A Continuation On Last Week’s Post
“If one is concerned with eating, it is better to be early for dinner than late for lunch.” This is the axiom of the person whose understanding of jiu-jitsu is deeper than white belt. For the white belt, there is only confusion on the mats. The meaning goes deeper than the blue belt can understand. For the blue belt, there is only either victory or defeat in a particular skirmish. The blue belt is insistent on victory; they insist on not letting something go if they believe they have it, because to not get what they are after is to lose. This is, at least in part, the reason why really good blue belts can beat purple belts. Whether or not they actually have the x-choke from mount, they are going to apply it as though they have it – jaw-grinding, skin-scraping, neck-cranking consequences be damned. Blue belts are tenacious.1
However, a sufficiently deeper understanding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu reveals to the practitioner that you can lose any one particular skirmish if it means maintaining the upper-hand while sparring. All this is well and good, you might say my audience, but what is the practical output of this philosophical talk?
Okay. Let’s talk about what this means when the rubber has already hit the road.
Your opponent is in your closed guard. You apply an armbar, but your hips are a little shallow, or the bite with your legs isn’t quite what it should be. It is NOT, generally speaking, in your best interest to continue applying the submission to the point of exhaustion. Sure, you COULD get it. You COULD finish your opponent with a crappy armbar. I have no doubt that happens thousands of times a day. White belts submit white belts each and every day.2 But why wed yourself to the life and death of that submission? If you lose it, I have no doubt your opponent is going to make you pay.
“Alright you asshole, you cranked and cranked and squeezed and groaned on that weak armbar. It’s gone away now. You’re tired. Now I’m going to make you pay for each and every agonizing second you plied that armbar.”
You, my audience, have another option. You can scuttle the submission, and go to the next one. You really can get the drop on your opponent. What if your opponent exhausted HIMSELF while escaping your armbar?! What if he said “You know what? I’m going to give this escape everything I have, because I refuse to be caught here and now.” So this opponent uses their athleticism and jerks their arm out. If you, as the practitioner, had taken a long-sighted view of your sparring match, then somewhere inside yourself, you were ready for this turn of events.
Your opponent pulls his arm out of the armbar like he’s trying to start a lawnmower from the 1960’s, and you – in an expression of pure Jiu-Jitsu preparedness and technique – slap a happy-go-lucky triangle from guard around his everloving head and shoulder. Then your opponent stops his arm from forming the other half of the triangle and buries it under your butt. But you, my audience, were ready and feed him an omoplata.
The continuations can go on, of course. And they do. Our Gentle Art is a unbroken, never-ending blob of continuations.
It’s difficult for me to overstate this case. Why apply an armbar at 100% of your effort for three minutes, when you can transition to the triangle, use 50% of your effort over 90 seconds? You have to be of a sufficient skill level to access these kinds of transitions, of course. The white belt does not understand. But the blue belt might. And the purple belt should.
Beating people in transitions, to transitions, and from transitions are the main reason why two people knowledgeable in jiu-jitsu can beat one another. After all, two black belts know all the same stuff, approximately. They both know how to defend an armbar. They both know how to defend a triangle. They both know how to defend an omoplata. But defending against these three submissions as they are seamlessly thrown at you one after another, as one transitions to the other then to the other and back again, is too much to ask of any human being.
Thanks for reading.
1. Please remember, my audience, not to get too caught up in the label ‘blue belt’ or ‘white belt’ or especially my label ‘purple belt.’ At its base, the divide is artificial. I mean ‘people of a certain skill level and certain understanding of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that is usually obtained after 2-4 years of regular training.’ It’s just a lot less goddamn trouble to write ‘blue belt’ as opposed to that more measured statement.
2. And any black belt reading this would say “Purple belts submit purple belts every day.” Aaaand I have to (a) shut up and (b) hang my head in shame.