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10 Concepts Every BJJ Aficionado Should Know

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When first learning the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, many people focus much of their energy on learning essential fighting techniques.

These fundamental techniques will become the foundation of your movements when engaging with an opponent.

However, an equally important aspect are the integral BJJ concepts that support the principles and application of movement.

These concepts should be combined with techniques to perfect the craft of Jiu Jitsu, especially early in your training. 

10 Concepts Every BJJ Aficionado Should Know:

  1. Positioning and Submission
  2. Posture
  3. Maintain Pressure and Control 
  4. Live Hips
  5. Keep Your Distance 
  6. Anticipate the Opponent’s Movements and Weaknesses
  7. Timing and Reaction 
  8. When to Move Out of Position
  9. Know Dangerous Positions/Holds
  10. Be Able to Connect Techniques

The differences between BJJ concepts and techniques can sometimes be confusing, and there will be a lot of overlap.

While they are both critical, sometimes knowing the concepts make the movement techniques make more sense, and it will be easier to apply them in various circumstances. 

Learning and understanding the basic concepts of Jiu Jitsu will allow you to progress much faster and feel more confident in your movement, even if you don’t have perfect technique.

It will take time and plenty of training to implement all of these BJJ concepts. However, over time, they will feel natural and bring your Jiu Jitsu skills to a new level. 

10 Concepts Every BJJ Aficionado Should Know

So in explaining these BJJ concepts, we are not saying it is not vital to the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu to learn proper technique.

Understanding the core principles and concepts that support those techniques will give you a better way of applying them against an opponent. 

There are more than 10 BJJ concepts that can help you become more proficient and tactical during your training, but we will only be delving into the ten we find most helpful overall.

Once you’ve mastered these concepts and can apply them in various sparring situations, then start to branch out into more complex BJJ concepts and techniques.

One of the best things about Jiu Jitsu is that with every opponent you face, you will learn something new about your fighting style. 

BJJ Concepts Versus Techniques

Before we jump into the 10 BJJ concepts we chose, we should discuss the primary differences between concepts and techniques when applied in the art of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

All techniques and basic movements that you learn will be important. However, to break them down and perfect them shouldn’t be your ultimate goal.

To master the art of Jiu Jitsu, it has to become a personalized journey. So, when you learn a technique, consider these words spoken by Kit Dale: 

“Learn the techniques of Jiu Jitsu in detail and then use trial and error to see what works for you. Then, remove the rest.” 

Kit Dale

This simple adage makes the differentiation of technique and concept much clearer.

When it comes down to it, you need the basics of technique to be able to start, but the concepts are how you apply your movement when with an opponent.

There will be countless variations and scenarios where the same technique will work, but concepts and principles will be the driving force in your decision of when and how to use them. 

One example is the straight armbar, as it is a technique. When to use, it comes down to the concept. In this example, we’ll say you use it from the mount after you’ve gained control of your opponent.

This technique won’t work in all situations, and that is where concepts come in to play. The combination of the two will help you understand Jiu Jitsu on a much deeper level as you will begin to move in ways fitting for your body and ability. 

1. Positioning and Submission

When we think of Jiu Jitsu or even MMA fighting, we often think of the point in the match when one opponent gets the other to submit. This is especially true for beginners.

Many of us that are just starting to learn Jiu Jitsu and how it fits into our life are fascinated and overly focused on the submission of our opponent. Learning how to control an opponent to the point of submission is the overall goal, but getting there is a process. 

There are three overarching steps to follow when you’re first starting to get in the proper position to perform an effective submission: 

  • Passing the Guard: When you are in an open guard or a closed guard, it will be challenging to submit your opponent. When they are managing their distance, you won’t have a chance to make a move until you’ve passed the guard. Learning to do this involves having good posture and killing the hips of your opponent. 
  • Control Opponent: Once you’ve moved past the guard, then you will be in a position that puts you on top and in control of their movements. Now, your opponent will not submit easily, and they will attempt to stop you from having control. In this situation, it is imperative that they stay on the mat and do not recover. This can be done by appropriately using pressure. 
  • Submit Them: Once you have control, your opponent will still work to defend themselves. This established control is when you will be able to make the move that makes them submit. Now, several different movements will get you to this point. Being able to read the situation and your opponent’s defense is what will allow you to position a submission on your opponent. 

