Jiu Jitsu Principles: The Complete List [51 BJJ Concepts]

Here’s a complete list of Jiu Jitsu principles. These are the BJJ concepts that will help you improve:

  1. How you apply specific Jiu Jitsu techniques.
  2. Your approach to rolling.
  3. Your overall approach to LEARNING Jiu Jitsu.

I went to 3 expert sources because I wanted to get a better understanding of how Jiu Jitsu really works:

Some of these were “aha!” moments and instantly changed what I was doing….

…and others I’m still working on.

I’ve summarised them all here:

BJJ concepts that will improve your technique effectiveness

Jiu Jitsu techniques all have some underlying physics and biomechanics at play. Rob Biernacki illustrates these with 11 core BJJ concepts.

Here’s my attempt to summarise them in 1-2 sentences:

  1. The right base allows you to apply and absorb force without compromising your mobility. But without proper alignment and structure you’re weaker (and you’ll fatigue more quickly).
  2. Use skeletal strength vs. muscular strength… and use the end of the lever to gain a mechanical advantage
  3. If your post isn’t perpendicular to the force, it won’t be as effective. And vice-versa.
  4. Sweeps are about taking advantage of shifts in centre-of-gravity and uncontrolled momentum (that you’re been given or created).
  5. A dominant position isn’t necessarily dominant until you’ve broken your opponent’s alignment (base, posture, structure).
  6. A mechanical advantage can (sometimes) be gained by controlling your opponent’s clothing, rather than the limb directly.
  7. Use the end of a lever to create a more powerful turn. Or prevent one from happening.
  8. You gain greater control by moving from grip-to-grip rather than jumping between positions.
  9. To achieve a submission, there also needs to be something in place to maintain the position.
  10. To make a choke more efficient, create a triangle and a backstop… using the backstop to create pressure into the triangle.
  11. Joint locks are caused by extension, compression, or rotation. When combined, they can be more effective.

The examples shown in the BJJ Concepts videos do a great job of bringing these to life.

(You’ll be able to see how techniques usually fail because of a failure to address one or more of these key concepts)

See: The BJJ Formula with Rob Biernacki and Stephan Kesting

21 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu principles that will change your approach to rolling

While the BJJ Concepts changed how I look at applying individual techniques….

…I’ve changed how I’m putting it all together because of Paulo Guillobel’s book Mastering The 21 Immutable Principles Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Here’s my attempt to summarise each chapter in 1-2 sentences:

  1. Unless you master the first step of a technique, the rest will be much more difficult.

[This has changed how I approach EVERY escape, pass, sweep, or submission]

  1. Chess strategies like controlling the centre, forcing a decision, and thinking ahead also apply to Jiu Jitsu.
  2. Like a wet rug, you’re harder to move when you’re relaxed.
  3. Getting to the stage where you can execute a technique like it’s second nature comes from countless repetitions.
  4. Always take the path of least resistance and look for the easiest way to apply a technique.
  5. If you avoid directly engaging with your opponent you won’t find their weakness (and you’ll just tire yourself out).
  6. Jiu Jitsu is about incrementally gaining ground until you reach the end zone (a submission); like American football, only take 1-step back to move 2-steps forward.
  7. Your first priority in defence is addressing the thing that gives your opponent their greatest leverage.

[Slowing down and thinking about this one has helped heaps… especially escaping leg locks]

  1. Keep everything close because when you overreach, you compromise your balance and you’re vulnerable to attack.
  2. The guard is like a fortress… if it’s open, you need to have a good army of sweeps and submissions.
  3. Your goal is to be aware of your opponent’s possible reactions, and use them to plan your next move.
  4. Every part of your body has different strengths and weaknesses… understanding these will change your game.
  5. A good defensive game allows you to rest and conserve energy while your opponent wastes their’s.
  6. You should master the 10 fundamental escapes from positions and submissions before you start chasing new shiny objects.

[It was good timing when I read this chapter: because it helped prioritise the order of things I put on My BJJ Techniques Checklist]

  1. The best way to get someone’s weight off you is to push it off to the side (or move out from under it).
  2. Success comes from finding the fine line between being too early and too late to execute a technique.
  3. Learn how to conserve energy because, all else being equal, the first person to become exhausted… loses.
  4. To avoid being controlled, you must protect the area of real estate between your waist and shoulders.
  5. You feel heavier by focusing your weight on one side, and by driving with your feet and/or hands.
  6. Avoid using a smaller and weaker limb against a bigger and stronger one; make it AT LEAST an even fight.
  7. A good base comes from having at least one part of your body solidly planted on the ground to be your support and one part of the body ready to post if you need it.

