To defend or not to defend. Offense is the best defense. Defend, defend, and defend.
There are just so many opinions on how to handle your own BJJ game. On the internet alone, you are going to get tons of advice from strangers, and even from greats of BJJ! And so far, while doing my research, I have tallied some points where people advise against offensive game and the defensive game.
However, I am going to give my thoughts on those: be on the safe side.
The Mind of the Offensive Player
Having an offensive game is fun. Offensive game ensures that you are keeping your opponents guessing as to what you are going to pull off next. Be it a superbly awesome flying armbar, or a sweep, or better yet, something as cool as taking the back and finishing off a choke. These are athletes who seem to appreciate staying in control of the game. Does this sound familiar? BJJ artists will focus on keeping their game offensive. It is like entering a saloon with guns a-blazing, and going down in flames. I’ve spoken with some BJJ greats, and most of them were like this. Attacking is the key to victory.
It takes a lot (and I mean a lot) to be an offensive game player. And I kid you not. At first, you have to have the skill and the patience to study transitions and how to react, and dismantle your opponent’s defense. Like in any other sport, taking the offensive side offers you the opportunity to draw the first blood, and keep the match at your own tempo. Does this sound familiar?
I am a defensive player. I like to play defense. It gives you the opportunity to toy with your opponent’s head. Defense is the best offense at times. Believe you me! While being in defense, you are given the opportunity to dictate your own pace of the match. A well-versed defensive BJJ player can nullify the most powerful submission. After all, he has mastered how not to be submitted, right? Right and wrong. Defensive gameplay runs the risk of losing tempo in a heartbeat. As the game of BJJ continuously evolves into different variations of subs, mounts, transitions, and sweeps, (with the addition of blackbelts closed captioning their favorite moves, and patenting the technique under their name), the game of the defensive BJJ artist can be hard. But, while there is wisdom to being on the defensive (often called safe side), it should be taken with a grain of salt that being a defensive player is not all that bad.
There are things a defensive player should have to be really good at, though: a tough body, presence of mind, knowing his opponents, knowing the best counters, and patience. While the list can sound very extensive, these are probably the ones to keep in mind to stay on top of the defensive echelon.
Should I Be Defensive or Offensive?
Actually, the best BJJ artists can do both. Sorry to burst your bubble. Whoever wants to play offense should make the first move. BJJ is chess in gis and on the mats: whoever decides to attack first takes on the white piece, while anyone who would prefer basking under the attack and believing that there is triumph on the defensive side can also choose to do so.
This is one of the reasons why this art is so interesting. You never know when you’ll see a good submission artist be on the defense, and vice versa!
Learn the art entirely. But find your niche. If you enjoy submitting guys, then study being on the offensive, but remember that it is not always rainbows and sunshine on the mats – there are times you will be forced to try to keep things on the defense. Learn as much as you can from your senseis. You’ll be glad you did. The best BJJ gurus out there will tell you the same. But more so, they will tell you to enjoy the journey. Whether it be on the defensive side, or the offensive.
Jiu-Jitsu for Everyone!