Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu | Fighting Styles

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) refers to a combat sport and martial art, which concentrates on grappling and mostly ground fighting. Its goal is to gain a more dominant position while using chokeholds and joint-locks to force opponents into submission. This art is based on Kodokan Judo of the early 20th century, which was also recently-developed back in the day after being founded in the year 1882 and was based on various schools known as “Ryu” from Japanese Jujutsu.

The overall principles promote the idea that even smaller and weaker people can use leverage with proper tactics to successfully defend themselves when faced with bigger and stronger assailants. It can be used as a form of self-defense or for tournaments of sport grappling and competitions of mixed martial arts. Sparring, which is referred to more commonly as “rolling”, along with live drilling also play a primary role when it comes to training and premiums are placed on overall performance, most of all within competitions.


The traditional old Japanese jujutsu seems to have had no common strategies in guiding combatants as their course of fighting goes on. This happened to be one of Kano’s highly perceptive and fundamental criticisms when it came to the traditional program. Maeda did not just teach the judo art to Carlos Gracie; he also taught certain philosophies regarding the combat nature that Kano developed and that Maeda further refined based on his global travels battling against skilled fighters in a wide array of martial arts.

In the book “Mastering Jujitsu”, Maeda’s theory is described in detail, arguing how physical combat needs to be broken down into certain phases, like striking phases, grappling phases, and standing phases. Therefore, if a fighter was smart, his task was to keep fights in the combat phase that was ideally suited for his personal strengths.

This happened to be a fundamental influence in Gracie’s overall combat approach. Such strategies were perfected even more over time by other people, and became more prominent in modern MMA.

People sometimes say that Maeda used to practice original Japanese jujutsu, but this isn’t true. Maeda actually trained in sumo during his teenage years. Only after that did he start to study jujutsu as one of Kano’s Kodokan Judo students and became promoted as 7th judo dan the day before his death in the year 1941. Hélio Gracie rose to 6th judo dan by the time he fought Kimura in the year 1951.

Ground Fighting

Probably the most essential factor which would set Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu apart from contemporary Kodokan judo and the majority of other Japanese jujutsu schools would be that BJJ emphasizes much more on ground fighting. Because of this, BJJ has reached great ground strengths, though has become relatively weak when it comes to tactics in standing. The amount of cross-training with both sports has significantly increased in today’s day and age.

Fighting Styles

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu focuses on tactics of ground fighting and holds of submission that involve chokeholds and joint-locks that can also be found in various other arts that do or do not focus on ground fighting. The overall premise is that the majority of advantages that larger and stronger opponents have tend to come from strikes that are more powerful and reach that is more superior, both of which get a bit negated during ground grappling.

BJJ allows a wide array of tactics to take fights onto the ground after grips are taken. The minute an opponent is finally on the ground, various maneuvers or counter-maneuvers can be used in order to manipulate opponents into suitable positions to send them into submission. Reaching dominant positions while on the ground would be a hallmark when it comes to BJJ styles and would include the effective use of guard positions to defend from the bottom while passing guards to dominate from the top with mounts, side controls and back mounts. This manipulation and maneuvering system is similar to a kind of kinetic chess when used by a couple of experienced practitioners. Submission holds would be equivalent to checkmates.

Kinds of Submission

Most submission holds are grouped into two wide categories: chokes and joint locks. Choke holds disrupt the brain’s overall blood supply and could cause unconsciousness unless the opponent submits soon. Joint locks, in general, involve isolating opponents’ limbs to create levers with the position of the body that will make joints go past its regular motion range; this is also known as hyperextension. With control, pressure will be increased and then released if opponents cannot get out of the hold, signaling defeat through submission. Submission can be indicated with words or tap-outs on the mat several times.

One less common kind of submission hold would be the compression lock. The opponent’s muscles will be compressed against large, hard bones like the wrist or shin to cause lots of pain. Oftentimes, this kind of lock also hyper-extends joints into the other direction, causing them to pull apart.

