In jiu jitsu, classes are often constructed around a core concept or position. This can lead to a couple of techniques shown that fit in roughly the same category. This is a great training strategy in that it lets you rep the fundamentals of a position while dealing with a couple of different variants on the theme. You’re getting deep in your knowledge of one aspect of jiu jitsu while expanding your overall technical options.
When confronted with multiple techniques that are similar, this can lead to the question: “Which technique should I choose?”
It’s a legitimate question for a newer student to ask. White and Blue belt learning is most often associated with technical details of movements and rough strategical grouping of techniques. It makes sense that they often (and should be) asking which is preferred. After all, jiu jitsu is big and the new student is overwhelmed with information. From technical aspects to concept there is just so much to remember, and then make a functional part of what one does under stress at speed that it makes sense for people to want to really get which options are best for them to try to focus on.
However, the answer is bigger and more conceptual that they might expect. It’s really not a question of “If his hand is here you do this.” It’s a much bigger response. It can be summed up by, “It depends.”
This isn’t a great, or informative answer by itself, but its a starting point. Which technique you select really does depend. But on what?
This is where things start to get big on the concept learning. There’s really three things that drive this question of which technique to use:
1) The Situation
2) The Energy
3) Your Preference and Comfort Level
It’s the intersection of these three items that drive your decision making.
First, let’s talk about the Situation element. Jiu Jitsu is big, I mean huge. People are in it to defend themselves, fight MMA, to compete in pure BJJ, for the love of the art, and probably a whole host of other reasons. Each of these is a different situation, with different concerns and appropriate goals and therefore tactics selection. A cop looking to apprehend a fleeing felon will have a different goal than someone trying to get an opponent to the ground in the last two minutes of a match. Because of that, there are elements of jiu jitsu that are better or worse choices for either situation simply because they fill the goals of each individual better. This requires some awareness and an understanding of what elements of jiu jitsu work for what settings better.
So before selecting a technique to use at a given juncture, one has to understand the situation they are in AND what tactics and goals are and are not appropriate.
Next we’ll deal with energy. This isn’t as esoteric as it sounds. It’s simply a question of what an opponent is trying to give me. Jiu jitsu works best when the other guy is doing the work for me. If he (or she) is fighting so hard to prevent one technique then chances are they are handing me another to complete. I will only burn myself out trying to fight attribute to attribute for a technique they are actively fighting. Conversely, when I find the path of least resistance I can more efficiently win the fight. This requires some sensitivity to body mechanics and the ability to read the flow of the fight at pace.
So, prior to selecting at technique, we have to be able to feel the energy that the other person is putting against us AND how to capitalize on it.
Lastly, we look at our preference. This is what we like to do, what we’re confident in, and what our “game” looks like. This is really about self understanding more than external understanding. When placed in any position, a BJJ player will have his or her “game” that set of techniques they like, those movements that work for them, the things they seen play out favorably in open mat over an over again. This breeds a high level of confidence in certain things and it’s one of the strengths of BJJ (but that’s another article.) Because of that confidence, the practitioner is more likely to make choices that put him or her in those positions.
This requires that the practitioner has logged some serious mat hours and developed their own brand of jiu jitsu. This comes down to experience on the mats. Thanks to the learning format of jiu jitsu, this happens quickly and should be well on the way to development by blue belt.
Well, that doesn’t sound to bad does it? Good theory, makes sense. Now consider that each decision must be made under stress in a moment that’s fleeting against a person whose goal it is to NOT let you do what you want. Things just got a bit harder. However, it’s the intersection of these three elements that guide us to, “Which technique should I choose?”
By understanding these three elements, you start to get ahead of the game and how to get your head around each of them is an area of study into itself. But that’s the framework for the answer. Usually not what the questioner had hoped for in terms of a simple answer, but a much more informative one. Will this immediatly change a white belts thinking and decision making pattern? Of course not, but it will give them a frame work within which to really start to dissect what they are doing and start to work on the “Why” of jiu jitsu, and that’s the mark of an advancing practitioner.