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5/11/12 12:19 PM
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Roy Harris
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Member Since: 1/1/01
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Understanding The Variations Within Jiu Jitsu
After a student has had a few of years experience in Jiu Jitsu, I believe it is important for them to learn that not all techniques / training methods are the same. For example, some techniques are more difficult - physically - to perform than others. And some techniques - while physically easier - are more complicated than others in that they have more moving components. 
Also, not all techniques are designed to be used by everyone. For example, the mount escape training methods that I teach to law enforcement personnel have no use within the confines of the sport of Jiu Jitsu. These two methods are at opposite ends of the spectrum - even though the goal is the same for each instance of use!
Additionally, it is important to understand that some techniques are better suited for longer / thinner body types and other techniques are better suited for shorter / thicker body types.
Now, does a beginning level student need to be taught all of these variations? No. They simply need to be made aware of them somewhere along the journey. 
Why should they be made aware of them, but not necessarily train all of them? Simple: They may have no use for certain variations. And, while it may be cool to learn all of these variations, the bottom line is this: A student only has so much time to train. If a student is going to commit 10 hours to training, their training should be focused on those techniques / training methods that best help them accomplish their goals.
Here are five (5) examples of what I mean:

Several years ago, I was teaching a group of law enforcement personnel. There were people there from the DEA, NTF, FBI and local law enforcement personnel. 
One of the guys in attendance was the head defensive tactics instructor from a local police academy. Long story short, this gentleman "challenged me" during one of the breaks. Here's how it went down:
1. As we were coming back from a break, this defensive tactics instructor "loudly" proclaims, "MR. HARRIS, ISN'T IT TRUE THAT YOU'RE A BLACK BELT IN BRAZILIAN JIU JITSU?" I replied, "Yes." He continued, "ISN'T IS TRUE YOU HAVE A TON OF EXPERIENCE ESCAPING FROM VULNERABLE POSITIONS?" Again, I replied "Yes." 
2. This defensive tactics instructor then asks me to lie on my back while he mounts on top of me. I allowed him to mount on top of me while he hooks both of his feet at the bend of my knees, presses his belly into mine, put his head down close to the mat and then spreads his arms very wide for base. 
3. He then asked me, "So, how would you escape from this position?" 
4. I asked him if he was ready. He said, "Yes", and so I performed my signature law enforcement mount escape - to his surprise. 
5. After the laughter in the room had died down, I told him - and everyone else who was there - "Since I only have an hour or so to teach you how to escape from the mount position, I won't bother teaching you anything sportive in nature. Instead, I will show you what works most of the time and in most circumstances on the street - and in most cultures. And, while there are a few circumstances in which this technique won't work, there are a handful of variations to it for those "other" circumstances." At the end of this hour, I had everyone's attention. Most were glad they took the course!
Now, here's a little background about this incident:
- The lead defensive tactics instructor who started this whole thing was experienced in Jiu Jitsu.
- While I had never met this instructor before, I had heard his name in DT circles.
- This defensive tactics instructor was familiar with the sportive aspects of Jiu Jitsu, but he had never been taught, nor had he thought outside the box of the sport of Jiu Jitsu. And while the sport does have a lot to offer people, it lacks in many areas.
5/11/12 12:20 PM
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Roy Harris
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Several years ago, I taught a seminar in the mid-west. After the seminar, I rolled (i.e. grappled) with a bunch of students. One of those students was a former high school and collegiate wrestler who stood 5'8" tall and weighed in at 380 lbs. You read that right; three hundred and eighty pounds.
After sparring with several students for several rounds, he saw me triangle choke everyone, with my legs, from my guard. Then, after sparring him for several rounds, he asked me to teach him my game. He asked me to teach him how triangle choke everyone from his guard. I told him, "Bro, with legs like yours, you're going to have a difficult time applying the triangle choke to a lot of people. How about I show you a game that will work for you; one where you never go onto your back; one where you smash through people's guard and tap them out with an arm lock designed for your frame and personality?" He smiled and said, "Sure."