Knowing how to recognize these steps in the submission process will allow you to read your opponent better and eventually control most situations.

Things like managing distance, keeping appropriate pressure, and even deciding the technique you use to control and submit an opponent will take time and practice. These BJJ concepts will be explained in more detail as we go. 

Following the steps in the order presented above will allow you to get into a dominant position before you attempt a submission. Being dominant in the situation is what will make the submission process much more manageable.

Sometimes, when moving right into submission without first establishing control will give your opponent a chance to sweep you or reverse the movement forcing you to submit instead of them. 

There are ways around this process, usually skipping passing the guard, but if you are just starting, it is best to stick to the steps in this order. It will allow you to make more sense of the situation and apply a technique more effectively.

Once you’ve become more skilled, you may be able to move into more advanced tactics that allow you to sweep an opponent and establish control right away. 

2. Posture

In the first step of attempting a submission, your posture will influence your positioning and ability to pass the guard. The worse your posture is at any given moment, the easier it will be for an opponent to move in and control you. 

Having good posture in Jiu Jitsu isn’t a code for anything, either. It is precisely what it sounds like. You want your body to be in a straight, upright position.

You are keeping your spine aligned from your neck to your lower back, giving you a strong and stable posture. Leaning too far forward will give the opponent an easier chance to throw you down, and leaning too far back puts your balance at risk. 

Keeping good posture throughout the entire match will give you an upper hand. It will be harder for an opponent to break your posture, you’ll move more effectively, and your balance will be safely maintained. 

The more emphasis you put on keeping a good posture when you are first starting will help prevent bad habits from forming, and will likely mean your skill progression will be quick.

Think of posture as the foundation of every movement in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. If your posture is uncontrolled, your actions will be too. 

3. Maintain Pressure and Control 

Gaining control of your opponent only gets you so far. Keeping them under control and maintaining appropriate pressure is what gives you a chance to move them to submission.

When you apply the right type and amount of pressure, you do three things: 

  • You prevent your opponent from moving in ways you don’t want them to. 
  • You prevent your opponent from moving faster than you can manage.
  • Lastly, you wear your opponent down, making it easier for you to gain control.

These three things are what will give you an edge and a window to perform an effective attack. Once you have control, it is important to realize that your opponent will not stop moving.

This is where the use of pressure comes into play. In whatever movement you choose, the pressure of your body on their body is what keeps them from moving and allows you to dictate the outcome.

Now, being able to maintain pressure is more than an offensive tactic. It is beneficial when you need to defend as well. In all BJJ situations, you want to ensure that your limbs are always doing something useful and helpful. 

One way to do this on defense is to move with your opponent as they move. This change in force and momentum has the potential to throw off their intended pressure.

Moving with them involves pushing when they pull and pulling when they push. This added momentum can throw them off their game and give you a brief moment to reverse the actions in your favor. 

Pressure during a submission attempt is vital when it comes to controlling the limbs of your opponent. In most scenarios, the submissive will have two of their limbs rendered useless.

So, once you can pin one limb, you have an advantage. With only three limbs against four, you are more likely to be able to pin another limb on your opponent. 

This aspect of control over your opponent in Jiu Jitsu will often come after you have continuously disrupted their posture and spinal alignment.

Disrupting their posture while you can maintain yours gives you even more power over the situation. If their posture is off and their hips are compromised, they lose most of the force their body can produce. 

4. Live Hips

As we mentioned in the last concept section, your hips are a primary focus of power in the art of Brazillian Jiu Jitsu. The hips are what give your body movement, force, and power. They will be involved in almost every movement you make.

The faster you can get the movement of your hips under control in training, the quicker you will progress in your technique overall. 

Most of your movement will come from your hips. This is why when you move past the guard in a submission progression, you usually will attempt to disrupt the hips of your opponent.

