“Learning BJJ Basics is Boring”: Why You Have it Completely Wrong

“Learning BJJ Basics is Boring”: Why You Have it Completely Wrong

Many of the younger grapplers, especially after blue belt will often look over learning the basics and will favor the more flashy, lower percentage moves.

Roy Harris is a firm believer in perfecting the basics in BJJ. One of his most famous techniques, is the smash pass: the single underhook pass. This technique uses a tremendous amount of pressure.

 The basic single underhook pass is one of the most simple but devastating techniques in Jiu-Jitsu. It may look like your setting yourself up for a triangle choke, when you are really just baiting your opponent to pass or stack his guard and submit. This is a prime example of how a very basic technique has in fact so many layers of details and concepts that we should all look into.

Here he shows the simple version:

Roy Harris is an accomplished American martial artist, known in the Brazilian jiu jitsu world for being a black belt under Joe Moreira and is often (wrongly) mentioned as a part of the “BJJ Dirty Dozen“, the first group of 12 non Brazilian men to have been distinguished with the rank of black belt in this grappling style. Roy Harris is also known as one of the first instructors to publicly publish a formal testing criteria for jiu jitsu, formalizing his promotion tests from white belt to black belt.

For full biography, go to BJJ Heroes.


Harris shared his thoughts on benefits of perfecting the basics:

An interesting observation….

As someone who has been teaching martial arts publicly since 1987, I have made many observations about students over the years. Here is an observation about the students / instructors in my association:

As an instructor who focuses on the basics (at a level many never consider), I really enjoy teaching students who consistently ask me to review their basics with them. Here are four names of students who have consistently reviewed their basics with me by asking basic questions during their private lessons:

• Brian Bird – 3rd degree black belt in BJJ
• Trent Lewis – 3rd degree black belt in BJJ
• Brian Jay – Brown belt in BJJ
• Jim Robert – Brown belt in BJJ

These four student stand out in my mind because they ask more questions about the basics of Jiu Jitsu than anyone else in my association.

To some, this might sound boring. However, there is a reason why these four ask so many questions. Would you like to know the reason? Here it is:

Being a bit of a nerdy / geeky individuals who has a smidgen of OCD, I review my basics (BJJ, JKD and FMA) weekly. Additionally, as a result of this review and my own R&D, I come up with some new and unique innovations every 18-24 months. Everyone who knows and has been around for a lengthy period of time me know this.

I’m sure you’re wondering about these “supposed” innovations and how they might affect students and instructors. So, consider the following:

• I have developed an Americana technique from three perspectives:

1. There is the basic version I teach to beginners. This one has five moving parts.

2. There is the intermediate version I teach to students who are ready for this kind of knowledge. This one has fourteen moving parts.

3. There is the BJJ Over 50 version I ONLY teach to students who are fifty years or older. This version has two moving parts (which makes it easier to remember, easier to perform and easier to finish).

• I have developed positioning (for escapes, controls, sweeps and submissions) to a very high level.

• I have charted and documented “the feel” of all of the basics. For example, can you describe what the Americana technique feels like? If not, there’s a portion of your training you are unfamiliar with and are leaving unaddressed on the table.

So, why don’t other students review their basics with me? I’m not sure. My only guess is they’re not interested in them any more.

Now, this is not a criticism. It is only an observation. Jiu Jitsu has a lot of different things to offer students. But for those who truly seek specific and long lasting skill sets, the most desirable ones are found and contained within the basics.

Yesterday, I had the chance to work with one of my brown belts for a little over two hours. During those 140 minutes together, we went over the following:

1. Positioning from the bottom of the front mount

2. Positioning from the bottom of the side mount

3. Positioning from the bottom of the scarf hold

4. Positioning from the bottom of modified scarf hold

5. Positioning from inside of someone’s guard

We did best and worst case scenarios from each position. Our plan was to cover positionings and postures from various positions, but we never made it to posture because there was so much information found in positioning. Long story short, it was a good lesson!

In closing, I want to encourage all of my Jiu Jitsu friends and students to review your basics with your instructor at least once a year. You’ll be surprised at what you THINK you know and what you actually remember about your basics. I’m sure you’ll also be surprised at how your instructor can still teach you a thing or two about the basics!

An interesting observation….As someone who has been teaching martial arts publicly since 1987, I have made many…

Posted by Roy Harris on Saturday, December 23, 2017