Yesterday I was asked what the most important concept I have learned thus far in Jiu Jitsu. This was in response to my post on teaching concept vs. teaching technique. After thinking about it for a while, I remembered a phrase I taught one of my students who was having problems with escaping bad positions.

I used to have quite a bit of trouble against heavier opponents and I still do, but not nearly to the extent that I used to. I noticed my escapes got a lot better despite the misfortune of being held down by bigger, stronger people. I realized at times that space was really hard to create when somebody bore the entirety of their weight and pressure without moving and only in brief intervals would I have any room to breathe. These brief intervals always happened when my training parter would go for an attack or transition. It then dawned on me that the space I needed to escape was always given to me when my opponent moved. It was then that I began manipulating my opponent using subtle movements in order to get them to commit to a bigger one. Once my training partner moved to re-adjust, that was when I would make my escape. Space is always a by-product of movement. You cannot move without creating space. It is physically impossible. Knowing this, it is impossible to not create space as you mount an attack, transition or defense. In these movements lies all the space you will need.

This little concept has become a huge component to how I time certain movements and I could write for years about all the ways this has helped me but I’ll keep this concept to the scope of escapes because that has been where it has helped me most. Whenever you are trying to time a movement, you must inspire movement in order to get the space you need to engage. For example, if somebody is on top in side control, I can bait my arm or even nudge my opponent a little off balance in order to inspire an attack against that arm or have my training partner readjust to the new weight distribution. I can make my body twitch subtly in order to make my opponent think I’m going to shrimp and then when he or she responds, I will try to turtle up. Once my training partner is planning his move, it’s time to move first and get to that position before it’s too late.

Space is only given as a the result of your opponent’s movement so it is imperative you take advantage of these tiny openings and learn to make them happy. This concept is applicable in all positions but it has helped me most for escaping bad ones.


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