Danger zones and safe zones

Danger zones and safe zones: Any time you pass through dangerous territory you would never stop in an area that appeared even more dangerous than usual, rather, you’d keep moving until you came across an area that appeared less dangerous, only then would you take a break, reorganize and plot your next move. Jiu jitsu is no different. There are some positions relative to your opponent that are just too dangerous to stop and take a break. There are others that are safe enough to take a temporary respite and use some time to make a good next move. How safe these areas really are will vary. Really dominant positions such as rear mount give you great opportunities to really slow things down and consider your options. More often the safety zones are not that safe - they just take away the immediate threat. Here, Brian Glick steps off line to get away from the immediate threat from Gordon Ryan’s very dangerous guard. He has stepped out of a danger zone (directly in front of the legs) to a zone thats offers a very temporary safety - he will have to move quickly from here if he is to advance to greater safety and prevent being put right back into the danger zone. Make your early movements when you first engage away from immediate danger zones and work progressively through the various safety zones and you’ll be able to focus more on offense and get less distractions from having to fend off your opponents attacks.

Your game will be made vastly more effective by...

Your game will be made vastly more effective by having one or two truly strong attacks that create defensive over reactions from opponents that set up all your other moves.

Defense in depth

Defense in depth: Most of you know that I put an extraordinarily high value on defense training for my students. My belief is that only when students have a strong belief in their defense will they take risks - and any offensive move entails risk - so ironically only athletes who believe in their defense will engage with their offense in high level competition. Understand always that defense comes in different forms based upon how far the opponent has entered into their move. Early defense is the most efficient. The old clock that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is very true with regards Jiu jitsu. If you can anticipate an attack you will defend it easily. Much more challenging is late defense, where an opponent has performed the move almost to completion and you have to dig your way out. This requires knowledge, skill and a steady nerve. Learn all the aspects of defense from early to late and everything in between - but when you care about winning, be sure to prioritize early defense - it will be easier on your body and less scary for your friends observing on the sidelines! Here, Nicky Ryan shuts down the dangerous leg lock game of the great Masakazu Imanari early on to allow himself to focus on his own attacks and victory

Every fighter has his favorite weapons

Every fighter has his favorite weapons - but keep in mind that the single greatest weapon a fighter can have is the ability to deceive an opponent as to his true intentions, for the application of all the other weapons, including your most cherished, will depend on this one.

Peeling hands

Peeling hands: Always remember that most grappling techniques begin with grip. The hands and feet are the mechanisms of grip in Jiu jitsu - if you can peel those hands off and deny an opponent his grips it will be very hard for him to initiate grappling techniques. Learning to quickly disarm an opponent by peeling off potentially dangerous grips before they can have effects can save you a lot of trouble down the road. Just make sure you don’t focus only upon peeling away grips - you can’t play a negative game where you only focus on stopping the other guy doing his work - you have to them assert your own positive attacking grips and get to work yourself. The cycle of grip breaking and grip assertion is what allows good athletes to shut down an opponents options while asserting their own - a hallmark of good Jiu jitsu


Pace: The three biggest factors that will determine the outcome of a match will always be technique, tactics and physical/mental attributes. Nonetheless there are other factors going on in a match that play a big role in determining the outcome. One of these is PACE. Every match at a given time has a pace - this can vary throughout a match. Every athlete has a preferred pace - some like it slow, some like it fast. It is very much in your interest to open as close to your preferred pace and as far from your opponents preferred pace as possible. Things get interesting when both of you prefer a similar pace. Then you have to decide whether it’s better to stay in your preferred pace (which is also the opponents preferred pace) or take the risk of going out of your comfort zone pace on the understanding that perhaps your opponent will be even more uncomfortable at that pace then you are. If you can play different paces well this can be a big tactical advantage when you come against an opponent who only plays at one pace. In class learn to experiment with pace. Understand that different paces require different physical demands on your part. In your early experiments you will find immediately that you get out of breath more quickly than usual. When you go slower than normal you will often find considerable lactic acid build up and cramps as you clamp down on an opponent with isometric tension to slow him down. Getting used to this different set of physical demands can be tough at first but it can give you considerable tactical advantage to switch pace during a match against an opponent who can’t follow the change.

Don’t be afraid to take a step back sometimes

Don’t be afraid to take a step back sometimes: Jiu jitsu is a game of pressure. As such it’s natural to want to always pressure forward and let the other fellow feel the heat. However this is also a game where sometimes an opponent can get into a sequence of grips that spell danger and you get the feeling that you can’t break all those grips before the first attacks will come. In these cases it can be a good thing to break out of there completely and briefly disengage and then step back into the fray with renewed focus to get a better start. Generally the athlete who starts better in a given engagement will tend to dominate the rest of that engagement as they have the tactical momentum in their favor. If you feel this is the case - disengage to break the momentum and start again on your terms. Don’t be too quick to use this tactic as it can lead to negative play if overused, but acknowledge that there is a time and place for it when you get off to a bad start and it can definitely save you some grief down the line

Stripping away choice

Stripping away choice: The essential nature of Jiu jitsu can be explained very easily. At the onset of a match both athletes can move as they please. As a result they each have many thousands of options as to what they may do. The second they come to grips that number of options drops dramatically as now they have to move in ways that account for the grip and control of their opponent. As one athlete gains increasing dominance in position the number of sensible options for the other athletes diminishes further still. As the positions and grips become still more dominant those available options for the defensive athletes fall down to less than a dozen. By the time a real finishing hold has been achieved the options can be counted on one hand. Your goal is always to reduce the infinite number of available options at the onset of the match to two options that signals the end of the match - submission or the physical consequences of refusal to submit. Starting to see the game as a the battle to reduce an opponents options is a big part of your development. This is the mindset that enables you to see an opponents future actions - not because you have some superpower to see the future, but simply because you know the limited options he will have available ahead of time.

Create a strong initial threat and you will own the next move

Create a strong initial threat and you will own the next move: If you can put your opponent under extreme pressure with a given move it will elicit such a focus on defense that you will have a considerable tactical advantage in any follow up move. An opponent whose entire attention is bound up defending one move will be very vulnerable to any subsequent move. It is up to you however, to develop the sensitivity to know how to keep the pressure on the first attempt but know inside that it’s unlikely to break through the opponents defense and concoct a good follow up. There are two ways you can fail with this. The first is Tunnel vision that keeps you focused only on that first move when it’s becoming clear that it won’t work. The second is not putting enough pressure on the first move so the opponent is not sufficiently distracted and can thus defend the second move as soon as you attempt it. Learning to balance these two demands is a big part of your development towards a strong offense

Hands and head

Hands and head: When you first make contact with an opponent whether it be standing or from seated guard situations, the first points of contact with your opponent will typically be at the hands and forehead. Learning to place them so as to create defensive barriers and then manipulate them to create offensive opportunities is a big part of your opening gambits in Jiu jitsu. Understand always that your head and hands have both defensive and offensive value - but that in most cases it’s tactically smart to take care of your defensive responsibilities before your offensive ones. Your head and hands are both a barrier and a key to your opponents door that can give you access to everything else. Use them wisely from the start of each engagement and you will stop an opponent in his tracks whilst setting up your own attacks