BJJ Beginners Survival Guide:
The Basics of Jiu Jitsu
by Bruce Hines
If you are a new student or just starting out with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, there will come a time when you need to learn some basic techniques. These techniques will allow you to defend yourself against your opponent’s attacks while learning how to control him/her in various ways.
Basic Jiu Jitsu Techniques
There are many different types of techniques used in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Some of these include: sweeps, chokes, arm bars, leg locks and submission holds. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages so it is very important to know which one you want to use at any given moment.
There are two main categories of techniques: open and closed. Open techniques are those that involve no contact between the attacker and defender. Closed techniques require both fighters to make contact with each other.
Sweeps: Sweeping means simply grabbing your opponent’s wrist and pulling them towards you. You can do this from either side or even behind your opponent. Sweep is usually done by using your legs to push your opponent backwards into you, then grab their hand with yours and pull them across the mat.
Some sweeps can also be used to get your opponent in a ‘mounted’ position (ie. you will be sitting on your opponent’s chest facing the same direction as them, usually with their arms trapped under your legs). A sweep is an open technique which involves no contact between the two fighters.
Chokes: Choking someone can be done using either a collar or lapel grip. From the collar grip you can either try to push your forearm into your opponent’s neck (touching or not) or encircle their neck with your arm. From the lapel grip you can pull your opponent towards you and at the same time raise your elbow up and towards their neck.
A choke is an open technique which involves no contact between the two fighters.
Armlocks: This involves controlling one of your opponent’s arms with one or both of your arms. There are many different types of armlocks and each one can either be placed on the inside (near to your body) or outside (farther from your body) of your opponent’s arm. Common armlocks include:
These techniques all involve some form of contact between the two fighters. Chokes and armlocks can be either open or closed techniques, depending upon whether no contact is made or whether contact is made. Closed techniques can also be divided into two groups – static and dynamite.
Static techniques: Static techniques are those that involve controlling your opponent without causing him to move. For example, holding your opponent down so they cannot get up or holding their wrist so they cannot punch you are both examples of a static technique.
Static Holds: There are many different ways of holding an opponent but in general they all involve wrapping one or both arms around the opponent in some way. Usually this can be done from the front or the back although in some cases it is possible from either side. For example, holding your opponent’s sleeve is only possible from the same side as the sleeve you are holding.
A static hold is a closed technique which involves no movement between the two fighters.
Static Submissions: There are many different types of static submissions. The main types are: Neck Cranks, Arm Twists and Wrist Locks. Neck Cranks involve bending the neck in some unnatural direction.
Most can be used in either direction although some require the neck to be twisted in one direction before being twisted back the other way. The most dangerous neck crank is the “Graphic”. This involves laying your forearm across your opponent’s throat and hooking your hand behind their head. By twisting their head one way and their body the other a very efficient choke is applied. It can cause death if applied for more than a few minutes. The “Graphic” should not be tried without expert supervision.
Arm Twists involve twisting the arm in some unnatural direction. Most can be done from either side although some require a certain grip and a certain position before they can be used. The most common one is to place your forearm against your opponent’s with your hands on the opposite sides.
By pushing with your shoulders and keeping your elbow tight to your side you twist their whole arm around. This can be very painful and is often used to force your opponent to submit.
A wrist lock is a restraint which is used to hold the joints of the arm in place so that they cannot move. Wrist locks are very dangerous as they can easily be applied too tightly.
Dynamite techniques: Dynamite techniques are those that involve moving your opponent. There are many different types of dynamite techniques but in general they can be divided into throws, lifts and slams.
Throws: Throwing your opponent is the most common way of moving them a short distance. It does not matter if you throw them face down or face up as far as effectiveness is concerned. In competitions throws are only counted if they land beyond a certain point which is marked by two lines on the floor.
The most common types of throw are:
Flat Back Fall: Lifting your opponent so they are standing on your shoulders and then dropping backwards throwing them over you into a back fall. This is the safest throw as the back of their head is not likely to hit the floor.
Throwing Over: Placing your leg between your opponent’s legs and running towards them. They are then lifted off the ground and thrown over your leg. This is a very dangerous throw as their head can hit the floor.
It should only be done by people with a great deal of experience.
You can also throw your opponent over your hip or around your back depending on the grip you have.
Forward Throws: These involve throwing your opponent forward and are usually just called throws. The most common are:
The “Sea-saw”: This is rarely used but possible from any grip. It involves leaning back and forth with your opponent so that when one of you leans back the other leans forward and vise versa. Eventually you throw them forward over your shoulder.
The “Spin Out” or “Falling Leaf”: This is used when your opponent has a under lap and is very commonly used. It involves twisting around, dropping to one knee and throwing your opponent over that leg. This throw can be very dangerous.
Lifting Techniques: These involve lifting your opponent and throwing them for a fall.There are three types of these lifts, the Front Lift, the Back Lift and the Combination Lift. All require great strength and should only be done with an underlap grip.
The Front Lift: This involves picking your opponent up by their lapels and lifting them off the ground. You then drop back and throw them forward over your shoulder for a fall.
The Back Lift: This involves picking your opponent up by their belt and lifting them off the ground. You then drop to one knee (the one opposite your holding hand) and throwing them over that knee and off the ground.
The Combination Lift: This involves putting your opponent into a front headlock before lifting and throwing them.
These techniques can all be used with other holds to make attacks more effective.Lift Releases: These are used precisely to defend against the three lifting techniques. They are very effective and can be used to momentarily stun your opponent leaving them open for an attack.
Finally there are six ways of avoiding being thrown. Four involve moving your body out of the way and two involve moving your opponents body. These are the Duck, the Flash, the Slipper, the Squeeze and the Slip.
Each has its advantages depending on the situation.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Why is BJJ More Philosophical Than Other Grappling Arts by B Martin, W Rifkin – Public Organization Review, 2004 – Springer
Political jiu-jitsu against Indonesian repression: studying lower-profile nonviolent resistance by I Djokovic – bjjee.com
The Gracie Clan and the Making of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu: National Identity, Culture and Performance, 1905-2003 by B Martin, W Varney, A Vickers – Pacifica Review: Peace, security & …, 2001 – Taylor & Francis
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