Learning new jiu-jitsu techniques can be difficult but there are few things we can do to make that process a little bit easier, one of those things is to learn the context behind the technique. A lot of people will focus entirely on how to do a technique mechanically and of course this is a very important aspect of learning a new technique,but in order to really incorporate a technique into our arsenal we have to also think about things like WHEN to use the technique as well as WHY we are selecting the technique in question.
When to use a technique is almost as important as how to do the technique mechanically, if you execute the technique at the wrong time then your application will not matter, regardless of how good it might be. One common way to understand the concept of when to use a technique is in the context of “sidedness”. What i mean when i say “sidedness” is that some techniques are dependent on the opponents stance or posture being right handed or left handed, generally techniques will have an application for both situations (i.e. right vs right and left vs right) but many people do not take this into consideration and make things much harder for themselves. An example of this is when people try to execute takedowns, most jiu-jitsu practitioners are familiar with double legs and single legs ( for this discussion we will exclude the high-crotch, or head on the outside single leg and focus on the head on the inside single leg). The double leg is most commonly (and most effective) used against an opponent with the same stance, right vs right or left vs left, while the single leg is most commonly (and most effective) used against an opponent in an opposite stance, right vs left or left vs right. However, it is very common to see people executing these techniques at the wrong time and this drastically reduces their effectiveness. When attacking with a double leg, the bodies of the two combatants should fit together like a puzzle piece, there should be no space between them. If we are talking about a right vs right situation then you should penetrate with your right leg, position your head on the outside of the opponents right leg and post your left leg out to drive off of to finish the takedown…the finish is not guaranteed but you have a good chance of success. If you attempt this same technique, a right sided double leg, against a left handed opponent everything is suddenly out of position and there is not only a lot space between the combatants (which means a counter is more likely) but also your body is no longer in a position of power and leverage. When attacking with the single leg, assuming the you don’t change your stance, if you attack a same sided opponent then you are all of a sudden attacking the back leg of the opponent which is significantly further away from you then their lead leg. The added distance makes things much harder and gives your opponent a lot more time to react to your attack. If you learn WHEN to apply the techniques that you are learning, in this case which leg does the opponent have forward, then you will automatically have a higher success rate. Although it is possible to cook a steak in a microwave, it is NOT the preferred method. It is POSSIBLE to hit a double leg on an opponent with an opposite stance, it is not the preferred method, particularly for people with a fundamental to intermediate skill level. If you take the time to think about WHEN to use the techniques you are learning in addition to how then you will be ahead of the game.
Another aspect to investigate when learning a new technique is why we are using the technique. If we again look at a double and single leg takedown, one thing that people seemed to be confused about is why we generally put the knee on the ground when shooting for doubles and single legs. We don’t put the knee on the ground because we want to, but because it is necessary due to the circumstances of the situation. Generally speaking, people will adopt a low stance when grappling, this makes a more solid base and is harder to get pushed or knocked over. If we are going to hit a double or single then we need to get underneath our opponent, to do this effectively and comfortably we put the knee on the ground in the traditional “shoot” position. However, if the opponent is standing tall and we are able to get underneath him without putting the knee down then we should simply change our level and step in. This is why you see a lot of standing singles and doubles in MMA competition as well as judo ( under the old rule set), the competitors are in a much higher stance then competitors in wrestling or jiu-jitsu. If you try to do a standing single on a opponent that is in a low stance you are making things much harder than they need to be, just as if you are hitting a single or double from the knees on an opponent in a high stance. The key here is to understand the why, why am i putting the knee on the ground or why am i not putting the knee on the ground. Again, if you take the time to think about the why in addition to the how then you will be putting the odds in your favor.
Jiu-jitsu is about percentages, we want to focus on the things that have a high success rate, nothing is unstoppable so it is incredibly important to give ourselves the best chance to win. One way that we can increase our percentages is by not only applying the techniques we know the right way but also at the right time and in the right situation.