Two lessons later, I had taught him how to use his size and weight to put people on their back, keep people there, smash through their guard and then pass to the side mount. Next, we went over how to control from the side mount and not be put back into the guard, as well as how to make one's self heavy and how to force the opponent to give you his arm - even though he doesn't want to. Long story short, he was a happy camper after our lesson.
A month later, I got an email from his coach. His message went something like this, "Tim is now putting all of us on our backs and crushing us thanks to you!" All I could do was SMILE.
When I first started training in Jiu Jitsu, I dated a girl who was also training in Jiu Jitsu. Her instructors were my instructors.
About a year into our training, she invited me over to her place for lunch one afternoon. After talking and jesting with her about a few things, I surprised her and tackled her to the ground, mounted on top of her and then held her wrists down on the carpet. I jested, "So what are you gonna do now, huh?" Believing she would try the bridge and roll escape or the basic elbow/knee escape, I braced myself for both techniques. She performed neither. Instead, she performed what I now call "The foot lift" escape. I was shocked. I was stunned.
I asked her to show me what she did and she obliged. I had never seen that technique before - and I had been training at this facility for much longer than she had.
I was even more stunned when I found out the head instructor at this facility taught the foot lift escape as "The First Technique" he taught to women - mainly because men try to hold down a woman's arms in an effort to control them. I was equally stunned to find out he didn't (at least at that time) teach this technique to men. The reason: Most men had enough arm and upper body strength to perform many of the other techniques in Jiu Jitsu. So, since this technique was more geared for women self-defense, he taught it to women exclusively.
Several years ago, while I was teaching a group class, a gentleman joined our group and started training with us. He body size was normal in every aspect, except that he had very short arms - almost half the length of someone his size.
Well, since we were focusing our training on the Kimura technique from the side mount, he was unable to perform the technique like everyone else. So, right there, on the spot, I had to come up with a method that worked for him. I did, and it worked fantastically! Of course, the other students wanted to try it this new way, but I said, "No." Go back to doing what I showed you before. They wanted to know why. I replied, "Because this new way is for him, not for you. Besides, you don't really want to learn it. You're just curious to see if you can do it this other way. So go back to doing it the way I originally showed you and stop wasting precious training time."
Several years ago, while teaching a Jiu Jitsu class at a local University, we were focusing our efforts on finishing the straight arm lock from the mount. There was a girl in the class who did not have the muscular strength in her back to raise her hips up and off of the ground to finish the technique (she could only lift her hips one inch off of the ground). So, I had to come up with a way for her to be able to finish the same straight arm lock as everyone else.

Now, I share these examples with you to help you to understand that there are many ways in Jiu Jitsu to accomplish the same goals / tasks. So, just because I say the arm lock should be done this way doesn't mean that this is the only way it can be done. Just because Rickson Gracie (or Marcelo Garcia, or Masahiko Kimura or Royce Gracie or anyone else) says the arm lock should be done that way doesn't mean that his way is the only way - or even the best way - to do the arm lock. What matters is does a particular method work for you (or for your students if you are an instructor)?
Does this make sense?

5/11/12 12:20 PM
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Roy Harris
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So, what does this all mean? Well, here are two important questions to ask yourself (if you are a student):
1. Is what I am doing effective (i.e. does it work most of the time [51% or more])?
2. Is what I am doing efficient?
Here are two important questions to ask yourself (if you are an instructor):
1. Is what I am teaching effective for most of my students (51% or more)?
2. Is what I am teaching efficient for most of my students (51% or more)?
Now, there's a lot more I could share on this topic (because I have only scratched the surface), but I will stop here and move on.
Please allow me share a truth with you that is important for you to understand:
It doesn't matter that Carlos or Helio or Rickson Gracie taught the technique, or even if the technique is 100 years old. Tradition is not what matters most (at least not when it comes to performance). What matters most is:
Can you, the individual Jiu Jitsu practitioner, perform the technique effectively and efficiently - and under duress?
