21 Truths

“21 Truths”

by Professor Martin

1. Train More Than You Think You Can

The truth is that you must train at least two times a week to learn anything in jiu jitsu. Three to four times a week is where the real growth happens, and five to six times a week is necessary you want to win a tournament. You must set a schedule the days and times you will be training. Get a calendar and fill it with your training schedule. Without making this time a priority it will be on the back-burner. You must also sit down with your significant other about your personal times and make sure they respect it. Girlfriends tend to demand large portions of your time, so it’s important to let them know you will make time for them, but you need your own personal time as well. The other option is to invite them to train. Time management will change your life. You must prioritize the

2. Control Your Opponent

The name of the game is control and it starts with grips. Every match starts with each fighter standing. The then shake hands and go for grips. A dominant grip means you will be able to control better. Grip fighting begins because your opponent also wants to dominate grips. Beginners tend to allow grips and tend to grip incorrectly. You should avoid allowing your opponent to grip you, but if they do, you constantly need to be breaking you opponent’s grips. Control doesn’t just mean grips. It can also be done with hips, arms, shoulders, head, knees and elbows. Each position is a different type of control. The common saying in jiu jitsu is “position before submission.” If you can immobilize your opponent, it is much easier to apply your submission. Attacking consists of taking space away. On the opposite side of the coin, escaping is creating space. It’s perfect

3. Always Kill

What does that mean? Sounds violent. While jiu jitsu is called the gentle art, it also is a means to stop someone who is trying to hurt you or someone you love. The word ‘gentle’ comes from leverage vs. brute force. There are two types of categories of submissions: strangulation and joint destruction. Strangulation cuts off blood to the brain, making the person unconscious. It is much safer than suffocation, which is the lack of oxygen. Strangulation is also much faster. Done properly, a person can be made unconscious in six seconds. Strangulation is also temporary. The person usually comes to in a matter of seconds, whereas suffocation can lead to death. Also, people can hold their breath. When I say, “always kill,” the goal should be to finish your opponent instead of point sparring. Joint destruction is done with leverage, which happens when you move the joint in the

4. Use Angles

Angles lead to strangles. The goal of jiu jitsu is a smaller person can defend themselves against a larger person. This is harder to do with a head-on attack. Nowhere in the universe does a smaller mass overcome a larger mass. You need to create an angle of attack to create leverage. A great example would be in takedowns. If a 100-pound woman and a 200-pound man push each other, the larger person would win, but if the woman changes her level by squatting, the man would tumble over her, giving her an easy takedown. Sweeps are basically takedowns while on the ground. The goal is to take the person off their base. Getting under a person’s hips makes this easier. Angles make joint locks easier if put on with proper leverage. Think of a crowbar or car jack. You always grab the handle at the end of the lever,

5. They Don’t tap, They Nap or Snap

This is more for street fighting or in a tournament. There is a certain point where your opponent needs to make the decision to give in or get hurt. This is the beauty of jiu jitsu for self-defense. In a striking art, you punch, kick or hit until they quit, but in jiu jitsu you can hold a person down until the police arrive, or submit them if they continue to resist. In a tournament, you must be willing to finish an opponent who won’t tap or give in. The truth is, there are people in the world who will fight with a broken arm, so I recommend chokes. No one fights when they’re asleep.

6. Be First With Attacks or Takedowns

Action beats reaction. If you are first in a match, you set the pace and you also get to play the game you want. If you attempt a takedown, they must react. It puts them on the defense, and instead of attacking, your opponent is defending. If you constantly attack, one of them will work and you will get what you want. If you wait for your opponent to make the first move, you don’t get to decide where it happens or what happens. It won’t matter if you want to play top or bottom position. If you want to play guard, you need to get your grips first, then pull. If you want to play top, you want to get to a takedown. In this way, you will always be playing to your strengths.

7. Take the High Ground

Always be on top. It’s one of the tenets of combat. Gravity is on your side if you’re on top. You have the weight of the world, plus your own weight. Even if I’m in guard, I prefer to sweep into a top position, instead of submitting from the guard. If I pass in a guard, I’m also on top. There are much more submission options from the top position. Side control, mount, knee on belly, kesa-gatame, all have submissions. There are very few submissions from bottom. If my opponent is under me, he must fight my pressure and my submission attacks.

8. The Guard is Active

You must sweep, submit, stand up, or take the back. The guard’s position was originally a defensive position. Now it is much more dynamic. It should not be used to stall. The options are: take the back, sweep, submit or stand up. Sweeping is my favorite option. It gives you the most options. Every guard has its own set of sweeps. Submissions are another great option. Say you must finish the fight fast or you are running out of time. Taking the back is great because your opponent can’t counter your attacks as well. Fighting larger opponents, I recommend back takes. People forget they can stand up from the guard, and during a street fight, this is the best option. Technical stand up is, in my opinion, a pillar of self-defense. If you back out of the guard to your knees, you can shoot a take down.

9. Flow

Jiu jitsu means gentle but sub hard. This goes off the concept of percentages of effort. 60, 80, or 100%. If you use 100% effort, you will burn out early. A black belt match is ten minutes long. You may be able to grapple at 100% for ten minutes, but by the next match, you may not have the energy for it. It’s like running sprints up hill, while curling 30 pounds. Movement should be 60% effort. A transition should be 80%, but a submission or an escape should be at 100%. If you use 50% effort to choke someone, they will use 100% effort to defend. If you use 50% effort to defend a choke, they will use 100% effort to choke. The same goes for escaping a bad position. You must commit 100%. Sixty percent movement allows you to back out of it if it’s not going well.

