Your success or failure in the standing position will come from your mastery of the crucial precursor skills

Your success or failure in the standing position will come from your mastery of the crucial precursor skills: A huge mistake in most Jiu jitsu standing programs is the tendency to teach a set of takedowns as the class curriculum. Students are shown a given move, say a single leg takedown, they drill it for a while and then move to the main component of the class - the ground positions. At best this creates a class of students who can drill the moves - but it never produces a class of students who can perform the moves against a strongly resisting opponent in sparring and competition. A big part of the reason for this is of course, the fact they don’t do any sparring in the standing position; but there is another important reason - THEY ARE NEVER SHOWN THE CRUCIAL PRECURSOR SKILLS OF STANCE, MOTION, GRIP, OFF BALANCING AND POSITION THAT ACTUALLY MAKE THE TAKEDOWNS POSSIBLE AGAINST A RESISTING OPPONENT. In standing grappling, TAKEDOWNS ARE THE CULMINATION OF THE APPLICATION OF PRECURSOR SKILLS THAT HAVE TO BE APPLIED FIRST BEFORE THE TAKEDOWN CAN BE PERFORMED. If those skills are lacking - the takedown will prove impossible the moment the opponent starts resisting. These crucial precursor skills are not sexy - no one gets excited about the prospect of practicing grip fighting, stance or movement - so they get ignored. Just as you can never hope to apply an arm bar on a resisting opponent without learning the precursor skills of passing and pinning and control - you can’t apply a takedown without standing precursor skills and learning takedowns without them is simply not going to be productive - you may look ok doing your drills but you won’t be able to takedown a resisting and competitive opponent. Make sure you spend as much time learning these crucial precursor skills of the standing position as you do takedowns - they may not be as sexy but when the pressure is on they will the factor that makes you successful

Jiu jitsu takedowns - controlling the aftermath of the takedown

Jiu jitsu takedowns - controlling the aftermath of the takedown: A a very distinctive feature of the Jiu jitsu standing game that separates it from many other forms of grappling is THE THREE SECOND RULE which states that takedown points will not be awarded unless the athlete performing the takedown can demonstrate control after the takedown for three seconds where control is understood as the ability to hold an opponents hips, shoulder, side or one knee to the mat for the full three seconds. This is actually extremely difficult. In combat sports THREE SECONDS IS AN AWFULLY LONG TIME. The effect of this rule is that the takedown itself is not really what is valued in Jiu jitsu, rather, what is valued is the AFTERMATH of the takedown - THAT is what you get scored for. In practice your opponent will typically fight to keep his butt/side/shoulder/one knee off the mat. This means the points you score usually come from the scramble AFTER the takedown (rear mount is the most common). As Jiu jitsu students you must pay particular attention to controlling this crucial post takedown phase - very often this is the difference between a winning score versus a tiring scramble that ends with nothing.

The basis of your confidence in your offense is the degree of confidence you have in your defense.

The basis of your confidence in your offense is the degree of confidence you have in your defense. Our fear is always that if we take a risk we will be punished with by being put into a bad situation from which we can not recover. However, if you know that your defense is so strong that there is simply no situation from which you cannot recover - all fear evaporates and you will attack with full confidence - holding nothing back. If you want an aggressive attacking game - begin your training by developing an iron defense

Sweeps can do more than sweep

Sweeps can do more than sweep: When we go to sweep an opponent from guard position we typically do so with the goal of getting up to to top position and scoring two points. Understand however, that sweeps have TWO major functions. The first is exactly what we just described - the attempt to put an opponent down to bottom position and gain top position. The second is much less talked about. A failed sweep almost always creates SPACE and EXTENSION in our opponent. Space, because he will need to move away to break connection and lessen the power of the sweep; and extension because he will need to base his hands/feet outwards to prevent being turned over. These defensive reactions of space and extension will make it surprisingly easy to switch from the goal of REVERSING an opponent to SUBMITTING an opponent (or standing up to your feet). As the opponent bases out wide with feet and knees - leg lock entries become easy. As he bases out with hands, arm locks and triangles become surprisingly easy. Here, Georges St Pierre is getting ready to test the strong base of Gordon Ryan with a shoulder crunch variation of sumi gaeshi sweep. Mr Ryan is already starting to widen his base in anticipation - ask yourself where you would go with regards submissions in this situation

Quadrants of the body

Quadrants of the body: When it’s time to submit an opponent your main targets are the neck (strangles), arms and legs (joint locks). Divide your opponents body into left upper quadrant (left arm target). Right upper quadrant (right arm target). Left lower quadrant (left leg target) right lower quadrant (right leg target). My favorite way to attack joint lock combinations is either side upper quadrant followed by opposite side lower body quadrant. This is the most natural (it’s always easier to go DOWN the body than UP the body for joint lock combinations on the floor) and the most deceptive (going from one side to the other takes advantage of the natural defenses to the initial upper body attack. You can see it here - I am threatening my partners right arm but positioning myself in such a way that it will be very easy to transition to the left leg (upper right to lower left) should the arm lock fail. Combining your attacks in this way will make you a very dangerous combination attacker - and get you more finishes on the mat!

