Friday, January 14, 2011

What Constitutes Fancy?

Someone just asked me this.

Here is an example of a fancy move: From holding cross side, when your opponent turns in, you hook his top leg with your leg and ninja roll to take his back. It's something a lot of guys do now. Here is what Marcello and Damian Maia do from the same position. They keep their hand positioning in a way where either the opponent will turn away from them exposing their back, or turn into them. If they turn into them instead of ninja rolling, they control the grip on the back of their gi, stepping over either taking their back or getting mount. I have since replaced the ninja roll for this basic approach.

Another example I could give is, people will take a sloppy back control (on purpose) so the opponent will try to shake them off, when they get shaken off, they dive for a leg into 50/50 position.

Another example is anytime you give up the rear naked when you have both hooks in, for the twister.

Every move I do on someone whether it be a sweep, or scramble, or submission I want to be able to do it now, 5 years from now, 10 years from now, 15 years from now. I've seen black belts who had a more physical and complicated system of BJJ who when they got really old, had to convert their game and play catch up on those moves, or they simply stopped rolling all together (I've seen a lot of older black belts basically stop rolling unless its with a white belt).

So fancy depends on your goal, my goal of course is longevity. The example I've given before is a white belt who knows a rolling footlock vs. a white belt who knows a cross collar. Over time the cross collar choke person will catch up and surpass. Now you can replace those submissions for a sweep or a scramble (like rolling to your knees to a single as opposed to a hip escape). It's interchangeable. But here is another example, the one I really care about. You can have new black belt, one who kills the other black belt because he is better at 50/50 the other at closed guard. But over time, maybe this time 10 years, I believe the closed guard black belt will catch up and surpass. Maybe it's when they are both 60.

Renzo Gracie in a recent interview said he completely changed his style recently due to his age and he is better now than he was then, he is sticking to the basics, and said the stuff Rickson did from the beginning. Erik Paulson who is known for catch and no gi, is putting the gi back on because of his age and relying more on basics. Ryan Hall said in several interviews (and especially after a Rickson seminar) that now he realizes a lot of the stuff he did before (though they sell DVDs) won't work at the highest level or forever and he has to focus on the basics and one of the things he tried to improve on that he neglected for so long was his hip escape.

So I've been to Brazil, I've trained at over 50 different academies. Trained with a lot of World Champs. I've seen a lot of cool fancy stuff, seen it work, had it work against me. There are plenty of examples of that. But every time I trained with an older black belt, like Sergio Penha or Liborio, they did the same thing. They used closed guard from bottom, on top they smash passed to mount to choke. So my definition of fancy is based on two goals: longevity and moves that work for any age, gender, strength level, or flexibility.

Of course whenever you see something new you might be taken off guard, but speaking to Henry Akins a Rickson black belt, I realized that even if I haven't seen it before it will be a concept I am still familiar with. Pointing his guard to me, attempting to take my back, hook my leg, control my hip, attack my neck, disrupt my balance, etc. For me I am biased towards concepts and simple applications.

Now having said all that of course you will end up in weird positions and have to battle out of it. I believe that has more to do to with Jiu Jitsu spatial awareness. Overtime you will gain more spatial awareness and experience and will be able to handle any of the infinite variations BJJ has to throw at you. The key is your fundamentals better be sound first.


  1. Good stuff, thanks for the thorough response! Always looking forward to your posts.

  2. thanks for reading and your response. And of course at the end of the day these are the opinions of just a purple belt. But luckily the internet has a wide spectrum of other points of view on the same matter as far as Jiu Jitsu.

  3. Really valuable advice... I feel like I squandered my first year of training always wanting to learn some new technique. Would have been better off giving up on submissions entirely and spent a year just trying to survive by position and transition.

    Thanks for the post.

  4. Yes. We all sign up to learn to submit, we end up staying because we want to control.



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