Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu emphasizes taking an opponent to the ground and utilizing ground fighting techniques and submission holds involving joint-locks and chokeholds also found in numerous other arts with or without ground fighting emphasis. The premise is that most of the advantage of a larger, stronger opponent comes from superior reach and more powerful strikes, both of which are somewhat negated when grappling on the ground.


BJJ permits a wide variety of techniques to take the fight to the ground after taking a grip. Once the opponent is on the ground, a number of maneuvers (and counter-maneuvers) are available to manipulate the opponent into a suitable position for the application of a submission technique. Achieving a dominant position on the ground is one of the hallmarks of the BJJ style, and includes effective use of the guard position to defend oneself from bottom, and passing the guard to dominate from top position with side control, mount, and back mount positions. This system of maneuvering and manipulation can be likened to a form of kinetic chess when utilized by two experienced practitioners. A submission hold is the equivalent of checkmate in the sport. However, it is possible for a combat situation to continue even after a proper submission is performed.


Renzo Gracie wrote in his book Mastering Jiu-Jitsu:

"The classical jujutsu of old Japan appeared to have no common strategy to guide a combatant over the course of a fight. Indeed, this was one of Kano's most fundamental and perceptive criticisms of the classical program." Maeda not only taught the art of judo to Carlos Gracie, but also taught a particular philosophy about the nature of combat developed by Kano, and further refined by Maeda based on his worldwide travels competing against fighters skilled in a wide variety of martial arts.

The book details Maeda's theory as arguing that physical combat could be broken down into distinct phases, such as the striking phase, the grappling phase, the ground phase, etc. Thus, it was a smart fighter's task to keep the fight located in the phase of combat that best suited to his own strengths. Renzo Gracie stated that this was a fundamental influence on the Gracie approach to combat, these strategies were further perfected over time by the Gracies and others, and became prominent in contemporary MMA.


Training methods

Sport Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu's focus on submissions without the use of strikes while training allows practitioners to practice at full speed and with full power, resembling the effort used in a real competition. Training methods include technique drills in which techniques are practised against a non-resisting partner; isolation sparring, commonly referred to as positional drilling, where only a certain technique or sets of techniques are used, and full sparring in which each opponent tries to submit their opponent using any legal technique. Physical conditioning is also an important part of training at many clubs.


Primary Ground Positions

During the ground phase of combat the BJJ practitioner strives to take a dominant or controlling position from which to apply submissions, these positions provide different options.


Side Control

The practitioner pins their opponent to the ground from the side of their body. Their laying across the opponent with weight applied to the opponent's chest. The opponent may be further controlled by pressure on either side of their shoulders and hips from the practitioner's elbows and knees. A wide variety of submissions are initiated from Side control.


Full Mount

Full Mount is considered one of the most dominant Grappling positions.

The practitioner sits astride opponent's chest, in the strongest form of this position the practitioner works their knees up under into the arm pits to reduce arm movements, limiting their ability to move or counter the submission attempts. Full Mount is mostly used to attack the arms or apply choke holds.


Back Mount

The practitioner attaches to the back of the opponent by wrapping their legs around and hooking the opponent's thighs with their heels. Simultaneously, the upper body is controlled by wrapping the arms around the chest or neck of the opponent. This position is commonly used to apply chokeholds, and counters much of the benefit an opponent may have from greater size or strength.


Guard

In the Guard, the practitioner is on their back controlling an opponent with their legs. The practitioner pushes and pull with the thighs or feet to upset the balance and limit the movements of their opponent. This position comes into play often when an opponent manages to place the practitioner upon his or her back and the practitioner seeks the best position possible to launch counter-attacks. This is a very versatile position from which the BJJ practitioner can apply a variety of joint-locks as well as various chokes.


Submission

The majority of submission holds can be grouped into two broad categories: joint locks and chokes. Joint locks typically involve isolating an opponent's limb and creating a lever with the body position which will force the joint to move past its normal range of motion. Pressure is increased in a controlled manner and released if the opponent cannot escape the hold and signals defeat by submitting. Opponents can indicate submission verbally or they can tap out (i.e. tap the opponent, the mat several times. Tapping one's own body is dangerous because the opponent may not be able to tell if his or her opponent is tapping.) A choke hold, disrupting the blood supply to the brain, can cause unconsciousness if the opponent does not submit soon enough.

A less common type of submission hold is a compression lock, where the muscle of an opponent is compressed against a hard, large bone (commonly the shin or wrist), causing significant pain to the opponent. These types of locks are not usually allowed in competition due to the high risk of tearing muscle tissue. This type of lock often also hyper-extends the joint in the opposite direction, pulling it apart.


Joint locks

While many joint locks are permitted, most competitions ban or restrict some or all joint locks involving the knees, ankles, and spine. The reason for this is that the angles of manipulation required to cause pain are nearly the same as those that would cause serious injury. Joint locks that require a twisting motion of the knee (called twisting knee locks or twisting knee bars, or techniques such as heel hooks, and toe holds) are usually banned in competitions because successfully completing the move nearly always results in permanent damage that requires surgery. Similarly, joint manipulations of the spine are typically barred due to the inherent danger of crushing or mis-aligning cervical vertebrae. Leglocks are allowed in varying degrees depending on skill level, with straight ankle locks being the only leglocks allowed in the beginner division, or white belt level, straight kneebars being allowed in the intermediate division, or blue belt level and toeholds with the pressure applied inwards are allowed in the advanced division (purple, brown, black).

However, most joint locks involving the wrist, elbow, shoulder or ankle are permitted as there is a great deal more flexibility in those joints and those locks are safe to use under tournament conditions. Also, some fighters practice moves whose sole purpose is to inflict pain upon their opponent, in the hope that they will tap out. This includes driving knuckles into pressure points, holding their opponent's head in order to tire out the neck (called the "can opener" or kubi-hishigi) and putting body weight on top of the sternum, floating ribs, or similarly sensitive bones. These moves are not true submission moves - they are generally only used as distractions mostly in lower levels of competition. They are avoided or aggressively countered in middle to upper levels of competition.


Chokes and strangles

Chokes and strangles (commonly but somewhat incorrectly referred to as "air chokes" and "blood chokes" respectively) are a common form of submission. Chokes involve constriction of the windpipe (causing asphyxia.) Strangles involve constriction of the carotid artery (causing ischemia.)

Air chokes are less efficient than strangles and may result in damage to the opponent's trachea, sometimes even resulting in death. By contrast, blood chokes (strangulations) cut the flow of blood to the opponent's brain, causing a rapid loss of consciousness without damaging any internal structures. Being "choked-out" in this way is relatively safe as long as the choke is released soon enough after unconsciousness, letting blood back into the brain before oxygen deprivation damage begins. However, it should not be practiced unsupervised.


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