Space and Weight in BJJ

The Use of Space and Weight The foundation of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is built upon the correct use of space and weight. When you use these two concepts correctly, the amount of effort you’ll expend to effect your techniques will be minimal. When used incorrectly, you will still be able to effect your techniques, however, the amount of energy you’ll expend will increase substantially.

First, let’s discuss the correct use of space in a superior position: In a superior position you will need to close the distance (less space) between your body and your opponent’s. For example, when you are in the side mount position (on top), envelope the opponent’s upper torso with your arms and upper torso like a wet towel envelopes a basketball. By decreasing the amount of space between your body and his, it will be more difficult for him to push your body away from his. Why? Because he will find it difficult to locate a platform to push off, as well as gaining the correct angle to effectively apply pressure to your body.

If you’ve side mounted your opponent like a stiff board, you may still be able to hold him down, however the amount of effort you will expend to accomplish this task will increase substantially. The reason is simple: you will be giving him space at your neck (to insert his arm) as well as space at your hips (to insert his other arm) to push your weight off his chest. Do you see how decreasing the space between your body and his will help you to hold him down with less effort? Now let’s talk about the use of space from an inferior position: If you allow your opponent to place his weight on your upper torso, as well as anchoring his weight from the side mount position, you will find it extremely difficult to escape his hold down. Why? You know the answer, not enough space to push. Let me give you an example. Have you ever lifted weights? Have you ever performed the bench press without someone spotting you? Have you ever ‘gone for’ that last rep when you were near muscular failure and got the bar stuck on your chest? Go ahead admit it, we’ve all been there.

Now, what made it so difficult was not so much the weight as the relationship between the ceiling and your chest. As soon as you asked for help and the big guy lifted the bar off your chest, you felt relief. However, think for a moment what took place. You had weight on your chest. It was so close to your chest that you did not feel you had the leverage (nor the strength) to push it off. However, when the big guy lifted the weight a foot or so off your chest, you found it very easy to push it all the way. Well, the same is true in Jiu Jitsu.

When you find yourself in an inferior position, you must create space between your upper torso and your opponent’s upper torso. To create space, you will need to maintain posture at all times, as well as move your hips and head away from the centre of his body. Escaping involves three simple movements: 1. Precise limb placement for pushing (this is a good way to describe posture) 2. Good hip movement (the second key to escaping) and, 3. Good head and shoulder movement (you really need this for big guys).

To allow your opponent to place his upper torso so close to yours is to invite a weight lifting routine into your Jiu Jitsu training session.

Now, that may be fine for you, but if I wanted to lift weights, I’d go to the gym and lift weights. So, do you see how important it is to create space from inferior positions? (Also, do you see how important posture is to escaping? Too many beginners overlook posture. They have the ‘Yeah, I’ve got it’ disease and then continue to struggle with side mount escapes for the next two to three years.)

The bottom line is this: use space to your advantage regardless of whether you are on top of your opponent or caught underneath him.

Now, this same concept not only applies to the positional game (escapes and dominance), but it applies to submissions (chokes, locks and strangulations). For example, when you apply a straight arm lock from the side mount position, it will be important to decrease the amount of space between your buttocks and his shoulder, your heel and his head, your other heel and his armpit, your knees and his chest, your forearm and his elbow, as well as his wrist and your sternum. I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the idea.

One last comment about the use of space: When you find yourself in a superior position, there should be a certain amount of tightness to your game, a tightness that makes the opponent feel uncomfortable. This tightness is caused by the position of your body, the driving power of your legs and the pulling power of your arms, shoulders and back. The discomfort should persuade your opponent to push on your body with his arms.

When he does, it will give you an opportunity to manoeuvre around his posture, as well as lock his arm or apply pressure to his neck, a nice benefit.

Now, let’s discuss the correct use of weight: In a superior position, you will need to keep your weight centred on the opponent’s upper torso. (Yes, there are a few exceptions to this rule. However, that’s another article.) To keep your weight centred on his upper torso, you will need to have a driving force (your legs) and at least one anchoring tool (one arm). You will need to stay mobile with your knees and hips because you will have to adapt to your opponent’s movements.

You will also need to keep your hips and head down to stay balanced. The higher you raise your hips, the easier it will be for your opponent to bridge and roll you or place his forearm under your neck and push you off him.

From an inferior position the opposite is true. You will need to either suspend the opponent’s weight above your body or push it alongside you.

When you temporarily suspend the opponent’s weight above your body, you decrease the amount of friction between your back, your butt and the ground. With decreased friction, you can move your hips a lot easier. When you push the opponent’s weight alongside your body, you substantially decrease the amount of friction between your body and the ground. The decrease of friction will make it easier to escape. Pushing the opponent’s weight alongside you is the best of the two.

Now, regarding the use of weight for submissions, this is an absolute must. For example, it is important to apply weight to your opponent’s body and limbs during the transition that occurs between the superior position you hold and the specific submission you are attempting to effect. Let me give you a more specific example so that you can see what I mean.

Let’s say you are attempting a straight arm lock on your opponent’s left arm from the side mount position. It will be imperative to place most of your body weight on the upper arm of the opponent. To do otherwise will give him an opportunity to escape. Why? Because if you don’t control his elbow by immobilising it and pinning it to his upper torso, you will allow it the freedom to move wherever he wants it to go. Controlling that elbow is paramount to finishing the arm lock. So, to immobilise it, place your weight on it and then manoeuvre your body into a position for the finish.

So, as you can see, using space and weight to your advantage has many benefits. Learn how to use space and weight correctly and your game will improve, Guaranteed.

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