To paraphrase Professor John Danaher regarding his thoughts on the fundamentals of Jiu Jitsu; Everyone agrees that the fundamentals are the most important part of Jiu Jitsu and are what form the very foundation that we build our own Jiu Jitsu game. The problem however is that not everyone is in agreeance on the exactly what the fundamentals are, or should be. While there is no standardization across all of Jiu Jitsu, some baseline structure from some of the big names in our sport is certainly helpful. It would appear that John Danaher is stepping up to the plate and providing that in his systematic submission series “Enter the System”, and most recently with the first release of his “BJJ Fundamentals; go further faster” series.
One of the topics Danaher discuses is that when we speak about fundamentals, it is not always a particular escape, submission, or transition but rather sometimes we are speaking about the fundamental body movements that must be mastered in order to perform at even the most basic level in Jiu Jitsu. Let’s take the hip escape for example. While many students learn the hip escape early on in their Jiu Jitsu journey, the hip escape is not necessarily the fundamental piece here. It could be argued, with great validity that the shrimp is actually the foundation of the hip escape. Without the ability to shrimp, you simply can not properly execute the hip escape.
For those just getting started in Jiu Jitsu, take a particular interest in the repetitive body movements you find yourself doing often and focus on mastering each of those movements, doing so will not only increase your ability to perform on the mats, but likely make you considerably better than your counterparts who are just “going through the motions”. Danaher also discusses that likely one of the most overlooked value adds in Jiu Jitsu is a good warm up.
At academies where the warm up consists of body movements that mirror the techniques we do, those movements should be taken seriously and done for quality, not quantity. For example, some common Jiu Jitsu warm ups are shrimping down the mat, shrimping to your shoulder, bridging, bridging to your shoulder, throwing your partners legs and getting to the side (simulating a guard pass) and various other solo and partner drills that are designed for much more than just cardio purposed, but designed to allow you to get repetition of these fundamental movements.
If your academy doesn’t have a solid warm up program, or lacks solo and or partner drills, or even if you are training in a less traditional garage gym or online training program, one of the best resources available today is “Solo and Partner Grappling Drills for Rapid Movement” by Tom DeBlass. This series will provide you with the detailed instruction you need to either develop a great warm up and drilling program or enhance the one you already have. Check out the trailer for the instructional!
When we are talking about body movement, one of the next big areas that we can look at is what happens in the transition. Moving from one position to the next, is just a series of fundamental movements really, but why is it we seem to lose the position or lose control sometimes in transition? Have you every seen two high level grapplers do a flow roll? It’s incredible to watch. I’d go as far as to say it’s a beautiful demonstration of the art we all know and love. What you likely notice is how smooth it looks. Almost choreographed. I can tell you it’s certainly not choreographed, however, years and years of studying and perfecting their ability to control their body movements to a precise degree are what allow them to perform in the way you have witnessed.
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It’s not by accident that they have mastered the ability to transition from one position to the next. This is done though years of refining and repetition. In the age of instant gratification Jiu Jitsu forces us to understand that’s not always possible, and additionally, it’s not always what we really want or need. Some things take time, mastering your body movement is one of those things. It’s been said many times, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. It’s important to focus on the end goal, not the short term, the plan is to be an incredible grappler with a sense of mastery over your body movements and capabilities, the plan should not be as short term as win the next competition, it’s bigger than that, and while winning the next competition would be great, mastering your movement so you can win a bigger, better competition down the round may be a better long term goal.
As with anything, the more time you invest in it, the better you will be at it. One of the best ways to get better at any part of Jiu Jitsu is to study that particular part. In this case we are looking at body movement and transitioning. Again, as far as body movement is concerned, I’d argue that “Solo and Partner Grappling Drills for Rapid Movement” by Tom DeBlass is the best resource available today. There are tons of videos of Tom training live with his students that are much lighter than him, yet, he still is able to get in good training, and do so without anyone getting hurt.
As for transitioning. Bernardo Faria’s “Transition Mastery” is sure to provide you with the details you are looking for. Bernardo is a 5 time black belt world champion with an incredible game to share. You can study this video instructional knowing that these transitions are battle tested on the biggest Jiu Jitsu stage in the world.
At the end of the day, if you are new, take comfort in knowing you will get there. Be patient, and take time to look back every now and again to see just how far you have come, you likely wont notice the progress daily, but over time, the progress is immense. If you’ve been training for a while, look at how you can supplement your training with some drills to improve your body movement, your Jiu Jitsu, and dare I say, your life.
Adding a health portion of drilling to your BJJ diet is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether for muscle memory or just to increase your Jiu-Jitsu specific endurance, Drilling is a proven method to increase your performance! Solo and Partner Grappling Drills by Tom DeBlass is one of the very best resources on the subject! Check it out!