Nicolas Gregoriades on Principle or Concept Based Approach To Jiu-jitsu
“There are an infinite number of technical situations in jiu-jitsu, and new ones are being developed all the time. You will never be able to learn every single attack, defense, counter and combination.”
There are innumerable Bjj technique videos on YouTube and we all love to learn a new move or variation to add to our game.
Many advanced instructors of jiu-jitsu say that the “secret” to mastering jiu-jitsu is NOT in how many moves you know, but in HOW you are applying the moves.
The are underlying principles or concepts behind HOW the individual techniques are applied against an opponent.
What does this mean? And how do you apply it to your jiu-jitsu?
Roger Gracie black Nicolas Gregoriades talks about “Technique Based” approach VS. a “Principle or Concept Based” approach to jiu-jitsu.
Q: Can you explain what is the difference between a “Technique Based” approach VS. a “Principle or Concept Based” approach to jiu-jitsu?
Why do you feel a Principle or Concept based approach is more useful in jiu-jitsu?
Nicolas Gregoriades : I explain this in detail in The Black Belt Blueprint – here’s an excerpt:
“Technical Knowledge is a framework of response patterns to specific situations, usually following the simple formula of If ‘x’, then ‘y’.
An example, “If I am in guard and my opponent puts his hand on my chest, then I trap his arm, step on his hip…” etc.
Most BJJ academies focus heavily on this aspect of training. The beauty of a technique is that it usually represents the most efficient way of accomplishing an objective. I say usually, because even great techniques are often replaced by more effective variations.
Long-time black belt and instructor Roy Harris speaks of “Technique Collectors”.
These are the guys who watch every single YouTube video of the most advanced, inverted x-guard sweeps and owns every single jiu-jitsu instructional DVD on the planet, but ask them to mount and choke anyone in sparring and they’re completely lost.
Technical knowledge can be broadly categorized into depth and breadth. Technique collectors usually have great breadth of knowledge, or the ‘know a little about a lot’.
Good fighters usually have great depth of knowledge, i.e. they specialize in only a few positions or techniques, but they know these really well.
The great jiu-jitsu practitioners have both breadth and depth of technical knowledge.
‘Conceptual Understanding’ refers to the awareness of the principles and theories that form the foundation of the art. These include things like leverage, biomechanics and breath control.
There are an infinite number of technical situations in jiu-jitsu, and new ones are being developed all the time. You will never be able to learn every single attack, defense, counter and combination.
There will always be holes in your game. Conceptual understanding fills in the gaps in your technical knowledge.
It allows you to create your own movements and adapt quickly when you do not have a technical response to a particular circumstance.
For example, let’s say during a sparring session that your opponent has a great guard and you feel him set up a sweep which you are not familiar with.
Although you might not know the ideal technical defense to his attack, if your understanding of the concept of “base” is good it will still be difficult for him to complete his move.”
Q: Why do you feel a Principle or Concept based approach is more useful in jiu-jitsu?
Nicolas Gregoriades : I would just like to make it clear that I feel the ‘technical’ approach and ‘conceptual’ approach are both necessary and useful in jiu-jitsu.
I prefer the conceptual approach most of the time because that’s the way my mind works.
For some students memorising techniques is a better method. Don’t commit to either – find out what works best for you.
Q: How would you recommend students of jiu-jitsu look at in learning and applying their jiu-jitsu in terms of concepts INSTEAD of accumulating more and more techniques?
Nicolas Gregoriades : Try to ‘Clean the Slate’ – imagine that you are rolling for the first time. Don’t revert to pre-conditioned technical responses to situations – instead try to be spontaneous and solve the ‘problem’ you are presented with using creativity and instinct.
Trust in your own intelligence and ability – you might be surprised by the cool stuff you come up with!
Q: Can you give a specific example in say: passing the guard or controlling the back or applying pressure from the top position?
Nicolas Gregoriades : Sure. An example of a technique used in back control is the seat-belt/backpack position.
In it, depending on who your instructor is, you might be taught something like to do the following:
1. connect your hands in X position with Y grip
2.Put your legs and feet in Z place on your opponent
3. Move your head up against his head
An example of a concept for back control is:
For optimal control from this position, you need to control three points, your opponent’s pelvic girdle shoulder girdle and his head.
I don’t care how you do it, but if you can lock down those three points on your opponent from back control, you will dominate him.
The saddle is a technical example that demonstrates this concept, but there are others.
Some are yet undiscovered.
Play around and see what you find!
Q: Can you share one or 2 of your favorite principles of jiu-jitsu?
Nicolas Gregoriades : Sure thing.
I really like the ’90-Degree Rule’ and the ‘Removing Slack Concept’.
Q: How do you apply it in rolling?
Nicolas Gregoriades : Same answer as above – try to ‘Clean the Slate’.
Q: How does a student develop a deeper understanding of how the concepts are employed.
They can drill an arm bar for sets and reps. How does one train a concept to inculcate it into muscle memory?
Nicolas Gregoriades : There is no real short-cut to this. The answer is sparring.
Once you are aware of a concept you reinforce for understanding of it by identifying examples of it in real-time during sparring.
Passing the Guard – A Conceptual Approach