Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is a combat sport and a martial art which strives to teach smaller people how to defend themselves against enemies who are larger than they are. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was founded by the Gracie family and is a modified judo and traditional Japanese art. It is based on using leverage and correct techniques, to perfect the art of stand- up maneuvers and ground fighting methods. The key in BJJ is to gain the upper hand by applying chokes, holds, joint manipulations, and locks to the opponent.
Table of Contents
- What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
- The Mount and the Guard
- Take downs
- Choke holds
- Small joint manipulations
- Spinal locks
- Wrist locks
- Ground fighting
What is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu?
It is a martial art which focuses on grappling and ground fighting. It is based on movements by a smaller person, who defends themselves against a larger person by making use of techniques such as choke holds and joint locks, before forcing the opponent to the floor and subduing them. Sparring plays a major part in the sport, and drilling is a very important part of training, especially for tournaments. Since the start of the sport in 1882, it has not only been considered a sport, but also a way to promote physical fitness and character building in younger people.
As a beginner in the sport, it is very important to know the different techniques which are used in each situation.
The Mount and the Guard
The Mount and the Guard are the two most basic of positions in Jiu Jutsu. In the Mount the dominant person sits on top of the other person while facing the head of the person on the ground. From this position the oppressor can carry out such movements as strikes to the head, or punches and choke holds. These moves are not easily carried out from the position at the bottom.
Because this position is so important, the Mount is a position that you should master as soon as possible.
The Guard position is when one person has their back on the ground and attempts to control the other person by wrapping their legs around the torso of the other person. It is usually an advantageous position to be in as various joint locks and choke holds can be performed from this position.
- The Mount: in this position the person who is sitting on top of the second person will have the advantage. The legs should be astride the person on the ground. This gives them the ability to carry out punches while the person on the ground will be in the worst position for a fight.
The person on top has gravity working on their side so that they are able to fully cock their arms before punching. The person on the ground will be prevented from doing this because he is lying on the ground.
- The Guard: when the person who is lying on the ground manages to get the legs wrapped around the hips of the person on top of them, it is agreed that they have that person in their guard.
Without a solid understanding of this position, you will never be proficient at the sport.
- Near guard: this is when the person on top is pulled close to the torso of the person on the ground so that they have very little distance to perform a full punch. The person on the ground uses the legs to manipulate the person on top.
- Far guard: this position is when the person who is on top is effectively kept at arm’s length by the knees of the person on the ground. The person on the ground is then able to push away so that any punches to the face are not effective.
- Half mounts: in this position one person is lying on the ground and the other person on top with one leg only entangled. This is also known as the half guard because the person on top only has one leg entangled.
The combatant on top tries to untangle the leg to get control while the person on the ground will attempt to move into a full guard position.
The person on top always has the advantage as it is easier to strike downwards than upwards. The person on the ground may be able to gain control but this does not always work.
- Knee mount: this is a very dominant ground grappling position. The top person places a knee on the torso of the combatant on the ground.
The other leg is normally out to the side to balance the person on top. The knee may be either on the stomach or the chest of the person on the ground.
In a tournament, the knee mountis an easy way to score points.
- North-south position: one combatant is lying on the ground and the second person is lying flat on top, usually with the head over the chest area. The top person can then easily apply knee strikes to the head of the opponent, or transition into other holds.
- Back or rear mount: in this position the attacker has the opponent pinned down, face towards the floor, and is on top of them in such a way that he has control over them.
The opponent may either be lying on the back of the person on the ground, or seated on them. This limits the ability for any retaliation from the person on the ground.
The person on the ground is unable to deal with strikes, and they cannot easily see incoming attacks and defend themselves.
- Mounted position: the person on top is then able to sit on either the chest or the torso of the person on the ground, who is lying on their back.
Priority of the bottom combatant is to sweep the top person off and onto the ground, and reverse the positions.
The person on top is then able to attack with full force as he is not limited in the backward movement of arms. He also has gravity working to the advantage, while the person on the ground cannot bend the arms fully so attacks are ineffectual.
- Stand up grappling: all fights start from an upright position and stand up grappling plays an integral part in this start.
