One of the reasons BJJ is often compared to chess is because they are both games of tactics and strategy. An experienced and talented Jiu-Jitsu practitioner or chess player will be able to set up a series of moves, working towards a particular goal, and they can instantly adjust their game plan based upon what their opponent does to defend. There are counters to every move, and even counters to counters, so players must not only know how to attack, but also how to overcome their opponents defense, and nullify counterattacks.
This week in the advanced classes at LBJJC, Professor Greg taught us how to break common armbar defenses (such as grasping hands together and rnc-style gripping), and nowhere in his instruction did he say “Grab their arm and yank with all your might!” or “Pry their fingers off!”. Everything he taught us was just as technical as any other move we’ve ever learned, and it’s all about body mechanics. For example, people are weaker with their arms over their heads, so adjusting to put ourselves in a strong position, while putting our opponents in a weak one, isn’t about physical force, it’s about understanding how the human body works.
That point was made clear to me during positional sparring on Wednesday. We started out in an armbar (with our partner defending), and had to try to finish it (or escape). When I was going against a blue belt with very strong arms, I was able to use the tactics that The Professor taught us this week to negate his defense, and I actually armbarred him twice! I would never win a battle of strength against him, but I didn’t have to, because I was given intelligent options, and I understood them.
I believe it was also my limited understanding of body mechanics which helped me to pass Tumbleweed’s inverted guard to north-south this week, because that’s not something I have ever been taught how to do. When I tried to transition to side control, he caught me in half-guard, but I’m pretty sure that was the first time I’ve ever made it on top of Mike during free-rolling! I was so excited about it that I took a moment to celebrate, and he warned “Don’t hesitate, do something with it or you’re going to lose it.”, and the next thing I knew, I wasn’t on top anymore. It took me four years to get there, and I just wasted it!
Learning the moves isn’t enough, especially against people who already know them, so you have to figure out how to adjust and adapt, to stay a step ahead. Strategies in BJJ are as varied as the people who utilize them, and are often based on size, but the science behind what makes tactics work never changes. You can’t always count on being bigger, stronger, faster, or more athletic than your opponent, but when you truly understand things like body mechanics, balance, timing, and leverage, then the knowledge won’t fail you!