The Development of Physical Attributes Specific to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a very practical and functional style of martial arts. Heavy emphasis is placed upon a person's ability to perform on the mat. Regardless of what a student knows, most are judged by their performance on the mat. What determines a student's overall effectiveness on the mat is a combination of technical knowledge, the development of physical and mental attributes, the employment of known techniques, the use of highly developed attributes (be they natural or nurtured), periodic experimentation with the unknown and the use of various strategies. This article will focus on the development of physical attributes specific to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Physical attributes are those qualities that give substance to your techniques. Physical attributes such as speed, power, strength, explosiveness, body mechanics, timing, sensitivity, awareness, accuracy, footwork, distancing, agility, line familiarization, flexibility, balance, coordination and endurance are what bring life and vibrancy to your techniques. Without these qualities, your techniques are dead! Those who say, "Technique is all you need" are not being honest with you, or, they simply don't know! Technique, or physical movement, is just the beginning of any athletic endeavor. Any athlete (of any sport) knows that physical movement by itself does not equal skill! Physical movement must be combined with physical attributes for the movements to have meaning. For example, imagine a boxing match where two fighters engage in hand-to-hand combat. During the entire forty-minute match, neither fighter throws a fast combination of punches. Neither fighter throws a single punch that lands with any precision or power. As a matter of fact, it seems like the fighters are just playing patty-cake with each other!) How would you rate this boxing match? If you had paid $2000 a seat to sit ringside (you and your girlfriend), you'd probably be asking for your money back by the end of the second round! There are five physical attributes that play a major role in the development of your overall skill in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. These core attributes lay a solid foundation. They represent the fundamental qualities a person must have to progress through the various levels in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Here are the five: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Balance. Coordination. Distancing. Timing. Precision in movement.

There are many other physical attributes that play an important part in a person's development in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. However, these five lay a solid foundation for the others that follow. Allow me to explain each of the above in detail: 1. Balance - The ability to control and manipulate your equilibrium over an extended period of time. To remain balanced, you must keep your head centered over your hips and/or knees most of the time. Additionally, you must keep your weight centered between your knees. Granted, there will be times when you purposely off-balance yourself. However, it is important that you understand the times you are off-balanced are times when you made a conscious choice to be off-balance. They were not times when your opponent offbalanced you and caught you off-guard. Balance is often a neglected attribute. It is one of those attributes that many students take for granted. Many assume they have good balance when in fact they only have mediocre balance. How can a person develop a good sense of balance? Simple, by focusing on it for an extended period of time. Balance is an attribute. Attributes take time to develop. (By "time" I mean a concerted efforts of time, like 26 weeks or more. If you want "catlike balance" then you must put in the time. Remember, there's a reason why wrestlers and judokas are hard to sweep onto their back.) 2. Coordination - The ability to perform movements, equally, on both sides of the body. Everyone has a favorite technique. Everyone has a favorite side. When it comes to the employment of certain core movements or techniques, it is important that you develop the movement/technique on both sides of your body. For example, if your side mount escapes are strong on your left side, train them vigorously on your right side. You never know when you will meet an opponent who is very good at passing the guard on his left side, which would put him on your right side.

After 11 years of training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I still heave weak areas within my game. For example, the triangle choke with my right leg is outstanding! When I set it up and am able to cross my ankles, hardly anyone escapes. However, when I perform it with my left leg, I suck! I feel so uncoordinated I can hardly describe it in words!) So, shouldn't I train this one area? Yes and no. Since it is a weak area, yes! Since I am no longer concerned with "getting the tap", no. Also, since my skill level is where it is, rarely do I need to use my left leg because I lead people into the triangle with my right leg by forcing them to always pass on my left side. Plus, if I end up having to put my left leg over top of my opponent's shoulder, I will usually let him pass my guard onto my left side and them immediately place him back in my guard. I can do so because my escapes from the side mount are really strong on the left side of my body. Now, with regard to core techniques, I can perform them equally on each side! By core techniques I mean this: "Techniques I use 90% of the time." Here is a brief list of the core techniques I use 90% of the time: MOUNT ESCAPES bridge and roll elbow/knee (two variations) SIDE MOUNT ESCAPES place in the guard (two variations) go to the knees PASS THE GUARD under the leg (two variations) over the leg (two variations) SUBMISSIONS bent arm lock triangle choke As you can see, there are only twelve core techniques that I use. Being able to perform these twelve core techniques equally on both sides is an absolute must! How can a person develop coordination? Simple; by putting in the required time to train each side. No one can do this for you. Only you alone can accomplish this. You must be patient, dedicated and determined to reach your goal! If you will commit to training one core technique per month, you can have a firm foundation in just one year, that is, if you commit to training each technique 500 times on each side. This amounts to 125 repetitions per week. Heck, you could pump out these many reps in one hour, which would amount to four (4) hours a month. Do you have the discipline to do it? I know it will pay BIG dividends! I can personally attest to the dividends. What are you waiting for? Get busy!) 3. Distancing - The ability to maintain the proper distance at the proper time. This subject is a little more difficult to explain on digital paper than it is in person (one-on-one). However, I will give it a try. The correct use of space is an often-overlooked area within Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Many students assume they understand (and can immediately apply) this concept when an instructor explains it to them for the very first time. However, it isn't until the student has a firm grasp of the use of posture, hip movement and head and shoulder movement that he or she even begins to understand the correct use of space! When a student finds himself on his back, trying to escape from a particular hold down, he must find the correct distance from his opponent in order to push with leverage. If the opponent is too close, it will be difficult to push. If the opponent is too far away from his body, he will find it difficult to perform certain techniques because each technique has a specific distance at which it will work. For example, many students struggle with side mount escapes because their head and shoulders are not the correct distance from the opponent. The student pushes with his arms to move his hips away from the opponent. However, his head and shoulders stay glued to the ground. When this happens, the student is able to place his knee under his opponent's body, but he finds it difficult (if not impossible) to place his opponent back into his guard. The main problem is the distance between his head and shoulders and his opponent's upper torso. If he had the right distance, he would be able to finish the technique and place his opponent in his guard. Finding the right distance is something that takes a combination of time, personal discipline and a lot of personalized instruction from a caring instructor! How can a person develop good distancing skill? By taking a few private lessons from his instructor and then putting in the flight time required to master it. Good distancing will take time and a lot of hard work. However,