Stand up grappling can be used either defensively or offensively and can include submission holds, trapping, take downs and throws, depending on the aim of the fight.
It can also be combined with striking and trapping the opponent’s arm which will prevent them gaining the distance needed to strike back effectively.
It can also be a start to the incorporation of knee strikes.
- Scissor sweep: this movement has been considered one of the most important to learn and master. To do this movement well, you need to have complete control of the wrist and arm of the side that you sweep to.
The scissor sweepis a very basic movement and very effective, when carried out correctly.
The sweep is powered by the effective use of the hips and trunk, instead of the arms.
The opponent’s centre of gravity needs to be moved and this is done by using the top leg and lapel grip to raise the other person’s hips and then pull them towards you.
Because you have raised the centre of gravity, you have made it easier to flip him over and land on the ground.
- Side Mount escape: these are a very important part of the game and most people will want to master this aspect.
The side mount escape is used as a defensive part and should be mastered from the start.
It is important to protect the neck all the time and one hand should be within reach of lapels at all times.
The subsequent moves of ‘bridging and shrimping’ are then carried out, and, if done correctly, will result in you having a 90% chance of side escape from the opponent.
- Side control: this dominant position is also called the side mount or the cross mount. The top opponent is lying perpendicular over the top of the other person.
The side control position is a dominant grappling positionwhere the person on top has control.
In this position the legs are completely free and no control is exerted over the bottom person. The top person has side control with the other person pinned beneath him.
From this position the top opponent may use his position to move on to elbows or knees, or up into a mounted position.
The person on the ground should try to sweep the top person off and thus escape. This may be attempted by entangling the legs.
- Shoulder hold: in this pinning hold, the opponent is hugged around his head and one of the other person’s arms pinned up against the neck.
This movement is sometimes also called a chokehold because it is a perfect position to compress the opponent’s neck by a simple squeeze.
If this manoeuvre is used the hold is known as a side choke.
- Scarf hold: the legs should be spread for extra stability, and this pinning hold is then done by turning slightly sideways and encircling the head with one arm. The other arm should be kept close to the chest.
The traditional scarf hold leaves the top person with an escape.
Although submission holds may be difficult to achieve from this position, a modified scarf hold is used, where the opponent’s arm is encircled instead.
- Side control twister: perfect control is achieved by facing away from the opponent’s head, and sitting on the bicep. With the small of the back against the opponent’s chin and trapping the other arm under the elbow, you then push it towards the head. (Train with a power tower)
It is important that you keep your hip off the ground for this movement as this keeps the weight on the opponent.
By doing this you will be left with a free hand with which you can block a leg attack, and also maintain your own good posture.
From this position, you will also be able to transition to kneebars and calf cranks.
- Double leg take down: this movement is achieved by grabbing the opponent around both legs, while at the same time keeping the chest as close to the opponent as possible. This position is used to force them to the ground.
The double leg take down is a mainstay and should be one of the moves you master early on.
Forcing them to the ground may be achieved by lifting and slamming them, or pushing forward with the shoulders and simultaneously pulling the legs.
Another variation of this movement is a double leg and trip movement. While holding onto the legs and pushing forward, the opponent is then tripped, and will be forced to the ground.
- Single leg take down: this method of attack involves the oppressor getting as low as possible, shooting forward to the opponent, cupping the heel in hands and driving forward to force him down onto the ground.
Depending on the way the opponent reacts to this, there are a variety of different ways to finish the technique.
Many famous wrestlers such as John Smith and Erik Paulson have used this movement in competitions.
Erik Paulson was the first Americanto win the Light-Heavy weight title in Japan.
- Ankle pick: in this movement, you would need to use a lapel grip, yanking the opponent forward towards you, and thus forcing him to take a step to you.
This will bring his foot into your range, allowing you to use the ankle pick movement and bring him to the ground.
This movement is relatively low risk, but has a very high reward as it can ensure that you are then in a great position to follow on with other moves.
- Lapel grip: this movement, when done right, will work for a successful take down and a good set up for other throws.
You must have a solid grip on the opponent’s collar. You then sidestep while pulling strongly, and swinging the body around.
If this is done right, your opponent will land facedown and you will be able to get on top of his back.