The two most significant rules in Jiu jitsu with regards the standing game

The two most significant rules in Jiu jitsu with regards the standing game: There are two rules in Jiu jitsu that make the standing game significantly different from other grappling sports. The first is the THREE SECOND RULE which states that takedowns only score when they exhibit control for three seconds after the takedown where the opponents hips/buttocks/back or knee is kept on the floor for the full three seconds. This is a very difficult criteria to satisfy and in competition often means that the critical three seconds generates a scramble and points are scored in the scramble rather than the takedown per se. The second crucial rule is THE GROUND ENGAGEMENT RULE which states that if an athlete elects to sit to guard position the other athlete MUST engage on the ground. This means you can never force the opponent to a standing match - it has to be something they want to engage in. It is this rule which makes it possible for Jiu jitsu students to completely ignore standing skills (other than the easy skill of pulling guard) and makes it important for us to know how to counter a guard pull - a skill that is not necessary in other grappling arts that don’t have this rule. All of your standing training training in Jiu jitsu has to factor in the effect of these two rules. Takedowns that would score in wrestling or Judo may not score at all in Jiu Jitsu and at any time you may have to abandon the standing game if an opponent sits to the floor. It is important that you adjust your techniques and tactics around these two unique rules of Jiu jitsu - they have a huge effect on the standing game in our sport

If you want to understand something - teach it

If you want to understand something - teach it: When someone becomes my student I always teach them TWO skills. The first is the one everyone knows about - excellent performance in Jiu jitsu. The second is much less widely known. I teach all my students to teach. This forces them to be able to articulate exactly what they are trying to do. Learning to articulate this knowledge greatly clarifies it in your own mind. In my experience THE MORE CLEARLY YOU THINK ABOUT A GIVEN SKILL, THE MORE DECISIVELY YOU WILL ACT WITH THAT SKILL. Often I make my students teach back the skills I taught them, or have them teach some new idea they are working on - the act of doing this always sharpens and enhances their understanding in ways that increase performance. The result is that all of my senior students without exception are truly excellent teachers as well as athletes. It has the additional long term benefit that they can make a good living from the sport as a teacher as well as an athlete. Next time you feel confusion about an area of the sport - do some research on it and try to teach what you’ve learned to a Jiu jitsu friend (or if you really want a challenge - to a non Jiu jitsu friend - then you will have to add explanations as to why this skill is important, since this may not be obvious to an outsider - make sure you make it shorter than my explanations or they may not be your friend anymore! ). I promise this will be more than just a fun experience - it will make you a better performer in that area of the game.

Read your opponent

Read your opponent: Competitive matches are a lot easier to win if you know what your opponent is going to do before he does it. Unfortunately our opponents don’t tell us what they intend to do prior to doing it. Sometimes they even deceive us by creating an appearance of wanting to do one thing and then actually doing another. However, the body does not lie nearly as much as the mouth - you must learn to READ what an opponent really intends to do through observing his STANCE, MOTION and LEVEL among other things. If your opponent holds his body in a certain way, it will enable some kinds of action and prohibit others. This will immediately give you clues as to what he intends to do. If you feint offensive movements you will get a chance to read his responses and get good insight into his counter game. USE THE INTIAL ENCOUNTER AT THE START OF THE MATCH AND EVERY SUBSEQUENT TIME YOU RE-ENGAGE WITH YOUR OPPONENT TO HET INSIGHTS INTO WHAT HE INTENDS TO DO. You’ve spent your entire life learning to read people’s eyes and body to make assessments as to what they’re really thinking in every aspect of your life from business, friendships, dating etc. Now you must learn to do it in Jiu jitsu

Use the asymmetries of the human body in your favor

Use the asymmetries of the human body in your favor: A fundamental asymmetry of the human body is that of the massively greater strength and endurance of our lower body over our upper body. Legs are far stronger than arms. Use this asymmetry to win - as much as possible FIGHT YOUR OPPONENTS UPPER BODY WITH YOUR LOWER BODY. This is one of the best ways for smaller, weaker people to defeat bigger, stronger people. Juji gatame arm bars, triangles and omoplatas etc all do a great job of matching your leg strength against an opponents arm/shoulder/neck strength and as such, are among the best ways to take advantage of this fundamental feature of the human body. Actively look to employ it whenever you can - it is one of the key features of Jiu jitsu


Overlap: Many of the most popular standing takedowns in Jiu jitsu can also be used as sweeps from guard position on the ground. This really helps the Jiu jitsu student speed the process of learning them as standing takedowns. If you already have a strong single leg sweep from open guard, it won’t be so difficult to lead a single leg takedown from standing position. Once you learn standing set ups and elements of stance and motion etc, everything is quite similar. Quite a few takedowns have very significant overlap with commonly used guard sweeps - double legs, Tomoe nage, sumi gaeshi, collar drags, ankle picks - these (and others) all are excellent takedowns from standing as well as excellent sweeps from the floor. By focusing on these overlap takedowns, the Jiu jitsu student can shorten learning time by taking what is already familiar and applying it in a different context. I’m sure that many of you have been applying these moves as sweeps for many years - it will be easier to apply them from standing once you make the necessary additions than learning an entirely new takedown that has no relation to the ground game you are so familiar with. If you’re looking to develop a good standing takedown game in a short timeframe - ask yourself what some of your favorite guard sweeps are and whether they can be applied in standing position - a surprising number can - perhaps they can be your short cut to developing some takedown skills