(Originally Published at Ironlionjiujitsu)


Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is known for its emphasis on control and leverage. Techniques aren’t applied with pure brute strength, but with proper positioning and direction of force. In most positions, it’s imperative to keep tight. That’s not to say rigid, but controlled. An opponent should be kept from moving and you should be properly balanced so you can’t be moved easily. Good BJJ practitioners can recognize and exploit gaps of space and bad posture. As a beginner, you’ll make a lot of these mistakes, but you will become more and more comfortable with practice.


There are three fundamental goals in a proper BJJ match:

  • Take down the opponent.
  • Get in a dominant position.
  • Submit the opponent.
Taking Down the Opponent

With roots in Judo and influence from Western wrestling styles, there are several different ways to take down an opponent in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The basic principle is to get the opponent off balance, removing resistance and making it easier to lift the opponent of his feet. Watching two BJJ fighters circle each other from standing, you will see a lot of clinching and tugging and then an explosive take down attempt. Here is a short list of throws and take downs common in BJJ:

  • Hip throw
  • Shoulder throw
  • Leg sweep
  • Single leg take down
  • Double leg take down

One phenomenon that is unique to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is that some BJJ competitors won’t even attempt a take down, but will instead go straight to the ground and take their opponent with them. This is known as “pulling guard” and is done as kind of a controlled risk. The competitor pulling guard is hoping to get right to the business of finding an opportunity for a submission.

Getting in a Dominant Position

When fighting on the ground Jiu-Jitsu players are constantly jockeying for the better position. The best position is generally a mount where the opponent has limited weapons and can’t easily escape. Of course, if the opponent is mounted or being controlled, he’s going to be looking to sweep or reverse and end up in the dominant position or at least a position where he can attempt a submission. Here are some of the main dominant positions. For the definitions, scroll up and find them in the glossary.

  • Top mount
  • S-mount
  • Side control
  • Back mount

On the other side of the coin is the guard. There is a very good reason for this position: control. Instead of letting the opponent go where he can take a mounted position, you keep him in place and attempt to sweep or submit from guard. The guard is an art of its own and there are entire books, seminars and videos devoted to effective guard play. Here’s a short list of guard types defined earlier in the page.

  • Full/closed guard
  • Half guard
  • Butterfly guard
  • Spider guard
  • X-guard
  • Cross guard
  • De La Riva guard
  • Scissor guard

Just as there is a lot to know about keeping guard, passing guard is just as, if not more important. In passing the guard, you can move to a dominant mounted position and your probability of finishing your opponent is much better.

Finishing the Fight

At the heart of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is the submission. All roads lead to catching your opponent in a technique that will cause him or her to surrender. There are two basic ways to achieve this:


One of the strongest ways to win a fight in BJJ is the choke. Chokes can restrict the flow of blood and/or oxygen to the brain, which the brain must have to function. When blood or oxygen flow is interrupted, there is limited time before loss of consciousness sets in. With a blood choke, this can happen within 10 seconds.

Chokes can be applied from just about any position. Arms, legs, fists and even parts of the gi can be used to choke the opponent. Here’s a sample of some chokes you will learn in BJJ:

  • Triangle choke
  • Cross choke
  • Rear naked choke
  • Guillotine choke
  • Bow-and-arrow choke
  • Brabo choke
Joint Manipulation

Another way to submit an opponent is to bend a joint in a way it’s not supposed to go. There are several parts of the body where joints can be manipulated. Here are some submission types that give an idea of which joints can be attacked:

  • Arm bar
  • Shoulder lock
  • Wrist lock
  • Knee bar
  • Ankle lock

There are thousands of techniques and variations on techniques, but for any one of them, proper control and leverage is required to successfully apply the submission. This is especially true for people who have good flexibility and/or high pain tolerance.

Winning on Points

Because matches can go on for a very long time without a submission, in BJJ competitions there are time limits and points. Scoring will vary, but the ways to come out a winner on the cards are universal: take downs, mounts, passes and sweeps are all worth points. All of these are key to ending up in a position where a submission can be applied, so even if the destination of a submission is not met, the journey of techniques can be enough to set you apart as the better fighter.

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