That’s right, you read the title correctly. As strange as that may come off, there is really no right or wrong in BJJ and Grappling in general, unless, of course, the technique you’re trying to perform isn’t working. You often hear BJJ instructors and even more often, famous BJJ instructors saying “this is wrong” or “this way is right”, but is it really? Looking at the bigger picture, different things work for different people. There will be sweeps and submissions that fit into your game, but won’t for other students. This article explores why creativity is so important in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and how it can really benefit you in your journey.
Trying to understand that there is no right or wrong in BJJ can be hard at first, especially if you’re so committed to trying to follow in the footsteps of other successful black belts.
Bernardo Faria, a five-time world Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champion black belt, says “it took [him] the right confidence to think like this.” This way of thinking isn’t necessarily easy, especially for beginners. Faria goes on to explain that “in 2003 when I was a blue belt, I always heard people say never let the opponent get the under hook when he’s on top.” According to Faria, he started to create sweeps from that position, and essentially let his opponent get the under hook when they were on top. Faria says those sweeps he thought of, helped him in winning the World’s Open Class as a purple belt, and his first World’s as a black belt, which he says happened “because of this concept.” He applied this mentality to all other positions, and began to think “that whatever worked for [him], was really all that mattered.”
Faria also relates a friend’s experience in his hometown in the state of Minas Gerais, in Brazil. He explains that as a BJJ beginner, the coaches make sure to teach students not to stretch their arms when in the bottom mount, and encourage them to keep as closed as possible, attempting to bridge or elbow escape, to get out of that situation. Faria said his friend was very flexible, and could always get out of the armbar without much force. And when the friend was in the bottom mount, he gave his opponent his arm just because he knew what he would try to do. “He trusts his armbar escape, then his mount escape,” said Faria of the strategy adopted by his friend. So who can tell him he is wrong? For most Jiu-Jitsu students, this style of escape just won’t work, but that’s just the trick of being creative and unique — finding what works for you.
“If the position may be good and [seem] right to do it, and doesn’t work for you, then it’s wrong for you,” counsels Faria. The bottom line is if the the position is working for you, then that’s what suits your BJJ game best. Everyone has unique styles of fighting, and learning, so studying up on YouTube techniques may not work when you bring it to class, but don’t get discouraged into convincing yourself that you’re not a good fighter. “The mat is where the person shows their uniqueness,” says Faria on his web site. The beauty of it, is just that. Realize it or not, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu promotes individualism and creativity. You’ll never be good at BJJ if you don’t explore different styles and strategies, until you find your own.
Talking to your coach, watching competition footage and DVDs, are all just visual aids to form some ideas in your head. There is no “don’t do this, don’t do that” in BJJ. Copying other people’s styles will never mean that they are your own. There are many different ways to search for your own BJJ style, which include positional training, and training specific situations alongside a superior belt holder on your team, if possible. Embrace the tap, and be ready to do lots of repetition, and drills. Don’t fret if you have to roll with someone more athletic, or more technical than you. These are great opportunities for testing what you need to work on, and gaining some insight. Your BJJ game differs in height, weight, and flexibility. It’s most important when searching for your BJJ game to keep yourself feeling excited and patient. Nothing can ever come out of an overtrained, uninspired mind. Trust yourself, and ignore those who tell you what you can and can’t do.