Once you have established control of your opponent’s hips, you have disrupted their mobility entirely. Even fundamental techniques and movements depend on your hips.

Once you have learned and understand how to utilize your hip movements and keep them live no matter what, you will be able to perform the submission sequence smoothly.

Live hip movement and control of your hips will allow you to:  

  • Apply pressure in control situations
  • Reverse movements
  • Escape opposing control positions
  • Move on the ground
  • Win scrambles
  • Maintain mobility

5. Understand Your Distance 

In Jiu Jitsu distance between you and your opponent must be adequately managed to enable you a chance at winning. Just like with any other type of fighting, distance management is what will give you control and minimize your exposure.

When discussing distance, we will be referring to both the distance between you and your opponent, as well as the distance between you and the mat.

When you are ready to attack an opponent, you will begin to minimize distance or close in on them. We discussed the use of the guard and passing the guard in the first BJJ concept section.

The guard is what allows you to have distance between you and your opponent. You can begin to permanently reduce the gap created by their guard in an attempt to control the opponent. 

Distance is all about minimizing or maximizing exposure. Exposing yourself is what gives the opponent a chance to close their distance, pass the guard, gain control, and then submit you. Then vice versa if the opponent becomes exposed. 

One other BJJ concept that fits inside the understanding of distance is the prevention of your opponent’s posting. Posting is a really common way to counter a sweep.

This is done by placing a hand or a foot on the mat in the direction of the sweep. The purpose of this movement is to put distance or a barrier between the body and the ground.

The use of distance in this defense gives you the ability to regain your balance and posture. Then, potentially reversing the move on your opponent. 

As you develop your understanding of distance in Jiu Jitsu, you will begin to recognize it in all of your movements. When you’ve done that, you can then apply the judgment of distance to the movements of your opponent.

So, while you understand how posting can help with your defense, you also know that preventing your opponent from posting will give you a better chance of bringing them to the ground. 

6. Anticipate the Opponent’s Movements and Weaknesses

Being able to stay calm and relaxed in BJJ will give your mind a chance to tell your body what to do and what to anticipate. If you are continually overthinking your own movement, your brain will have no room left to observe your opponent. 

Observation of your opponent’s movements and posture is what will provide you with clues as to what their next move may be. Having a good knowledge base of technique is essential here as you try to anticipate what they may do next.

For every technique that you or your opponent uses, there will be counter moves to employ, and for each counter move, there is a technique to counter again.

This is a lot of movement to keep track of, so the more knowledge you have, the easier it will be to understand the progression of techniques. 

So, when you have decided to attack, you will need to know what their possible counter-movements may be. Being one step ahead of your opponent gives you a chance to premediate many different techniques in a row. Then you will be able to stop their counter-attack and disrupt their movements altogether.

Another primary aspect of observation during a match is knowing your opponent’s weaknesses and how to exploit them. Forcing a position that you know your opponent will be uncomfortable in and they’re likely unable to counter can be what gives you full control. Still, it should only be done if you are comfortable with that movement as well. 

Every person that participates in Jiu Jitsu has a slightly different fighting style. As you begin to spar with the same opponents more and more, you will start to learn their strengths and weaknesses. So, other than exploiting their weak spots, you should also try to avoid their strengths. 

If you move into a position that they’re much stronger at countering than you are, they will have the upper hand.

You must use observation and experience to an advantage by playing your strengths against their weaknesses at all times.

Observation and situational awareness will be a skill that is built on over time, and even the most advanced Jiu Jitsu artists are still learning. 

7. Timing and Reaction 

This BJJ concept has a lot to do with the push and pull of movements you employ and the defenses you use against an opponent.

Essentially, to force a direction, you should anticipate a reaction and then time your next movement based on the reaction of your opponent. So, this goes hand in hand with the last concept we talked about above. 

To explain this better, if the technique that you want to use to gain control of an opponent requires them to move to the right, you can use this concept to force them to move that way.

Do this by pushing them to the left. In doing so, you have just forced a reaction to the right. This gives you a chance to use their momentum to pull them into the position you wish. 