Should the opponent resist, you can still use this grip to transition to a single leg take down, and get him down with this movement.
- Tomoe Nage: this is also known as a ‘sacrifice throw’ because you put yourself in a position under the opponent, before you throw him.
By doing this you generate a huge amount of energy and momentum. You will also find yourself right under his centre of gravity.
Should you not achieve this, then you can still salvage the move by going for the Guard position, where you are still in control of the situation
- Arm drag and inside trip: with a bigger, stronger opponent, this movement is one of the easiest and most effective to use.
You should use the arm drag to distract the opponent, and giving you a clear path towards him. By trapping his foot with your leg, you will then be able to use your weight to force him to the ground.
- Foot sweep: although there is a large amount of timing involved with this movement, it does not require a lot of strength. It does, however, need a lot of practise to do it perfectly.
After you have completed a foot sweep, you need to stay close to the opponent and drop your weight quickly after the throw in order that you can move to the knee without giving him a chance to recover.
- Uchi Mata: with this movement, you must partially turn your back to your opponent, while at the same time pulling him off balance. You then use one of your legs to forcibly lift him off his feet or kick his legs out. Whichever method you use, you will be able to land him on the ground.
Variations of this move include attacking the near leg, far leg, or straight up the middle.
Because of the high success rate of landing your opponent on the ground, it is worth practising this move until you have mastered it.
One of the original 40 throws is theUchi mataand is classed as a foot move.
- Drop Seio Nage: to do this movement well, you must have confidence in the throw and your own position. It is a high-risk throw, but a high reward movement.
If carried out well, this can lead to a quick submission such as the armbar.
TheSeoi nageis a traditional throw which should be mastered early in the sport.
The throw will initially expose your back and leave you open to a rear mount, but if you carry it out explosively, it is very hard to achieve the rear mount.
After taking a grip on opposite underarm, you then drop to your knees and very explosively spin around so that your back is close to the opponent’s groin, and yank him over your back and down onto the ground.
- Yoko Sumi Gaeshi: this move is very seldom used in competitions, but it is very effective when done correctly.
One of your arms controls one of his arms, and your other arm goes behind his body. You then come over his back with one of your arms and it is this movement that allows you to drop your full weight onto his shoulders, breaking his posture and severely limiting his mobility.
If your throw has been accurately carried out, you will find that you end up in a very strong side control place and are in the perfect position to follow up your attack and force him to the ground.
- Duck under: to do this effectively, you must take a firm grip on your opponent’s elbows and pull them away from the body.
You then lower your head and literally duck under his arm and get behind him. From this underarm position, you will be in a good position to lift him and then throw him downwards. You may also force him to the ground by performing a leg trip.
- Fireman carry: to be carried out on the right side of the opponent’s body, you should have your left hand pull his right elbow forward. Your head should then go under his right arm.
The fireman’s carry is a take down technique which is widely used by amateurs.
As this takes place, you should then grab the inside of his right thigh and lift.
As the attacker lifts, he drives to the left and forces the opponent to the ground on the right side.
- Underhook: in this movement, the attacker places an arm under the opponent’s arm, and takes a grip around the back of his mid or upper body. This is a single underhook.
A double underhook is when the attacker makes this move with both arms, and it can be the start of a take down, because a well-executed underhook will offer the potential to control the upper body of the opponent.
- Overhook: this movement is when the attacker puts his arm over the opponent’s arm and encircles it.
It normally comes before a take down when the attacker puts more weight on the arm and then pulls the opponent’s other arm across the body.
The attacker then makes a move to step behind the opponent. The attacker is then in a position to force the opponent to the ground.
- Bear hug: the attacker makes the move to have both his arms firmly around the opponent’s mid-section with either one or both of the arms pinned against the sides.
Being a dominant position, the bear huggives a great amount of control over the opponent.
The attacker’s chest should be close to the other person’s chest and in a tight grip.
The attacker can then take the opponent down by lifting, or with the use of a leg trip.
- Spin around: this move may be used by the person who is countering a move such as a single or double leg take down.
As the opponent attempts to take down with a leg shot, the attacker spreads his legs and quickly moves to the rear of the attacker. He is then able to force a take down.
