To loosely quote John Danaher, everyone agrees that the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu are the most important and deserve to be focused on daily. However, there is a lot of controversy regarding what constitutes the “fundamentals”.
We can likely all agree that the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu are not only important, but everything to us in determining how effectively we are able to do techniques, and how quickly we are able to progress. Another loose quote from John Danaher; In one of his videos he says that over the years what he has noticed is that the students that progress the fastest are the ones that have learned to wrestle with their legs the soonest.
Whys is that important; and how does it fit into the fundamentals? This shines a lot of light on the specifics of a fundamentals program. If your fundamentals program does not currently include anything that is going to help the students get used to wrestling with their legs, then, it’s failing and should be revisited. If we are hearing from one of the best instructors in the world that this correlation exists, it only makes sense for us to take note and do what we can to adjust curriculum to align with these observations.
As we take a deeper dive into what Danaher thinks about the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu we learn that he doesn’t always think the fundamentals are techniques or even positions for that matter. This mindset seems confusing but allow me to explain.
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Danaher feels, and states many times in many videos that at it’s core Jiu Jitsu fundamentals is not necessarily all techniques, rather, it is taking a microscope to those techniques and picking them apart down to the very core of the technique. As we take the microscope to these “fundamental” techniques the goal is to dissect the fundamental body movements that must happen in order for the technique to be possible.
As we start to understand the basic body movements required to complete some of the most basic techniques in Jiu Jitsu we find the true fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu. While Danaher does not say that the fundamentals are, or should be, exclusively body movements rather than techniques, he does point out the importance of training each part of the body movement with purpose.
Take shrimping for example. Many academies use shrimping as a warmup movement, often times it is used as a mat length drill during warm up. This can turn into a race whereas the students are more focused on getting to the end of the mat rather than planting their foot securely and lifting their hips off of the mat as they shoot them back to their shoulder line, making a perfect L shape with their body.
Danaher warns about the dangers of training these fundamental body movements carelessly and argues we should put as much if not more attention into training the fundamental body movements as we do training the “fundamental” techniques, because without the correct body movement, the techniques are never going to be executed properly against a resisting opponent and will almost certainly lead to frustration and a “this doesn’t work” mentality that can be toxic to your Jiu Jitsu progression.
Now that we have further defined the fundamentals and their importance as a whole in your Jiu Jitsu game, let’s discuss what some of the most fundamental techniques are in Jiu Jitsu. At the core, one of the first things you will need to learn in order to be successful in Jiu Jitsu is how to maintain your guard. While this topic can be months’ worth of studying different guard types I want to show an example of how we really take a look at this through the microscope, as mentioned before, and really dive into focusing on the fundamental movement as Danaher would suggest.
Doing this exercise should help you to dissect techniques on your own and begin to learn the best ways to improve your ability to do a technique by breaking out the fundamental body movements and focusing time and energy on getting better at those movements. Refining and perfecting your craft at the most basic level. There are several analogies for this, but to say it bluntly, the Jiu Jitsu game with the strongest foundation is going is going to be a strong Jiu Jitsu game that will likely make light of anyone’s game who did not invest the time into building a solid foundation of these essential body movements.
Let’s start with looking at how guard retention works and what the primary skill is that is required in order to master guard retention. The very first skill Danaher focuses in on when looking at guard retention is how to move when you are on the ground and the opponent is standing in front of you and moving from side to side looking for an entry point to begin passing your guard.
Moving while seated on the floor in front of our opponent is referred to by Danaher as scooting. That’s right, you have likely been scooting wrong all of your life. This essential movement is what will separate the grapplers with good guard retention and the those with phenomenal guard retention.
Starting seated on the mat, with the opponent standing in front of us moving from side to side. The core movement necessary to move from this position, on the ground is scooting. Scooting is essentially shrimping, but from a seated position rather than from laying down.
The first step in successfully scooting is to plant your hand in the direction the opponent moves in effort to pass your guard. By planting your hand, the opponent may make it around your legs, but you will be able to remain “square” to them with your hand planted and your chest facing their chest.
Once you achieve the proper position of planting your hand and keeping your upper body square to the opponent the final step is to create distance through scooting. To scoot you will plant your opposite side foot (opposite the hand you have planted) and use this planted foot along with the planted hand to lift your body off of the mat and shoot your hips backward, at a 45 degree angle from the opponent. This will not only allow you to move quickly, but it is very efficient in creating distance from your opponent allowing you to get your legs between the two of you again.
If you are newer and really looking to build the best possible foundation, you can not go wrong with following the advice and program outline from Danaher’s Fundamental series. Even if you have been training for a while and already have a solid fundamental game, spending some time watching Danaher’s video(s) will help patch the holes in your foundation and improve your game in the long run.
While this may seem very elementary, we have to appreciate the level of detail professor Danaher provides in all of his video instructionals. This is the type of detailed instruction you can expect from all of Danaher’s video instructionals, including the entire “Enter the System” series and his newest series “BJJ fundamentals: Go Further Faster”.