Written by Andrew “Major” Johnson, BJJ belt belt -Andrew trains under Adam Thomas and Joshua “Foca” Miller at Gracie Barra Lexington, SC.
If Jiu Jitsu was a test of strength, we could just have a set of weights at the door – and a contest as you come in to see who is strongest, and then go home having never touched the mats. Now wouldn’t that be silly?
I think I started thinking about this when I read a quote from Rickson Gracie that was something like,
“when you use strength, you spend the money you came with. You had your strength when you walked into the gym. But when you use technique, you use the money I gave you. Save your strength because that is like money in the bank. Spend my money.”
I am paraphrasing Rickson because I am not sure I quoted him word for word but the principle is pure gold…..
You know how new White belts rely on strength and physicality? And upper belts tell them they should use less strength and more technique, right? But wait… some upper belts come across as using strength at times don’t they? Have you ever noticed how a 165 pound black belt can feel like he weighs over 200 pounds? The experienced guys can focus their strength in ways that perhaps make you think they are much stronger than you or that they are using strength but that may or may not be true.
Chance are you are on the receiving end of “strength within technique.”
So what is the guidance we should gain from this?
OK – here it is…..I suggest that for blue belts and below, you should be operating at around half your strength all the time…. and using 100% technique. For purple belts and above, the best approach is a concept we will call “strength within technique.”
Whites and Blues, you have your marching orders – 50% strength – now move out!
So Purples and above – sit down, let’s talk…. about the concept of Strength within technique. What is it and why is this important? Strength within technique is only dialing up the power once you are sure the technique is correct. And it may take you 1,000 reps or 20 drilling sessions to get the tech right to the point where you should be able to dial up the power.
Why is dialing back the power important? The main reason is one of the most vital considerations when you train – and that is to remain injury free. If you are hurt, you aren’t training. You simply cannot allow yourself to become hurt and let’s face it, most BJJ injuries are from something you did to yourself. Bjj is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to remain injury free for the next decade or so if you expect to be able to advance in rank and stay happy and healthy.
Think of all the times you have been injured in BJJ – how many times did your training partner hurt you versus the times you hurt yourself? In most cases, you hurt yourself because you are using too much force in a dynamic you have not drilled enough. Connective tissue tears, fingers get bent backwards, soft tissue in the back gets out of place, you pull those little rib muscles that convince you your ribs are broken, etc.
Some of the Gracie family are well known for their “keep it playful” motto. But Leandro Lo commented at his gym it is “kill or be killed.” Neither one of these training models is correct in every situation. Strength within technique is a safe compromise that should allow you to remain injury free and still focus on what’s important