10. Never Grip Hard Until You Attack

Light gripping will save your hand’s grip strength. Light gripping also conceals your intentions. When you grip hard, your opponent usually pulls back hard, or immediately tries to break your grip. When I lightly grip a collar, they don’t feel threatened, even though they should be. They continue to allow me to keep my grip, while still trying to attack. It’s like a trap that’s waiting until you need to move a person or tighten a choke. Also, the location of the grip matters. I now grip behind the seams of my opponent’s triceps. This is easiest on my hands and hard for them to break the grip. Common sleeve grips are a pistol grip or a thumb grip. The thumb grip I love but wears my hands out. I now shy away from grip-heavy guards like spider guards and de la Riva. This saves my grips in the long

11. Attack So Your Opponent Must Defend

In sport jiu jitsu, you will get advantage points for a submission attempt. The opponent must vigorously defend and escape. If it’s a half effort attempt and the opponent wasn’t in any danger, you won’t be awarded an advantage point. The same goes for passing, sweeps, take downs, or near back takes. If you aggressively attack, you put your opponent in a defensive mode. They are less likely to counter, and are basically running for their life. It’s hard to attack when you’re worried about being submitted or attacked. Keeping the constant pressure of attacks, it helps to have a large repertoire of attacks to continuously apply.

12. Counterattacks Should Be Revenge

When I must defend a bad position or submission, I tend to apply attacks that are an immediate counter. You don’t have time to pause. I don’t like escaping to a new position. If I escape, I like to be in a dominant position, or I want to attack right away. If you key lock me, I will wrist lock you. If you arm bar me, I will pass your guard, if you kimura me I will re-kimura you. I want people to almost feel endangered when they attack me. The psychological benefits are huge. I want them to be afraid to make a move and second guess themselves.

13. Always Smash

Always use pressure. On top I use pressure on their face, more specifically on their orbital bones. I want them facing away from me. I train with an old judo man who said that in Japan when they eat an eel, they pin the head to the board. The body squirms around, but it is still in place. When I mount, I use my hips to increase pressure on their abdomen. When they breathe out, I don’t let their diaphragm inhale again. Now they take short breaths and start to panic and give you a reason to tap. Pressure passing allows you to slowly pass with less effort.

14. The Present is the Most Important Match

A lot of people in tournaments think about the finals match when they haven’t even fought the first match. Or they try to save their energy, but in doing so they lose the first match. To me, the first match is the most important because it gets the jitters out. Whether you’re fighting a match in the gym or the finals in the world championship, that match is the most important. The all-time batting average king in baseball said he forgets every last at bat, whether he struck out or hit a grand slam, because only the current at bat matters. There is a lot of talk about being present and in the moment, and in BJJ this is very relevant. It’s important to be in the moment until the next moment, continuously.

15. Chokes are a Nasty Business

When I teach, repeat after me. As a society, we are taught to play nice and not hurt our peers, with good reason. But when we are threatened, there are times when violence is necessary, and the most violent wins. And in those times, the one that loses sometimes loses their life. In BJJ we are agreeing to a mutual combat. We are friends, but trying to beat each other. The good news is we can tap out, but are training for a scenario where it might be life or death. So, when I apply a choke, I am trying to kill you, with the knowledge that you will tap and I will let go. “Because on one day, someone is going to try to take something from you, and you are going to have to choke that motherfucker.” – Ralph Gracie

16. Never Telegraph Your Intention

In poker, they call it a “tell,” a movement that shows your intention. Some people almost warm up into a move instead of straight on application of a technique. In football, linemen know what the other side will do based upon their feet. The flipside of this is you can fake or disguise your intentions. With takedowns, you can use level changes to disguise when you are going to shoot for a takedown. Doing a move over and over is also a problem. It is easy to defend. Change it up. Arm bar, then to a choke, then back to an arm bar. Not arm bar, arm bar, arm bar repeatedly. Break the rhythm up.

17. Breathe

This sounds simple, but everyone seems to hold their breath. You get tired when you hold your breath. It happens in weightlifting also. Grappling is a crazy amount of cardio and if you hold your breath, you won’t last to the end of the match without quitting. Yoga has helped me with this a lot because you practice breathing in poses. Breathing helps calm you when you are panicking. The goal should be long, smooth breaths. Practice breathing after training and breathe only through your nose, counting in and out. Example: Inhale, 1,2,3, exhale, 1,2,3,4, pause at bottom. Breaths should not be choppy. Do this exercise for five minutes. While inhaling expand through your ribs. Imagine the air inside you. You can do this for the match.

18. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is Live Chess

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is compared to chess a lot and for good reason. It is a thinking person’s game. The physical is a small part compared to the mental part. The ability to think several moves ahead is a big advantage because you are leading opponents into traps while letting them think you’re doing what they want. In this respect, it is exactly like chess, but in chess you must wait for your turn to make your move, whereas in jiu jitsu you are both constantly making moves. Knowing all the options in any given situation and knowing when and where that leads is a huge advantage. People have told me I know what they are going to do before they do it, and to a certain extent I do.

19. Know Your ABCs

ABCs are options within a position, and they should be interchangeable: BCA, ACB, or even up to ABDEFG, etc. So, if I attack with “A” move and you defend, I switch to “B,” then to “C,” then back to “A.” Eventually I am going to defeat you, because you cannot defend as fast as I can switch.

20. Always Be a Move Ahead

Just as you have ABC attacks or sweeps, you should also be able to switch guards, and each guard allows me a new set of attacks. The goal being that your brain cannot react quickly enough between each set of attacks. This allows me to lead the dance of a match.