once you obtain this attribute, the amount of effort you'll use to accomplish your goals will decrease tremendously! 4. Timing - The ability to perform the appropriate techniques at the proper time. In my opinion, timing is the most important attributes to develop. It is the one attribute that will significantly lower the amount of energy you'll use to accomplish your objectives. Timing is an attribute that is tied to two other important attributes: sensitivity and awareness. However, because of the complexities associated with these two attributes, I will write more about them in a subsequent article. When you are in the midst of grappling with an opponent, it feels as though things are happening very quickly. It seems as though the windows of opportunity are very small. Well, in the beginning, they are. However, in time, increasing your awareness and sense of timing can enlarge these windows of opportunity. In the beginning, most students are taught a series of techniques. This is a good starting point because it teaches the student how to overcome a specific type of attack or resistance. However, if the student never progresses beyond this type of training, he or she will never develop a good sense of timing, and consequently will end up saying, "This techniques doesn't work." What needs to happen next is the student needs to be taught precisely WHEN to employ the specific technique. He must associate movement and pressure with this technique. Otherwise, his ability to perform the technique under stressful situations will be diminished, greatly! Knowing the precise time to perform a specific technique is the BIG key to progressing through the various levels in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. How can a person develop good timing? First, he must focus on the mechanics and structure of each technique during the formulative years of training, usually the first three years. Once the structure and mechanics of a technique are solid, the student can be introduced to simple combinations that will him lead him down the path of discovering pressure (or angle of movement). As soon as the student can sense angle of movement, he can be taught the preparatory movements for each technique. And then, armed with that knowledge, he can pursue timing full time, with no restraints! 5. Precision in Movement - The ability to place your body in the exact position of leverage. This is often the most overlooked area within Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Too many students take precision in movement for granted. Once they get the idea of how to perform a technique, they rush off to the mats to try it on their partners. When explicit instructions are given, some adopt the "Yeah, yeah, I got it.... hurry up with your verbose explanation so I can get on the mat and try it" attitude. Then, when they struggle with one of the components, they introduce speed, power and explosiveness into the mix to make up for their imprecise movements. Because they were able to perform the movement on a totally compliant training partner, they feel satisfied that they know the information and are now ready to move on to the next technique. Or............when the technique does not work, they immediately dismiss it as, "This technique would never work" or "This technique does not work for me." Over the years, I've had so many students tell this to me. Often, I listened, patiently. Sometimes, I responded by telling them how it worked, only to have them argue with me over its effectiveness. Then, several years later, they came to me with a revelation, they found a new technique that worked rally well for them and they wanted to show it to me (just to make sure they were doing it right). And when I told them I had shown them this technique a couple of years ago, they would respond by saying, "Oh yeah. I remember I thought it wouldn't work back then." Being precise with your movements will lay a solid foundation for you to build off of, especially if you plan to keep doing this Brazilian Jiu Jitsu thing into your 50's and 60's. When you find yourself locked down with a great job, a good wife, a house payment and a child, your ability to train 10 hours a week or more will be a thing of the past. So, to compensate for your lack of training time, you will need to focus on being precise with your movements. Many times, the difference between accomplishing your goals and not being able to do so is a matter of inches or centimeters. If you were to take the time to develop precision in your movements, you would also find a decrease in the amount of energy you expend to accomplish your objectives. For example, when you establish posture from the bottom of the side mount position, it is important that the forearm under the neck have a precise positioning. The lower portion of your forearm, closest to your wrist, must be above your opponent's clavicle. The upper portion of your forearm, closest to your elbow, must be ALSO be above your opponent's clavicle. If one of these contact points is below your opponent's clavicle, it will end up supporting the weight of the opponent's upper torso, which will make it increasingly more difficult to push his weight off of you or along side of you. The distance of movement can be as little as two inches. That's right! Two inches. Think about that! Two inches separates you from applying 140 lbs of pressure vs. 20 lbs. of pressure to

accomplish your goal of pushing the opponent's weight alongside your body. Would you rather apply 140 lbs. or 20 lbs. of pressure to dump the opponent's weight off of your body? I think the answer is obvious. How can a person develop precision in movement? Simple: by doing the math! Perform the required number of repetitions to record that precise movement into the memory of your muscles. Just knowing the movement will not make it a skill. You must do the repetitions so you can perform the technique, without thought, in that tiny little window of opportunity while grappling. While training, you must focus on your mechanics. Mechanics are the precise movements that make the technique efficient, economical and effective! By focusing your training on these five core attributes, you can lay a solid foundation for future progression in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I hope this article will help you to understand the role of physical attributes as it relates to your progression in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In a later article, I will write about other physical attributes related to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (e.g. awareness, body mechanics, explosiveness, endurance and sensitivity). Good training to you, Roy Harris

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