Trial Lessons

Self-Defense and Self-Preservation – Part II

Mon Jul
08:47
by Ronin Athletics Team

As we discussed in the first post in this two-part blog, self-defense is not just about defending yourself during a home invasion, a street altercation, or in a tournament setting. Self-defense is also about self-preservation with respect to your ability to stay healthy and continue doing jiu-jitsu late into life. That means avoiding serious injuries and being sure to protect your joints and ligaments from getting overly stressed to the point that you begin to lose mobility.

In this part, we want to focus on self-defense and self-preservation from the perspective of efficiency while practicing jiu-jitsu. Rener Gracie, Ryron Gracie, and Master Pedro Sauer observe that efficiency is the guiding light of jiu-jitsu and that learning how to conserve your energy while you’re rolling in class will make you a more effective martial artist and help to keep you on the mat into your seventies or eighties.

Maintaining Control

Ryron says he tends to think of self-defense and self-preservation without an agenda of tapping his partner. Instead, his goal is to preserve his energy and simply maintain control. He wants to be as efficient as possible. “Let me smother them with my body weight,” he says. What this does is it puts pressure on them to want to escape. They may escape, true, but they may oftentimes expose a weak spot in their defense that opens up the opportunity for a guillotine or a leg lock with minimal effort. Even experienced fighters like purple belts and brown belts will make mistakes if you keep the pressure on them.

The same is true when his partner has him in mount or side control. He’s avoiding getting tapped, but he’s not trying to escape because that means he has to expend energy. Instead, he plays his defense very tight and doesn’t let his partner gain an inch. As they become more frustrated, they may begin to try new moves that leave them open to counters that can be exploited. Again, the goal is to be as efficient as possible, and to seize the opportunity when it presents itself. When used effectively, this strategy allows you to use the least amount of energy.

“It’s not my job to advance. It’s the other person’s job to try something and leave me opportunity. That’s the definition of jiu-jitsu,” Ryron says.

Of course, this strategy isn’t 100% foolproof. If your opponent has the same level of patience and wants to use the same technique, you will eventually have to attack and try to catch them off guard. However, in most cases, even in street fights, Ryron would prefer to simply establish control and let the other person exhaust their energy, and then walk away without even the need to throw a punch or even put the other person in a lock or a hold.

Reducing Tension

Even demonstrating a lot of patience can still be exhausting if your technique is not correct. As an example, clutching onto your opponent’s gi or shirt will cause the muscles in your arm to contract. While it may not seem like much, if you’re rolling for a few hours, that tension can eventually begin to sap your strength since you’re using muscle strength throughout your arm. You can create a similar connection to your opponent by simply putting your arm across your partner’s shoulder, as Master Pedro demonstrates around minute 17 in the above video. When you mimic what he does, you don’t stress as many muscles in your arm. While you do rely on your triceps, most of the force comes from the structural strength of your body and how you apply it against your partner.

Again, this may seem like a minor point, especially for someone who is young and strong, but, as Master Pedro points out, muscle fatigue tends to lead to brain fatigue, and brain fatigue can lead to mistakes that may cost you the fight. Efficiency of movement will save your strength and keep your mind focused on self-defense.

Keeping the Self-Defense Mindset

As Ryron explains, the self-defense mindset is not about dominating your opponent with strength or agility. That is more “self-offense.” Self-defense is about establishing control with technique and letting your opponent make mistakes that you can then take advantage of with limited effort and without wasting energy.

Avoiding this kind of waste is not just important when you’re rolling or when you’re in a tournament setting. It’s also important in the long run because it adds up to wear and tear on your body. When you focus solely on self-defense, it means not only maintaining control and neutralizing your opponent’s attacks; it also means using skill and technique in a way that protects your joints and ultimately prolongs your jiu-jitsu career.

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