When you are a beginner, it can be hard to use your brainpower to think about your timing and control. This will come with time and training.

The more you train, try new techniques, and apply concepts, the easier it will be to begin to think beyond your next move.

Learning how to stay relaxed will be the first step in using momentum to your advantage. Staying relaxed is especially tricky when you are rolling and your opponent has gained control, but it is not impossible. 

Keeping calm is advantageous because if you are tense, you will be less likely to move naturally and fluidly.

So, relax, take some deep breaths, and use opposing movements in your favor. The more relaxed you are, the more natural everything else will become.

Forcing movements in Jiu Jitsu doesn’t actually have to be forceful, let your opponent lead the way with their power as you take on the momentum they provided. 

8. Knowing When to Move Out a Position

The root of this Jiu Jitsu concept is to move past stubbornness and know when a technique will not be effective.

We must accept that not all of our movements are going to carry us through and that sometimes a technique will seem like it is working, and then it begins to fall apart.

Recognizing when you may lose your position before it can prevent you from losing control. 

This concept is also valuable when you are on the defensive. Knowing when to make a counter and move out of a submissive position can throw an opponent’s posture and pressure off just enough to get you out of a bad situation.

Knowing when to give up a position, especially when attempting to gain control or submission will give you a chance to regroup and reassess the situation. Sometimes it is best to get out before your opponent has an opportunity to counter and reverse your attack.

9. Be Aware of Dangerous Positions/Holds

Movement and positioning will change frequently, and being aware of when you’re in a bad spot will come down to your knowledge of technique.

Knowing when to move out of a position will only get you so far. So, you will need to have the knowledge base that enables you to reassess and readjust your positioning before an opponent can get a solid grip. 

Recognizing that your opponent is attempting to gain control with a specific grips on you will give you the chance to move the positioning of your body and hopefully break their grip.

If they can gain position and control, then you’re too late, and they are now able to move you the way they want. Breaking out of a dangerous position needs to happen almost immediately if you’re going to get out. 

As you progress in skill, you may be able to prevent a dangerous situation before it even happens. This will involve resetting your position as they attempt to attack.

Resetting posture and positioning will be constant in Jiu Jitsu until one opponent has gained control over the other. 

10. Be Able to Connect BJJ Techniques

The final BJJ concept we will discuss today is having the ability to connect movements and techniques.

This means that your technical movements will be so fluid it will be as if they are one move. As you progress in skill, connecting techniques gives you a higher chance of getting your opponent to submit. 

When using more than one technique in one fluid sweep, your opponent loses their ability to predict and anticipate your movements. This keeps you one step ahead by merely overwhelming them in movement and information. 

This will take time and practice to make fluid, but once you can connect multiple techniques into one movement, you will be a tough opponent to beat. 

Move Beyond Technique in Brazillian Jiu Jitsu

Learning and mastering techniques that fit your Jiu Jitsu style is an essential part of being a capable fighter.

However, your technique will only bring you so far if you are unaware of the fundamental BJJ concepts and principles that make them actionable. 

The building blocks of all of the BJJ concepts we mentioned today begin with the three-step process in getting an opponent to submit: passing the guard, controlling the opponent, and submitting them.

These three things should be the first conceptual aspect of Jiu Jitsu you should attempt to understand. As you move through this process more and more, you will learn how the other concepts fit together. 

When you are training, use these BJJ concepts alongside your technique to pursue continuous improvement. These are not stand-alone ideas, and they need your movement and technical knowledge to back them up.

So, get out there and implement these concepts in your next training session and see how your style changes and grows. 

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By Let's Roll BJJ

Let's Roll BJJ aims to be the leading source of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Grappling information and news on the web. Dorian, the owner and editor of Let's Roll BJJ is a purple belt in Jiu Jitsu and has been training and competing for over 6 years.

Apart from being a BJJ geek, Dorian is a software developer by trade, a husband, and a father of two wonderful kids who he's recently began teaching Jiu Jitsu. When he's not training, coding, or writing, you can find him hiking, camping or occasionally binging on video games.

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