Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals: Structure Dictates Success
Ryan Hall has become very well-known within the jiu-jitsu community and among fans of mixed martial arts because he managed to become an elite fighter very quickly. Within just five years, he went from being someone with no jiu jitsu experience to competing in some of the biggest tournaments in the world. His grappling skills are so amazing that they have earned him the nickname “The Wizard.”
Despite this level of success, Ryan remains modest and is quick to note that he was luckier than most people who start training jiu-jitsu because he was able to dedicate himself full-time to martial arts. He also notes that while he was competing at a world-class level during his meteoric rise, he still wasn’t able to beat the best of the best.
Game Recognize Game
While Ryan initially found that he could consistently submit fighters who were good at jiu-jitsu by relying on certain moves and tricks, he eventually realized that his chance of victory when he went up against the world’s best fighters was actually low. Though they had worked on less experienced fighters, seasoned black belts were didn’t fall into the same traps. As he acknowledges, “I think I was a demonstration that you can go pretty far by being tough and tricky, but I hit a brick wall.”
This was a wakeup call for Ryan, and he realized that the only way that he was going to advance as a jiu-jitsu fighter was by going back and focusing on the fundamentals of jiu-jitsu. In the below video, Ryan shows Bernardo Faria of BJJ Fanatics some of the basic positioning principles that he relies on when he’s on the mat to take advantage of the structural integrity of the body to stay powerful.
As he says at the start of the video, these are not specific moves, exactly. Rather, they are guiding lights that are they based on jiu-jitsu fundamentals. He says, “They can send me in the right direction most of the time and help me make better decisions more often.”
Maintaining Good Structure
As Ryan illustrates in the video, you can generate a lot of passive strength by relying on your posture, structure, and base instead of your muscles. In other words, by conscientiously positioning your neck and spine, and then using your limbs for structural support, you can support the weight of yourself and your opponent even when they are heavier than you without exerting a lot of energy. In addition to being an extension of the efficiency principle, which is at the core of jiu-jitsu philosophy, this is a combination of the alignment and centerline principles.
The Alignment Principle
As a refresher, the alignment principle states that you want to keep the position of your body symmetrical and level because this is when it’s at its strongest. Think of your body like a building. When everything is squared and level, the building is at its most stable. It can support the most weight because the load is evenly distributed.
Even when you are moving around your opponent and repositioning to get an advantage, you need to try to remain squared and keep your edge up to easily absorb any pushback. As Ryan observes, if you stop and think about the shape of your body, you can intuitively sense when you are giving up structural strength and when you are maintaining it. If you can maintain that edge, you can then build upon it and mount further attacks, as Ryan demonstrates at around 5-minute mark of the video.
The Centerline Principle
The centerline principle is about the strength that comes from having control over the vertical line that equally divides your body into left and right sides. Maintaining control over that centerline allows you to be less vulnerable to attacks that are designed to disrupt your balance. Meanwhile, if you can disrupt your opponent’s centerline by breaking their symmetry, they will be far easier to subdue.
At the heart of Ryan’s message is that fundamentals are crucial to growth and that a solid understanding of the elements of movement should form the backbone (no pun intended) of your jiu-jitsu. True, if you’re fighting against someone who is inexperienced, perfect technique or well-designed strategies may not be necessary to win. As Ryan says repeatedly, being good and very clever can get you pretty far. However, if you aspire to greatness and hope to compete against other great jiu-jitsu fighters, there is no substitute for perfecting your fundamentals.