So, at the beginning level, effectiveness is a student's main concern. At the intermediate level, efficiency becomes the main concern. At the advanced level, there are higher level concerns.
So, what is the best way to learn all of these? Through private lessons and personal training sessions. There is no way an instructor can teach all of these during a group class. Why? Because there are way too many personalities and body types (and other factors) to consider / address.
For those of you who are blue and purple belts, I encourage you to STOP learning new techniques. I encourage you to turn around and begin reviewing the techniques you think you already know - with the two questions I mentioned above as the mindset with which you are going to examine your techniques. By examining your techniques, you'll make discoveries on your own that will surprise you.
I'll finish with a story:
Several years ago, two of my blue belts came to me because they wanted to take a series of private lessons to help them prepare for the purple belt examination. They asked me what they should work on for their test. This is what I told them:
"Between now and our next lesson, I want you to work on these four techniques: 1. The basic bridge and roll escape from the bottom of the mount, 2. The basic elbow/knee escape from the bottom of the mount, 3. The basic spinning arm lock from the guard, and 4. The basic triangle choke with the legs from the guard.
"I want you to perform 500 repetitions of each technique on each side of your body, right side and left side."
They both rolled their eyes, then looked at me like I was crazy. They agreed to do the reps. We shook hands and parted ways.
Three weeks later, they came in for their next lesson. They were very excited and had many questions. I told them, "No questions at first. First, I want to see you perform the techniques I asked you to train."
They performed the techniques. Some looked really good, others looked OK.
I asked them, "So, did you complete the 500 reps on each side?" They replied, "No, but we do have questions." I said, "Not now. How many reps did you do on each side?" They replied, "About 150." I then said, "OK, you can ask your questions now." Boy, did they have a ton of questions. Here was their first question:
"So, when I do the triangle choke with the legs, is it more effective with my foot this way or that way?" (NOTE: The guy asking the question was showing the technique with his foot in one position and his foot in a second position - which only moved his big toe about 10-15 degrees clockwise.)
I asked him, "Ah….so when did you discover this detail?"
5/11/12 12:21 PM
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Roy Harris
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He responded, "Oh, somewhere about 40 reps into the training!"
I replied, "So, what happened?"
He said, "On about the 40th rep, I was just beginning to apply the pressure to the triangle choke and my training partner was already tapping. I asked him why he was tapping because I had not applied any pressure yet. He told me he was tapping because there was so much pressure on his neck. That got me to thinking, 'Wow, I must have put myself into a different position this time. I wonder what was different?' So, we started to play around with the triangle choke and found out that there were two different foot positionings that worked really well. So we wanted to ask you which one was better."
I replied, "Ah….so experience taught you something that you'll never forget?"
They responded, "YES!"
I continued…."Experience taught you that the other 39 repetitions SUCKED…..and your 40th rep was perfect?"
They both smiled and sheepishly replied, "Yeah..."
I continued…."Here's the lesson in all of this: You guys thought I was being a hard on you by having you do all of those reps with basic techniques - techniques that you thought you already knew. I know because I saw you roll your eyes. However, personal experience just taught you that you didn't know them as well as you thought. Now, you guys can pay me $200 an hour and I will teach you all these little details. Or, you can do what I ask of you and learn most of them on your own. So, do you want to make my wallet fat by learning all of the details from me in private lessons, or would you rather learn from experience and keep most of your money in your own wallet? It's your choice. See, you thought I was being hard on you, but really, I was teaching you an important lesson about the value of focused training and purposeful repetitions."
Food for thought!
Have a great day,
Roy Harris
5/11/12 1:21 PM
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Member Since: 10/2/04
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Damn good read!
5/13/12 2:50 PM
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Modern Self-Defense Center, Head Instructor
5/17/12 9:28 AM
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 Great! Roy, your articles have always been great and helped me a bunch! Thank you
1/17/13 4:44 AM
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Member Since: 9/16/02
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That was the best post on BJJ that I read on mma.tv. Thx
3/1/13 7:55 PM
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Roy Harris
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Member Since: 1/1/01
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Thank you!


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