BJJ (Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) competitors’ stand-up skills remain the single biggest and most common weakness observable within the tournament realm. This article seeks to provide some essential fundamentals and a basic strategy for BJJ players embarking on the competition arena. When viewing this article, please consider this is written with the context that BJJ players typically do one of two things within the stand-up zone of competition:
1) Pull Guard, often the moment they perceive any danger.
2) Rush a double leg, where they either achieve the take down or fail and pull guard.
Free Range Movement
Prior to grips being established, the number one priority is to remain in a low, wrestling based stance. The square stance, often favoured for its defensive qualities remains akin to a boxer standing square in that both sides remain open to attack. Given that many Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners lack significant stand-up skills, it is recommended that you minimise the chance of a lucky double leg shot by advancing one leg (the lead leg) into a staggered stance and limiting the sides of attack by 50%. It is highly unlikely that you will concede a takedown on the blind side. The lead arm should be placed low, protecting the lead leg and the lead arm can quickly be converted to a cross face should your opponent attempt to force a double or single leg attack.
Ideally, you should continue to move laterally as you attempt to establish your lead grip. This will further decrease the likelihood and effectiveness of any takedowns – its harder to hit a moving target.
Establishing Your Grip (regardless of Left vs Left, Right vs Right, Left vs Right)
You are now established in the free range, moving laterally in a strong wrestling base. Regardless of the relative position (i.e. left, right, etc, stance relative to your opponent), the next key step is to control your opponents lead arm, and this is preferably achieved by gripping his lead arm with your own rear arm.
Why the rear arm?
Quite simply, you risk them shooting the double underneath your lead arm or your lead arm being controlled by his lead arm. WHEN ESTABLISHING YOUR GRIP, EVERYTHING IS ABOUT LEAD ARM CONTROL. Therefore reaching with the rear arm is lower risk, (akin in boxing to leading with the jab). Those who have experience in alive striking arts will be able to make some sense of gripping skills by reversing the notions of lead and rear arm theories (the leading arm or jabbing arm in boxing is akin to the reverse arm in Judo and vice-versa).
Once the opponent’s lead arm is controlled with your rear arm, it will be extremely difficult for your opponent to initiate any significant attacks. Your next move depends upon whether you wish to:
1) CONTINUE FIGHTING IN THE STAND-UP POSITION
2) PULL GUARD
1) FIGHTING IN THE STAND-UP POSITION
Further control can then be achieved by either establishing a second grip on his lead arm with your lead arm, or by gripping the front shoulder in front of your lead arm (your left arm would grip his right shoulder or vice versa).
The former will now allow you to circle to the outside of the controlled arm, from which back-takes, double and single legs, tani-otoshi’s, amongst other techniques are all possible. The latter will give you sufficient control over your opponent on which to launch successful takedown attempts whilst minimising the opportunities of your opponent to the negligible or throws should you have experience within Judo.
2) PULL GUARD
Any spectator at a BJJ competition will quickly witness practitioners pulling guard with little or zero control other their opponents. Once we have established lead arm control over your opponent using your own rear arm, the lead arm should then grip the elbow. With regular Judo practice, a grip on the elbow should involve the gripping hand flexing and then twisting; like turning a screw. With either a two-one-one grip or “arm drag grip” established, you are now in a position to safely pull guard. Dependent upon stance, you should now be threatening either an arm drag or arm bar, with a host of potential options dependent upon your opponents reactions.
BJJ Purple Belt
© Glyn Powditch 2007