Survive, Then Win

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Photo By: Mark Mullen

I was studying the excellent “Jiu-jitsu University” book by Saulo Ribeiro over morning coffee, and the first thing Saulo discusses in the book is the ability to survive. Certainly as a white belt, much of your training time in the first six months will be defending against more experienced training partners.

Saulo discusses the strategy of first preventing attacks by sound arm and body positioning and then looking to escape.

The philosophy of Grandmaster Helio Gracie was to first survive and not to lose. Then, when your opponent starts to fatigue, the smaller, weaker fighter in the match will find their chance to attack.

This is a different philosophy than the “go for broke” attacking way of training that we see from some of the top submission-only guys in the competitive scene.

What you don’t see as easily in their submission highlight reel is the superb defense that allows them to attack with confidence and survive a bad position.

Truth is, that when you throw many attacks at your opponent, you are also creating openings for them to counter. This is why passivity and stalling penalties are needed in many combat sports: when a fighter decides to be defensive first, the opponent’s chances for submission are reduced.

So, what does this mean for the average BJJ guy?

It means that when you are rolling (especially against a bigger, heavier, stronger opponent) your best strategy is not to get into a wild exchange of techniques and risk exhausting yourself.

You should primarily exercise sound, tight defense and look to improve your position.

Ironically perhaps, spending a lot of time developing your defensive skills will also improve your offence in the long run.

How is that?

Being confident in your ability to escape bad positions will free up your jiu-jitsu. Not fearing being stuck in a bad position will give you confidence to try more new techniques and further develop your jiu-jitsu.

I urge you to check out the excellent book “Jiu-jitsu University” by Saulo Ribeiro. Sure, there are plenty of excellent techniques, but the true value of the book is in Saulo sharing his philosophy and strategy about different aspects of jiu-jitsu.

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