Is It Time to Simplify Your Jiu Jitsu?

By Joshua Rozenboom

Do you remember that one time when you asked your professor about a move and he showed you the most ridiculously simple solution? And do you remember feeling a combination of mystified awe and a little dumbfounded as to why you didn’t think of that? Yeah. It happens all the time. The seemingly supernatural powers that come with a black belt in Jiu Jitsu are really a distillation of the endless permutations of technique practiced repeatedly for many years, and honed to their most essential elements. So, do you need ten years of grappling to understand simplicity?

Learning Jiu Jitsu is incredibly difficult and remarkably fluid. It’s daunting to believe that you have to learn spider guard, and you have to learn butterfly guard, and you have to learn De La Riva right now in order to be “good” at Jiu Jitsu, though you encounter all of these concepts in a day. But if you have to worry about so many different approaches to Jiu Jitsu, how do you make sense of it all? Let’s look at some ideas about how to simplify your game.

Have a Purpose

Sometimes we just go through our training with our head down, trudging forward without considering where we are or where we’re going. Conversely, we might start focusing on several different positions at one time without clearly identifying “why” or without emphasizing one. Simplifying our Jiu Jitsu doesn’t mean eliminating positions, or ignoring what we’re being taught, but instead choosing a position or concept that clicks and working that until you feel secure. For example, if you struggle with De La Riva but often find yourself there, then simplify by working on the hooks and grips, then the sweeps/attacks, then the techniques that branch from there. Build the position brick by brick instead of throwing everything into a pot and hoping to be a De La Riva master.

Think Conceptually

This is a tricky subject, because people have different styles of learning. You may be one who needs macro-level analytical practice. However, learning how to choose positions is both a matter of your body style and understanding why a position works at a given time. On the surface, that sounds like a very broad subject, but you can take positional concepts and string them together linearly to create a simpler understanding of several ideas. For example, you’re often told to put yourself in bad positions to get better. Why? Just to learn escapes? How about getting yourself stuck so you can get yourself back to a place you know, and then chaining that into the position that is your current focus.

Drillers Are Killers!

To make it really simple, practice one move a thousand times instead of a thousand moves one time. Pay attention to the details in that one move, how you can add pressure or make it more fluid. This will bleed over into how you perform other techniques. Analyzing the parts that make a technique perfect will condition you to apply those concepts to the next move, and the next. Before you know it, things you’ve been doing since day one will suddenly seem new and exciting again. Your game will improve not because you learn new tricks, but because you approach your training with purpose and start to perfect what you already have. You’ll then find that adding or recognizing the next link in the chain will come more naturally.

What are your tips for simplifying the seemingly complex art of Jiu Jitsu? Let us know in the comments!