiu Jitsu. This conceptual understanding provides a solid foundation to build techniques upon. From there it is then a matter of time before you will be able to apply the technique and submit your opponent.
Think of a technique as a tool. With a technique-based mindset, you will focus on implementing single attacks, individual tools. Using one tool to try to apply and make work, and if it does not, use another and then another hoping to submit. All the while not being able to get ahead in the match or strategizing for your opponent to fall in your game. It is difficult to become creative simply based on tools. But when you learn the concepts you learn the art – the essence of Jiu Jitsu; where you can apply the tools to create the art. By grasping the concepts, you can adapt and apply more attacks. You can develop your own game and learn how to tailor techniques to your own body and ability. This will enable you to be able to more effectively improvise and respond to bad situations.
I am not minimizing techniques. Instead, I am emphasizing the concept of position that will allow you to implement the submission/technique. A conceptual understanding of Jiu Jitsu is demonstrated when a student can flow from one technique to another. To be able to accomplish this, they must have a thorough understanding of the position they are in.
Another way to illustrate a technique versus concept-based approach is say you have a gun… a friendly NERF gun. The techniques are the bullet darts. A technique-based approach would have you load one bullet and then shoot, then load once again, and shoot, and so on. However, a concept-based understanding allows you to load all bullets at once and shoot one after another without hesitation for a faster, more efficient attack. This approach does not allow your opponent the space to counterattack and enables you to stay ahead of the game.
In developing your conceptual understanding, it is important that you do not neglect maintaining or improving a position by rushing to apply a technique. Take time to understand a position, not just on how to improve the position or find submissions from it, but to understand how to keep that position. When rushing to apply the technique your opponent can wait for you to attempt to execute. Then when you make the move, you give space to the opponent where he has an opportunity to escape. The better you can keep a particular position, the harder your opponent will have to fight to escape from the position and the less effort it will take you to keep that position. When your opponent must work harder to escape a position, he will eventually expose himself to a vulnerability that will allow you to apply your technique. For example, when you can keep your opponent in the closed guard effectively and they fight to escape, the opportunity for implementing an arm bar will be more likely to present itself.
To illustrate further, suppose I get on the mount. From that position there are several techniques I can try to implement to finish the match. The arm bar may work. But if I cannot maintain and generate a good pressure from the mount, my opponent will wait for me to move to the arm bar, and it will be much easier for him to escape. However, if I can develop a good mount control and heavy pressure control from the mount my opponent has no option of waiting for me to go to the arm bar to then try to escape due to the uncomfortable pressure. Because he is feeling the pressure from the mount, he is forced to engage in trying to escape which will give me openings to apply a technique which could be the arm bar, or americana, or cross choke. The point here is to be strong in the position (i.e. the mount) and then have several tools on hand to be able to apply the technique or submission when the opportunity presents itself.
This is the approach we take with our classes at Team Passos. The format of our curriculum is developed as a system that begins with a position where we reinforce the understanding of that position. We then demonstrate three or four techniques from that position. Each of the techniques are connected to one another to allow the student the ability to adapt and transition as the game changes while ultimately gaining a better understanding of the art of Jiu Jitsu.
The purpose of teaching in this format is to show the student that a single move, though it can work, is more difficult to be effective because their opponent is focused on defending that attack. Teaching from this systematic concept-based approach, that includes three to four attacks, will improve the student’s chances to not only control their opponent but also to succeed in the attacks.
-Professor Tony Passos