- Snap down: the attacker should place both hands on the back of the opponent’s neck and smoothly pull the head downward.
As the head is being forced lower, the attacker then quickly pulls down and forces the opponent’s body to the ground.
As the body is being forced to the ground, the attacker moves around to the rear of the opponent.
- Bow and arrow choke: this is a choke hold which is successfully used by smaller people. Often this hold is applied from a rear mount, but not always.
Thebow and arrow choke is an important grappling position which often ends in a submission.
The attacker gets a grip on the lapel, and uses the other arm to rotate their body until the choke is considerably tightened.
- Triangle choke: if you have long legs, then you will find this a very effective move to make. The move starts from a position where the attacker is on the ground, on their back.
With the opponent’s head and one arm firmly encircled by the legs in a triangle shape, the opponent is subdued.
The triangle choke is a very common submission hold.
- Sleeve choke: the attacker tries to have an arm around the opponent’s head and the move is completed by connecting the two arms by grabbing inside the sleeves and forming a choke hold.
This is a very useful attack which can be carried out from any number of positions such as the base of the mount and inside the guard.
- Cross collar choke: this choke should be used when facing the opponent. The attacker focuses on opening the collar and extending the hands towards the neck in an upward movement.
This can either be used from the mount or the guard positions.
At this point the legs are used to break down the posture of the opponent. The hands should be placed deep into the collar and then eased into the correct position where the wrist bone is on the artery.
When the wrists are lined up, the attacker closes the grip and drives the edges of the wrists into the neck. At the same time the attacker pulls the elbows down and drives his chest in.
- Air choke: this is also known as a tracheal choke because it is the only choke that interferes with breathing by compressing the upper airway and leads to asphyxia.
The choke causes air hunger and may induce unconsciousness in the opponent.
The choke is performed by placing the forearm across the front of the neck and is carried out from behind the opponent.
The free hand then grabs the wrist, pulls back the forearm, which in turn drives into the front of the neck and stops the air flow.
Usually performed with the forearm, the air choke blocks the flow of air, rather than blood.
- Blood choke: chokes in this category include grips like sleeper holds and carotid restraints, which are a form of strangulation.
This choke compresses the carotid arteries or the jugular veins and causes a temporary hypoxic condition to the brain.
Correctly applied, this choke can lead to the opponent becoming unconscious within a matter of seconds.
This choke does not require great strength, it is more a matter of applying pressure on the right spot.
These holds involve the manipulation of the opponent’s joints until they reach the maximum degree of motion.
In a joint lock it is important to control the area above and below the joint.
- Flying armbar: normally this is performed in a standing position and usually used when the opponent has a collar tie.
The attacker, while holding the opponent’s neck and arm, then places one of his shins against the midsection and simultaneously swings his leg up and over the opponent’s head.
Although this is considered to be a spectacular joint lock, it is less frequently used because it is often the cause of falling and landing in a poor position.
- Helicopter armbar: with the attacker standing in front of the opponent, he then grabs both arms and falls backwards.
This movement then causes the opponent to fall forwards. The attacker then places his feet on the opponent’s stomach or even the hips and forcibly lifts him into the air.
Taking a secure hold on one of the opponent’s arms, the attacker goes on to drop one foot, which in turn causes the opponent to twist and fall, with his arm extended so that there is very little chance of retaliation.
- Kneebar: the technique is similar to the armbar, in that the attacker tries to trap the opponent’s leg between their own legs and then secure the leg with hands and forcing the kneecap to point straight to the body.
If the kneebar is carried out correctly, it is a very successful submission.
Pressure is applied by the attacker using their hips and upper body. By doing this, a great amount of force is applied to the knee and the lock is extremely difficult to escape from without tissue or ligament damage occurring.
- Ankle lock: this lock typically hyperextends the joint in the ankle. Using the legs to isolate one of the opponent’s legs, the attacker then places that trapped leg in the armpit, while at the same time holding the foot at the lower calf area.
When the attacker moves his hips forward, the ankle joint is flexed and an effective joint lock is in place.
This may put severe pressure on the achilles tendon. This move is more effective when the bony parts of the forearm are used.
