For this article I would love to share some insight from one black belt’s perspective on escaping bad positions and submissions.
At some point in their career, every student suffers through a period where a particular escape is frustrating them beyond belief. Another scenario is after suffering through a roll session with an upper belt they found a specific situation they may have no idea how to escape.
I’ve always been eager as a black belt to answer any questions regarding any possible situation as long as the time is right in the class for this to take place. Beyond that, I’ve always preferred to make a on the spot miniature class about the question at hand knowing one person’s question is undoubtedly shared by the rest of the students. That being said, the question asker and all those bearing witness at some point must ask themselves, how does professor always know the answer.
The most obvious answer to the million dollar question is that any accredited black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has literally been in every possible position a million times and practiced and drilled just about every move or some variation at least twice that many times. So is it possible to remember every single one? To a certain degree, yes it is and no it isn’t. Remember that to a black belt Jiu Jitsu goes far beyond the concept of separate techniques to be memorized and is one complete system.
Within said system a deep understanding of patterns exists which helps in building an even stronger understanding of how everything works together as one. To put it simply, the repetition plays a huge role in the fact that we remember so much. It becomes a complex muscle memory. Complex in the fact that things become so similar that escapes that aren’t as common or memorized are easily diagnosed because of the depth of knowledge of the whole system is so vast.
To get to the core of what I’m trying to explain I have an analogy I like to share with my students.
When a student asks me about a particular escape and I’m using the scenario to teach others, I always say here put me in it so I know exactly what is going through their head and where the problem lies. If it happens to be an uncommon position or submission, which gets rarer and rarer over time, the method of escape will jump out to me immediately and I will know what I need to show them. How do I know? The analogy I like to use is as follows:
Once you reach a certain level of understanding of Jiu Jitsu as a whole, the escape will always gleam out at you similar to a cold breeze penetrating a large hole in the back of your t-shirt. I can feel exactly where it is and know where to move first and the sequence that follows. Knowing the sequence that follows is simple much like knowing the priorities of what to be defending while you are making a clean get away. They both come from the countless hours of practice and rolling.
The cold breeze on your back is just something you know after about ten years of hard training.
It is so powerful that it requires no thought.
You just know.
Author: Patrick Applegate is a Gracie Barra blackbelt and has been teaching since 2006.
Photo: Ulpiano Malachias fighting at the Houston Open 2014