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Momentum in grappling

Timing, leverage and momentum are three of the most important attributes to acquire in BJJ. They are what allows a smaller person how to defend themselves against a larger adversary.

What most people are used to seeing is the leverage component. If you are watching YouTube clips or people rolling in class and all you are looking at is a certain move or technique then what you are seeing is the leverage.

A sweep from guard is a great example; you can be shown how to correctly apply the sweep by placing your body in a particular position relative to your opponent, and if the leverage is applied correctly then your opponent will be swept.

So here is a common scenario – You spend all night in class learning a couple of sweep variations but then can’t apply it on a training partner when free rolling. You either cannot get the entry or even if you do you just can’t seem to finish it.

This is most likely a result of a failure in timing or not creating enough momentum. Some people might assume that the technique just does not work, or they struggle to understand why everyone else can seem to do it but they can’t.

The following video shows a match between Marcelo Garcia and Rafael Lovato Jr, two of my favourite high level black belt grapplers. This video demonstrates beautifully examples of great technique used with timing and momentum.

There is awesome technique to be seen here with Marcelo’s famous X guard and Rafael’s pressure passing system in play, some deep half guard and delariva guard from the guys too but in this instance try to look past the technique (leverage) and look at the timing and momentum created.

It is very obvious in this video with both players trying hard to create momentum but not give it. And then we they do create momentum their timing is spot on too. Some obvious example can be seen at the following intervals

00:15 Marcelo tries to make Rafael move (momentum attempt)

01:28- 2:56 Marcelo trying to create momentum for the x guard sweep but Rafael does not give much movement and maintains a solid base. At 2:53 Rafael moves his arm too far towards Marcelo and with perfect timing and use of momentum gets the sweep.

03:49 Marcelo tries to pass through the middle and Rafael catches his momentum and with great timing gets the sweep

There is plenty more examples in this 9:00 min long clip but I want you to find them for yourself. Remember, look past the technique and specifically focus on the timing and momentum these two high level black belts are using. It will make you a better grappler for sure and remember to ask your instructor about timing and momentum when he is explaining a technique if he already hasn’t.

Timing, leverage and momentum are three of the most important attributes to acquire in BJJ. They are what allows a smaller person how to defend themselves against a larger adversary.

Jordie martial arts

What is BJJ all about?

I have been training and teaching BJJ for a long time and I pretty much always get the same questions from people new to the art. Two of the most often asked is “what is the first think I should learn?” and “What is my goal?” (This second question is in terms of sparring with an opponent)

It is easy for people with experience to sometimes forget that we need to go right back to basic concepts when teaching others. One of the worst things an instructor can do is assume a knowledge base for someone and start teaching from a higher level than where the person actually is. The effect of this is that techniques taught to the student will be meaningless because there is no conceptual awareness of where these techniques should be applied.

These two questions indicate that the student requires guidance in understanding the conceptual framework of grappling before they begin to learn techniques and should be the first thing taught to beginner students. So in answer to the first question “what is the first think I should learn?” it’s obvious now that it is to gain an understanding of the conceptual framework of BJJ. Once this is accomplished the answer to the second question becomes much easier to understand.

To answer the second question; it is simply about taking away an opponent’s options for attack or defence until they have no options remaining and are defeated by a submission such as a choke or armbar. How to do this however is where technical training and experience come into play.

So remember, if you are new to BJJ or MMA don’t be afraid to ask your instructor questions about where to start or what you should be focussing on. It’s an important question and the base for your future learning.

Prey animal

Predator or Prey?

In the natural world, animals and insects grapple in a life and death manner all the time. When a lion tries to kill a zebra for example, it doesn’t try to knock it out, even though they can hit very hard. In fact, a fully grown lion has been known to kill a hyena with a single blow but this won’t work as effectively against something as strong or large as a zebra. It must grab hold to try and bring the animal down and control it.

If the zebra can keep its feet, it has a chance to fight back and escape. Once on the ground however that’s pretty much the end. Same with an eagle and a rabbit, the eagle doesn’t try and peck the rabbit to death from a distance; rather it grabs hold and then kills it. Same with a python and its prey, you get the picture! It’s all about control. If you can control something, or limit your opponents options then you can more or less do what you want with it.

This is the same for nearly all predator and prey relationships.

We instinctively know that if someone gets hold of you lose some control. When fighting, or undertaking any endeavor for that matter, we try at all times to keep our balance and not fall over, knowing that if we are taken down or fall we are in big trouble. So following this line of thought, should we then be training to be the lions (predators)? or if we are talking “self-defence” (prey) maybe we should be striking…Confused?

I believe the term “self-defence training” may create a prey orientated mindset. I have trained and been involved in boxing over many years and also spent a significant time training in traditional martial arts centers. My experience is that when new trainees are asked at the boxing gym why they want to learn to box, the answer is usually “I want to learn how to fight”(predator mindset) When the same question is put forward, at most traditional martial arts centres the answer is more often than not “I want to learn to defend myself”(prey mindset).

Picture this scenario. You are walking  down a dimly lit street late at night when you are approached by three men who surround you tell you in an aggressive manner. They have possibly trained in a boxing or kickboxing gym at some point. You know you have to get out of there so you front kick the guy in front of you, straight right hand to the guy on the left, back-fist guy on right guy as he moves in then run like the wind. 

Let’s change the scenario now. You are walking down the street and this time the three aggressive guys are grapplers…you are in bigger trouble now as you kick the first guy and the other two take you down. No running away now (remember the lions).

So what does all this mean and how do you put it into perspective?

You need to ask yourself some questions. Why do I want to learn a martial art? Will your martial art offer you the skills needed in realistic and often vary different environments? Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and similar grappling arts are ideally suited to a lot of people; Police and corrective service officers, mental health practitioners, and security officers would prefer to control and restrain not strike the people they are dealing with. Perhaps a common occurrence is a  need to restrain a drunk friend or family members at family gatherings if they get a little out of control.

If you're attacked then  kicking and punching may be  a good way to finish a fight quickly, you may need to keep your feet if the environment is too dangerous to be on the ground and will be able you to keep mobile and escape if necessary. Against multiple attackers the worst place you will want to be is on the ground.

Only you that can answer the questions of what you feel is the best option for you. Don’t get caught up in training your whole life for that one imagined scenario where you are caught in that back alley alone facing three or four armed assailants, rather, train for what situations happens most around you, and then you will be prepared for most of what happens !! My ideal goal is to become good at both stand up and ground fighting arts. You know; a zebra with sharp teeth and claws!

...​train for what situations happens most around you, and then you will be prepared for most of what happens !!

Quote of the day

This post is not intended as a “my art is better than yours,” or “striking is better than grappling,” but a hopefully thought invoking article on combat and self-defence in general.