Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has grown tremendous amounts since I began my journey in 2004. Back then the art was catching on but it still hadn’t become very popular. I remember thinking, after just a few weeks in, that achieving a blue belt seemed almost unattainable. Every time I met and trained with a blue belt at that time I was always in awe, never mind a purple belt or brown belt… let’s not even mention a black belt! In the early 2000s there weren’t that many black belts, especially in my area of northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
A Popularity Explosion
Fast forward about twelve years later and it seems like every single person I meet is wearing a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt. I say wearing as opposed to earned purposefully, but that is another subject for another time. Anyway, my point is, the popularity of Jiu Jitsu has grown an amazing amount since I have started. There are academies in most cities and towns, tournaments are pretty easy to find within a short distance, there are more blue belts in the world than there are most animals on the endangered species list, and the information out there is in abundance.
If you go to YouTube and do a quick search, you are sure to find an overwhelming amount of technique and competition videos for your immediate enjoyment. In these videos, Jiu Jitsu looks amazing and exciting, and it is amazing and exciting! You will see fast action and high flying submissions, sweeps, and other techniques. The internet is flooded with things like De la Riva guard, Berimbolo sweeps, Flying armlocks and shoulder locks, Worm guard, Donkey guard, and any other cleverly named guard you can possibly imagine.
I’m a White Belt, I Can Do This Stuff
This stuff is very fun to watch and it is what has built the popularity of the art that I fell in love with back in 2004. I think for most people it should stop right there in watching for entertainment. If a brand new white belt who just started martial arts last week watches these videos and decides that his new move be the donkey guard, what do you think will happen? Ok, so first, let me explain a little bit about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu…
Effectiveness of Jiu Jitsu By Design
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was designed to work for everyone. This includes women, children, and men of any and all body types and or sizes. In able for this to hold true and be an accurate statement, there needs to be a few basic and core elements to the catalog of movements and techniques in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Those core elements do in fact exist.
The thing with all of the fancy moves you’ll find on YouTube is that they require a very deep understanding of these core Jiu Jitsu elements. If you attempt these advanced movements without a concise understanding of the basics, you will most likely fail at your attempts. Worse yet, you may likely never gain a true understanding of Jiu Jitsu. Let’s take a closer look at what these core elements of Jiu Jitsu are.
There is a very specific way that you should be moving while practicing. The most important basic element of this movement is in your hips. If you don’t understand this important hip movement, you will have trouble performing more advanced movements.
One of the things BJJ practitioners talk about the most is “flow”. This is simply the act of letting the match dictate your movements. Many beginners tend to force things when learning. The flow is a tough one to get but you should definitely be on the way to developing this flow before attempting many advanced techniques as they rely heavily on it.
Timing and Sensitivity
This is very related to the flow. It is in fact what develops a good flow. Timing and sensitivity is simply having the ability to feel and react to your opponent. Then being able to make the right decisions based on this feel. Again, all advanced techniques rely on this for success.
Submissions and Controls
If you attempt some type of technique on an opponent and you don’t understand how to properly control them, you will get yourself into trouble. If you attempt and advanced technique and you don’t properly understand how to submit your opponent, you will get yourself into trouble.
The last of these basic elements is escaping. At the end of the day, you will make mistakes. You will make a lot of mistakes. When you do make these mistakes, you will want to know how to correct them. Mistakes lead to very bad positions and bad positions need the ability to escape. That should be pretty straight forward, right?
Take the Time to Get It Right
It takes a long time to get a blue belt in BJJ compared to other martial arts. It takes a really long time to get a black belt in BJJ compared to other martial arts. Trust me, there is no need to rush it. You will have plenty of time to learn the cool stuff and popular stuff. In fact, in many cases, you will pick up on a lot of the advanced techniques without even knowing it. In the end you will need the basics to do so though. So just sit back, relax and learn some basics.
Maybe… Just Maybe…. You Can Fit in an Advanced Movement or Two
I think that, as long as you are a member of a good gym with good instructors, you can have them help you with some of the more advanced stuff earlier on in your career. It’s important though that your instructor guides you on this path though. Don’t take it upon yourself to try and understand these moves. The one thing that I will do in my gym is answer any questions a student has about more advanced stuff by giving them the core basics they need to understand the advanced technique in question. This is the best way to learn the cool stuff… by understanding the basics that go with it.