Joint Locks

Although a lot of joint locks are allowed, the majority of competitions limit or ban several, if not all, joint locks that involve the ankles, knees, nose, spine and buttholes. This is because the required manipulation angles to cause pain would be similar to the ones that cause some serious injury. Therefore, joint locks that would require twisting motions of knees (known as twisting knee bars or locks, and include tactics like toe folds and heel hooks) are normally banned from competitions since successful completions of these moves usually result in permanent damage and surgery. On the same note, joint spine manipulations are usually banned because of the possible danger in misaligning or crushing the cervical vertebrae. Particular locks that involve the ankles and knees are only allowed within competitions from brown belts onwards. Any competitor in the white belt up to the purple belt that tries any such locks could get disqualified.

Still, the majority of joint locks that involve the elbow, wrist, ankle or shoulder are allowed since a lot more flexibility can be found within these joints and these locks happen to be safe when put under certain tournament conditions. Additionally, several fighters practice moves with sole purposes of inflicting pain onto opponents, with hopes of tap-out results. This would include sending knuckles onto pressure points, holding heads to tire out the opponent’s neck (known as kubi-hisighi or “can opener”) and placing full body weight onto the floating ribs, sternum or other sensitive bones. Such moves aren’t real moves of submission. Generally, they are merely distractions put to use in lower competition levels and are brutally countered or completely avoided in the middle and upper competition levels.

Strangles and Chokes

Strangles and chokes, which are usually called “air chokes” or “blood chokes”, are common submission forms. Strangles involve constricting the carotid artery to cause ischemia, while chokes involve constricting the windpipes to cause asphyxiation.

Air chokes happen to be less efficient compared to strangles and might even result in trachea damage or death. In comparison, blood chokes cut off the blood flow to the brain, causing a quick loss of consciousness without any damage to internal structures. It is quite safe to get “choked-out”, as long as chokes are released right after unconsciousness hits, allowing blood to flow back to the brain prior to the start of oxygen deprivation. However, this should never be practiced without supervision.

The commonness of more harmful “air” chokes has banned them from several U.S. police departments. Since the legal connotations of terms “strangulation” and “choke” are negative, it would be recommended to make use of the words “lateral vascular restraint” instead when describing blood chokes that are used in situations of self-defense.

Methods of Training

Sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu concentrates on submissions without using strikes while its training lets practitioners practice at ultimate power and speed, similar to efforts used in actual competition. Methods of training methods would include tactic drills where tactics are practiced versus non-resisting partner; full sparring, where every opponent attempts to submit the other with any legal tactics available; and isolation sparring, in which only particular tactics or set of tactics can be used against complete resistance. Physical conditioning would also be an essential part of this training in a lot of clubs.

Free Sparring

As with Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tends to encourage free sparring versus live, resisting opponents. Therefore, practitioners have the chance to test out their overall skills, as well as develop them, through realistic conditions and reduce their overall risk of injury.


Grading standards and belt promotions differ between schools; however, widely-accepted measures of someone’s rank and skill within Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu are as follows:

1. How much technical knowledge can be demonstrate, and
2. Their overall performance in competitions and sparring.

Technical knowledge gets judged by numerous tactics that a person is able to perform, along with the skill levels of performance in which they are performed within competitions and sparring. This lets older and smaller practitioners get recognized for their overall knowledge, even though they might not be very strong fighters within the school. Since this sport is distinctly individual, practitioners are always encouraged to properly adapt tactics that will work best for their personal strategic preferences, athleticism level and body type. The final criterion would be the ability to successfully use these tactics instead of strict compliance to style.

Competitions are also very important when it comes to grading of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since they let instructors compare their students’ levels against others in the exact same rank in other schools. Belt promotions might be given after succeeding in competitions, most of all at levels of lower belts. Promotions may also be given if a person submits a lot of people of the same rank.

This high competition level between schools, as well as the importance of belt promotion, is considered to be a main factor that prevents instructors from setting lower standards or letting people buy higher belts. Instructors might also take a person’s general personality and behavior into consideration and might refuse promotion if a person exhibits destructive or antisocial. This is how instructors choose to promote most of their students. Several schools might also have more formal tests that may include written or oral exams.

Differences in Styles of BJJ

Nowadays, the primary differences in styles of BJJ lie between the orientation of Sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to point competition and Gracie’s classical Jiu-Jitsu emphasis on self-defense. There is a huge commonality of tactics between both of these but there is also a huge variety in training ideals within various schools when it comes to using tactics against how much you should try to overpower opponents.

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