I got my money‘s worth in just the first chapter…

… and this was just the first P of ‘The 7 P’s of Guard Passing’

Read: Mastering The 21 Immutable Principles Of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

Principles that will help you master your approach to learning Jiu Jitsu

The biggest takeaway I got from Paul Kindzia’s book Master Jiu Jitsu Master Life is:

There’s no shortcut to getting better at BJJ….

…but there is such a thing as taking wrong turns and taking a route that’s longer than necessary.

Here’s my attempt to summarise some pretty deep principles in a sentence or two:

  1. No-one is born good at Jiu Jitsu. Growth comes from a mindset of using training as an opportunity to learn, not to prove how good you already are.
  2. The key to long term success is momentum: start with very small habits that may even appear to be insignificant or too easy.

[I’m applying this off the mats – and have made Yoga for BJJ one of my daily habits]

  1. Success is not about learning one move, one technique, or one position. It’s about doing all the little things correctly and consistently.
  2. Improvement ultimately comes from having the discipline to get on the mats consistently.
  3. You will have more success by focusing on improving the process of what you’re doing, rather than constantly focusing on the desired outcomes.
  4. The things that work now may not be enough to get you to the next level – if you want more success, you must be willing to change and adapt.
  5. Learn through experience what works and what doesn’t… then minimise and simplify. This is more effective than collecting one million unusable techniques.
  6. Tracking and benchmarking, using a documented stage-by-stage road map, can be an incredibly valuable tool… so that you aren’t fooling yourself about your progress (or lack thereof).

ReadMy BJJ Techniques Checklist [Fundamentals for White Belt to Blue Belt]

  1. More efficient learning occurs by challenging yourself through trial and error (and making mistakes while taking risks).
  2. You can train volume, or you can train intensity. But when you combine the two simultaneously for extended periods of time… eventually bad things happen.

“You want to upgrade the software without damaging the hardware”

– John Kavanagh (Connor McGregor’s coach)

  1. It’s just as important to find out “what not to do” when learning something new… so you can avoid those mistakes which cost precious time and energy.
  2. Learn to set and chase short-term goals which feed into your long-term goals.

[My current short-term goals are REALLY mastering escapes from mount, side-control, and back… The Ace of Escapes has been an awesome resource for this]

  1. Use visualization. Not just to imagine success… but to see all the steps that must be mastered. Then you’ll know the strategies and training that will be required to get there.
  2. If all you think about is over-powering your training partner, winning, and getting the tap then you sacrifice working on technique.
  3. If you want to upgrade your game, figure out which habits are needed and allocate the time required to implement them. Now.
  4. There are no unrealistic goals, only unrealistic timelines that you set for yourself.
  5. Successful individuals start with identifying their “why?”, then they move outwards to “how?”
  6. Understand that it’s normal to have your biggest improvements at the beginning, then your learning curve will flatten out. But with persistence you will continue to improve.
  7. Longevity is needed if you want to get really good. So to win, you should establish the following priorities in the correct order of importance: safety, fun, learning… and then winning will come naturally.

There’s actually more in this book…

… and if you re-read this list, you’ll find each of these principles are applicable off the mat too!

Read: Master Jiu-Jitsu Master Life: How To Create An Extraordinary Life Through Jiu-Jitsu

Applying these Jiu Jitsu principles: focusing on 1-2 BJJ concepts at a time

There’s a few things on this list that immediately changed my approach to training and learning BJJ…

…but the intro to The 21 Immutable Principles of BJJ sums it up best:

…I strongly suggest that you read this book more than once as you develop your skills. There may be principles in this book that you are not ready to understand yet, but if you consistently reference these concepts as your BJJ game evolves, you will soon connect to ideas you didn’t connect with previously.

This is the book I’d recommend starting with because it’s easy to read and it’s definitely worth reading more than once.

Well… is this the complete list of Jiu Jitsu principles?

Comment below if there’s any missing? Or were there any that stood out for you?

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