- Toe lock: the attacker uses his hands to hyperextend the ankle by grabbing the foot near to the toes.
A figure four toe hold is carried out when the attacker has a grip on the toes with the other hand under the opponent’s achilles tendon.
The attacker then grabs the wrist and in doing so, controls the opponent’s body.
- Heel hook: this lock affects other joints when applied correctly. The force of the movement puts torque on the ankle and then the knee.
Commonly used in the sport, the heel hook is a very useful grappling position.
This is carried out by placing the legs around the opponent’s legs and having one foot in the armpit area.
The legs control the opponent’s body movement and the attacker has the ability to twist by holding the heel with the forearm. This creates a twisting motion when the foot is turned laterally.
Heel hooks are normally considered very dangerous locks with a high injury rate, especially to the ligaments of the knees. In some competitions, it is banned, while in others there is a time limit before release.
- Calf crush: in this movement, the attacker tries to compress the opponent’s leg by placing his forearm behind the knee.
This movement effectively crushes the calf muscle and has the potential to separate the knee joint.
A correctly applied calf crush can not only damage the knee, but also the calf muscle. Caution should be a priority when finishing this lock.
Small joint manipulation
This refers to grabbing, pulling, bending or twisting the small appendages such as fingers and toes.
Leverage is relatively small, and can allow a smaller, weaker person the advantage over a larger person.
Grabbing some fingers is considered a small joint manipulation technique which can reinforce the attackers position and force the opponent to the ground.
Grabbing a finger or toe will give the attacker an immediate advantage over the opponent. This can greatly reduce the opponent’s ability to hold on and take control.
Some techniques, such as the spinal lock may not be allowed in competitions, but it is worth knowing them in case you have to defend yourself against them.
Spinal locks are applied to the spinal column and they try to force the spine beyond the normal range of motion. They are divided into two categories – namely neck cranks and spinal cranks.
This movement is applied by pulling or twisting the head beyond the normal range of motion.
- Can opener: this move can be carried out from either the guard or a mounted position. The attacker grabs the opponent’s head and forces it down and towards the chest.
In a competition, you may only be allowed to perform this can opener when the opponent’s guard is open.
If this move is done correctly, the opponent may submit.
- Cattle catch: in this move the attacker tries to trap the opponent’s hands, and at the same time force the head downwards to the chest.
In this move the opponent should be lying on the back. The attacker then tries to trap arms and legs by pinning them down. This leaves an arm free to force the opponent’s head towards the chest.
- Crucifix: in this manoeuvre the attacker is in the mounted position on the opponent. Both the arms are trapped and therefore controlled. The head is firmly held in the armpit.
Because of the tight hold on arms, the attacker has enough force to push the head to the chest.
- Twister: while controlling the opponent’s body, the attacker should force the head towards the shoulder. It is performed from a rear mount position.
This movement is sometimes confused with a spine crank, but because the main pressure is on the cervical spine, it is labelled as a neck crank movement.
- Frontal face lock: this is carried out in a standing position. The face is grabbed in the attacker’s hands and rotated laterally.
This movement has the potential to force the opponent to submit because of the extreme pressure that it causes.
Applied by twisting or bending the upper body parts beyond normal range of motion, this movement is used very rarely used because it is difficult to apply well.
Bending the upper body requires large amounts of leverage, and this is not always accomplished by smaller people.
Typically, a wrist lock is performed by grabbing the opponent’s hand, and then bending it or twisting it.
Wrist locks can be performed from a standing position and are simply done by grabbing the hand near the wrist and tuning it in the direction it is not meant to go.
If applied suddenly or with force, it can cause ligament tears or bone fractures. They leave the attacker open to punches and other strikes.
Understanding the wrist lock may mean you are able to use it as a jab shot.
- Rotational wrist lock: typically, this is performed by grabbing the hand and then twisting it.
Because the wrist joint will not rotate, the force of the twisting is radiated up to the forearm and may result in a joint lock in the radioulnar joint.
Because of the severe torque which this lock places on the wrist and elbows, an opponent may willingly throw themselves to escape the grip.
- Supinating wrist lock: this is the most commonly used lock. The hand of the opponent is rotated as far as it can go.
