Basic vs Advanced Techniques

One of the common themes that I see when I meet beginner to intermediate students of jiu-jitsu is the tendency to want to skip over the so called “basic” techniques and head straight for the advanced flashy positions.

One Gracie Barra instructor made the observation that when he demonstrated both a basic technique for the newer students and a more advanced variation for more experienced students in the same group class, a curious phenomenon happened.

The new students went straight to the advanced techniques while the higher belts ironically were more interested in drilling the basic variation! The black belt instructor added, addressing beginner students:  “There are no secrets in the advanced class. There is no conspiracy to keep the best techniques from the new students. The foundation of your jiu-jitsu is in the Fundamentals class.”

It is perfectly understandable that a student of jiu-jitsu wants the fastest, most expedient route to a high skill level. Watching black belts at the World Championships or Pan American championships they see more advanced positions like Reverse De la Riva guard, inverted guard and berimbolo. In addition, the techniques are flashy and look cool. It is reasonable to imagine that this is the best strategy to be good at jiu-jitsu. is not the best strategy for your long term progress. That is something that the more experienced students who opted to drill the basic techniques understood. The advanced positions do have their specific applications. But the majority of the techniques that you use EVERY TIME that you roll will be the basics. For example, it is difficult to imagine getting through several rounds of rolling without using the basic replace the guard from side control or solid posture in the guard to a stack pass.

The ability to effectively utilize those more advanced positions depends on you having a solid foundation of those less glamorous basics . You had better believe those black belts using Lasso guard game at a high level have also spent countless hours on the basics. They posses the base, balance, timing, sensitivity, flexibility and knowledge to apply more advanced positions.

Now, let’s contrast that with the new student who wants to skip the Fundamentals and get right to the X guard or deep half guard. The reality is that they do not have the ability to even GET to those positions to get started! Without some foundation of guard retention and hip movement, some experience with disrupting an opponent’s base, they have little chance of using that X guard they are excited about. Perhaps fittingly, their guard gets passed and they find themselves in a position where they most need a basic technique to defend and replace the guard!

I recall a student who on their very first day of BJJ wanted to do both the Fundamentals AND the Advanced class. I explained patiently that they should stick to the Fundamentals class for the first several months. The new student, feeling discouraged, reasoned that they felt that by going to the Advanced class, that they could progress twice as fast.

I explained that I was studying Mandarin Chinese language. What if I decided that I wanted to skip the Beginners language class and dive right into the Advanced class? It was obvious that this was a ridiculous idea. Without the basics, I had no chance in the Advanced class.

So the message here is not to dismiss those basic techniques in favour of more advanced, flashy submissions and positions. Those basics form the foundation that you build your jiu-jitsu upon.