BJJ Tips for Beginners: Why Less is More

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Used to go toe to toe with your friends in class, but now you're getting tapped more than a mobster's home phone? Why is it that some people can progress at a blistering pace, while others simply tread water?

To be honest, I don’t believe there’s a solitary reason for this. There could be, and most likely are, many factors for this gap in progress. Factors like:

  • Athletic ability
  • Level of work applied both inside and outside the gym
  • External factors like family life and occupational commitment
  • Other interests
  • Vices
  • Maybe you like being dominated from time to time (Hey, I’m not one to judge)


Yep, there could be infinite factors coming into play here, and I don’t have the balls to claim I know them all or their remedies. I do, however, believe I have learned one valuable strategy that could really help you at white or blue belt.

I'm not claiming it's the only way to progress in your training, it's just ‘A’ way. Although, I do feel it will be an effective strategy for those choosing to adopt it.


“The more you know, the less you do.” - Jean Jacques Machado


Part 1: Do Less 

I have noticed when people take longer than others to progress it’s generally because they’re a little too enthusiastic about learning absolutely anything and everything. Now, I’m not one of those guys to badmouth online training videos or good Ol’ Professor Youtube, as I think they are a great resource in this modern age of information. What I do think is that many beginners tend to focus on collecting random techniques, instead of creating a solid structure of easily linked high percentage moves.

Building a structure isn’t just about shrimping down the mat. It’s the solid base clarifying and linking the points where your roll begins and ends.

To break it down, your structure should consist of:

The technique or techniques you’ve had the most success with so far - These techniques need to link to each other in some way or another so that they compliment each other’s application.

A clear vision of your desired result – Getting a tap is not good enough, you need to know the exact submission you’re hunting. If an opportunity to hit a random sub pops up along the way to your objective, well that’s a bonus. Just don’t be a random fighter who hopes to roll until a sub lands in their lap. This is a sure fire way to see the tap v. tapped ratio swing heavily out of your favour; especially against higher belts.

A contingency plan – When things go pear shaped (and they often do) you need to have an idea of where to go next so you can continue on the path to your end goal. Often people give up in certain positions because they don’t have a clear objective in mind to get back on track.

Ok that’s the basic idea, to see how it all works, let’s go through and build an example structure together.


Part 2: How to Design Your Structure 



To make things simple, let’s assume you've had some success with the guillotine in class.

Now, let’s say you’ve hit the guillotine four times in your life: once from the full guard and three times from the half guard. Seeing as the half guard looks to be a good position for your guillotine, we can now designate it as your priority destination.

Your main goal should be to head towards this position at all times. To support this goal, you'll need to create paths from different scenarios.

The first path you need to develop is the path from the beginning. Try to tie it in with your preferred method of commencing i.e. pulling guard or going for the take down.

Next, you'll need to observe the most common position you find yourself in and create a path from there to your goal. IMPORTANT! Notice how the new position to the chart can link to either of the other positions on the path to victory.

Last, but by no means least, you'll need to develop a path to your goal when stuck in a losing position. Random and chaotic movements in bad positions are what your opponent hopes for and will leave you wide open for attack. Knowing what to do, and where to go, from these positions will play a key role in your survival against more experienced players.

Part 3: Where to From Here? 

After you’ve found some success with your game’s new structural base, and feel comfortable with it, you can start branching out and experimenting.

Having objectives to achieve in your game will reduce some of the more complex calculations your brain has to make when otherwise rolling goalless, random and chaotic. This will allow you to notice what your opponents are reacting with, develop further understanding of the intricate details and improve in the following areas:

Mastering the Submission

The more you aim to reach your goal position, the more time you’ll have to play in that position. This time then enables you to practice and learn more about finishing the submission in live rolling.

You'll be able to experience the various methods your opponents use for defence. You will then be able to create traps and/or develop counters to these attempts.

Countering Your Opponents Counters When Entering the Goal Position

Taking a step back, more experienced opponents will find it wiser to defend the entry to your best position rather than fight their way out of the submission.

This will again allow you to recognise what they are doing to defend and develop counters to these attempts.

Finding New Paths to Your Goal Position

This improvement serves as a contingency plan – the plan B when the shit hits the fan. Creating new paths to your goal, from every position you can think of, is the final step to your structural base and links all the components of your game.

Move On

Now you’re confident you can get to your goal position and submit everyone, now what?


Have Fun!


Grappling would be really boring and pretty pointless if it could be mastered so easily. So it’s always best, once you’ve got your base game sorted, to try new things that you can link back to your original game. Who knows, in a year’s time you might forget all about the guillotine because you’ve started new relationship with the Darce.

This is the time to expand and add more to your game. If ever things don’t to go to plan, you can always fall back on your original structure.


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