Henry Akins on Advanced Details in the Basics

This week we feature 3rd degree Rickson Gracie Black Belt Henry Akins who was the head instructor of Rickson’s USA academy for several years.
Now, Henry operatesd Dynamix Martial Arts, conducts seminars all over the globe and is perhaps best known for his concepts of advanced basics and invisible or “Hidden Jiu Jitsu”.

This week Jiu-jitsu Times talks to Henry about his view on “Advanced Basics”.

Jiu-jitsu Times : Let’s define what we are talking about – what is meant by “Advanced Basics”?

Henry Akins: I’m not sure I really like the term “Advanced Basics” it’s an oxymoron and just seems a little confusing to people, plus they are not really advanced as in more complex.
I think what you’re really talking about is why do these basic techniques work so flawlessly for some but not for others?
I think the reason is that they are done with small refinements in angle, pressure or body mechanics which makes the movements much more efficient (requiring less strength) and effective (works even though sometimes the person is trying to actively defend).

Some may think its “advanced” because they have just been exposed to the concepts or refinements after many many years of practice.

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Jiu-jitsu Times : Can you give an example in your own jiu-jitsu of how you use a “basic” position (where your opponent has knowledge of the counters) and yet make it unstoppable?
( ex. You know what Rickson is going to do, but you can not stop it!)

Henry Akins: I’ve been showing people the way I do the scissor sweep lately which I feel is the most effective way to do it which has really blown a lot of people’s minds.
Usually people require a collar grip and try to load the person by pulling them forward and on top so they become light on their knees then try to sweep.

The way I teach it, it doesn’t require a collar grip, the person can be sitting all the way back on their butt and knees spread wide apart, based out, and it still works effortlessly.

I taught this at one of my seminars in Australia and did it to a guy 6ft 8in and over 260lbs and swept him effortlessly with him sitting all the way back postured up.
Needless to say people’s jaws hit the ground because with their expression of the technique that would never be possible.

Jiu-jitsu Times : Some jiu-jitsu competitors succeed by building a game around a certain guard or position and are razor sharp at executing their A Game.
They have mapped out all of the tree of possibilities from their strong positions and draw their opponent’s into unfamiliar territory.
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Other jiu-jitsu players (notably Roger Grace, Kron Gracie, Rickson Gracie) are known to employ what are considered a very basic game.
But it is successful at the highest levels of competition.

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How do you see the difference in the exprssion / application of jiu-jitsu here?

Henry Akins: At the high level each practitioner will have their own specific game and ways they deal with every situation.
Each practitioner will have techniques they prefer and execute exceptionally well.

But I think when you talk about people that build and focus their jiu-jitsu on a very specific aspect or position what happens is because they focus so much time in one area the other aspects of their game start to fall behind and suffer.

I think when you speak about Roger, Kron and Rickson, they have a very well rounded game, they are strong from on top and on the bottom and they have amazing offense and defense so no matter where the fight might go they are still relatively comfortable.
I wrote a piece recently on my site HiddenJiuJitsu.com about positional training and how that method of training helps you to develop a very well rounded game where you can be comfortable everywhere and develop a strong offense and defense.

Jiu-jitsu Times : More and more black belts report returning to the basics in their own jiu-jitsu after becoming black belt.
Do you feel Advanced Basics is a superior way to train jiu-jitsu (compared to the advanced, flavor of the week that is winning tournaments)?

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Henry Akins: I wouldn’t say Advanced Basics is a superior way to train.
In my experience though the basics done really well can be extremely powerful and devastating. I think it comes down to personal preference.

I think everybody has a different definition of what a basic and advanced technique is. For some its what techniques they were taught at white belt, which could be berimbolo.

The way I make the distinction between a basic technique and an advanced technique is: a basic technique is something that requires just a few movements or steps to complete while an advanced technique requires more movements or steps (more complexity = more advanced) or more agility or athleticism.

This is why I focus primarily on basic techniques

As we all get older our athleticism diminishes.
Our strength and endurance begin to slowly fade and sometimes injuries build up and we become less mobile.
Basic techniques don’t require the athleticism the advanced techniques require. It works if you’re young or old, flexible or not.

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The basic techniques usually require less steps and that means less opportunity to counter the technique.
The more steps necessary to do a technique the easier it is to defend or counter.

At the black belt level people are reacting quicker. They are not letting someone do 3 to 4 steps before they recognize whats happening and start to react or defend so the less steps, the higher percentage chance of pulling the technique off.

Jiu-jitsu Times : What advice do you have for advanced students of jiu-jitsu who want to delve deeper into the basic techniques?
How do they approach training differently?
How does one apply Basics in an advanced way?

Henry Akins: Start teaching the basics to others. Teaching is such an incredible avenue for personal growth and understanding.
By teaching it forces you to have a very deep level of understanding of the technique and how to apply it so it works for all body types against all body types.

Also it forces you to think and troubleshoot so you really understand how and why everything works.

Video: Henry Akins – Back take from “Gift wrap”

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