This is done by grabbing the opponent’s hand with either one or both hands and twisting until the thumb points away from the opponent.
This can be performed from a standing position and it will then force the opponent onto the ground and onto the back.
If this lock is correctly carried out, there is no torque applied to the wrist. The focus points are the elbows, forearms, and shoulders. The opponent will automatically turn his arm over to prevent the wrist from breaking.
- Pronating wrist lock: this lock is the opposite of the supinating wrist block in that it rotates the arm in the other direction. It is an internal twist.
How far the wrist can twist depends on the degree of flexion at the elbow. The arm is then twisted until the shoulder joint reaches the maximum rotation, and then the opponent may be forced to the ground.
- Adductive wrist lock: this is done by twisting the opponent’s arm with the elbow slightly bent, until the palm pints laterally.
Using either one or both hands, the opponent’s hand is then grabbed, and the wrist forced down.
The opponent may then drop downwards to take the pressure off the wrist.
- Hyperflexing wrist lock: these locks allow for good control as the pain gradually increases when more leverage is added.
This is performed by pushing or pulling the hand inwards to the forearm. They are often used in conjunction with rotational wrist locks, and sometimes after an opponent has escaped from a rotational lock.
- Closed (or full) guard: in this typical guard position, the legs of the attacker are hooked behind the back of the opponent. This move effectively prevents the opponent from rising or moving away.
Before the opponent can make a move, he must first free himself from this position. To do this, he must first open the legs of the attacker.
The attacker may use either the open or closed guard positions although the open guard position has a bigger risk for escape.
- Open guard: from this position, it is possible to carry out different choke holds and locks. Legs may be used to create leverage. In the open guard position, the opponent is able to rise, so the position is normally a temporary one until a further restraint can be implemented.
One of the oldest types of guard is the open guard which is also one of the most versatile moves to know.
The open guard position does not normally have the legs crossed at the ankles behind the opponent, thus making it an easier method of escape.
- Butterfly guard: this is often a very short lived position as the attacker’s legs are through the opponent’s legs. The attacker controls the opponent with arms and legs.
The opponent may be able to move freely and escape, although the attacker may try and succeed in getting the opponent off balance.
- Cross guard: in this movement, the attacker is on the ground on their back, with the opponent standing over them.
The attacker then uses his legs to entangle the opponent’s legs and force him down.
In this manoeuvre the attacker on the ground has the advantage, although the opponent may retaliate with stomps or kicks.
Because the aim is to make the top person unstable and fall, skilled use of this can bring him down quickly should he try to raise one leg.
- Spider guard: this move is very effective when the attacker can grab the sleeves of the opponent. All the movements with this involve gaining control of the opponent’s arms while using feet to control hips, biceps, and thighs.
The spider guard is a good way to set up for other positions such as choke holds and locks.
The spider guard requires a good grip and flexibility.
- De la Riva guard: with one leg wrapped around the opponent’s leg, the ankle held with one hand, and the second hand gripping a sleeve, this move offers a variety of sweeps and transitions.
- Rubber guard: in this position the attacker tries to keep his opponent down in the guard. He should then use a leg hold to keep the opponent down so that the other arm is free to sweep or strike the opponent’s trapped head.
When used correctly, therubber guard is very effective in sweeps and submissions.
Many different moves such as sweeps and submissions originate from this position.
- Fifty-fifty guard: the attacker is on the ground on his back and tries to encircle the opponent’s one leg by crossing a triangle over and behind the leg.
This leaves the arms and other leg free to change to sweeps and submissions.
Occasionally this position will result in a stall where the attacker cannot successfully perform another movement, and the opponent cannot pass the guard.
By using the correct techniques and leverage, a smaller person may be able to defend him or herself against a larger, heavier person. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, which was developed by the Gracie family, is made up of many stand up maneuvers. It is, however, famous for devastating ground fighting techniques. The key with this sport is to gain superior positions by taking advantage of the numerous chokes, holds and locks for which it has become known.
“Discipline and consistency. I owe these two factors all have attained in my life. Things have never happened overnight. Results have appeared as the consequence of decades long toil. It is necessary to persist.” – Master Carlos Gracie Jr.