Saturday, October 27, 2012

Back to Basics - Stop making self defense so complicated

"Advanced techniques are the basics done better"

This has long been a mantra in my system of Jiu Jitsu.  I agree with it, but it's also easy to forget.

I'm good at Jiu Jitsu.  Really good.  Actually, I may be too good.  Which makes me, um...not so good.  

Some of the techniques I regularly employ are so advanced that I forget to go for the simple stuff.  When an attack comes in, I often go for an unnecessarily complex response.  Don't get me wrong, most of the stuff works, but for true self defense, often the simplest response is the most effective.

This came to light (again), the other night in practice.  We were working on instant responses to attacks, be they wrist grabs, lapel grabs, lapel grabs with a punch, wrist grabs with a pull/punch, chokes, double lapel grabs, bear hugs, headlocks, etc etc.  A whole gambit of attacks.

One of the important things we are working on is adding movement into attacks. No one grabs a wrist of lapel just for the sake of grabbing, there is always another purpose.  Attacks are not static, so neither should the responses be.  Add in momentum and multiple attacks and you find your arsenal of defenses must be examined.  Not every defense can be applied when you are being rushed, attacked from behind or when you're being shoved.

A key element in self defense is responding instantly.  As soon as the person grabs (or before!) you must move.  There are exceptions where you may allow a person to get a hold of you, deliberately tying up several of their weapons, but in general, in real self defense, the quicker the better (and then get out of there). 

So we started from wrist grabs (as a set up to an attack, again, no one grabs your wrist and just stands there).  I impressively (hint of sarcasm) went into a variety of intricate 'advanced' techniques.  Bravo.  Problem was, they weren't all instantaneous.  I had to think about some of them.  

After I had exhausted my impressive list of responses, Sensei had a go.

Sensei started with several defenses utilizing the thumb to break my grip and my balance.  They were lightning fast and simple.  I simply could not hold on to him and he ended up in a position of advantage for a follow up if he needed, or he provided an opportunity to escape.  Over and over, easy, simple effective responses.

He asked if I recognized any of these. 

I did.  

From my first day of Jiu Jitsu. Ever.

On class number one, over two decades ago, we went over escapes from grabs.  We learned about balance and the strongest and weakest parts of the hands (and body).  

Of course, I've seen these very techniques countless times over the years, and usually again whenever a new student starts.  It's part of an 'intro' to Jiu Jitsu as it demonstrates that strength is not required in most techniques.  They are also techniques new students can remember, take away and apply if need be in real life.  There's beauty in their simplicity.

Now, in some respects, they are being applied in a more advanced way, incorporating movement, momentum, unbalancing and positioning, but at their core, they're still "Day #1 basic techniques".

Never forget that simple doesn't mean ineffective.  Less is often more.

A bit of a pun, but appropriate none the less
Never forget the basics.

There is much truth to the saying "Advanced techniques are the basics done better".

Food for thought.


  1. Nice to see you back in the blogosphere! I think we don't always realise how effective the simple techniques are until we can do them better (if that makes sense!)

  2. Sue,

    Good to be back. Thanks! It's been a crazy time. It always amazes me how much we can improve on the 'simplest of techniques' when we focus on them. Cheers.

  3. "Advanced techniques are the basics done better"

    I really like this quote and put it up at today's status on my gym's FB page.

    This sums up the essence of Jiu Jitsu. White many are trying to complicate it with complex techniques and movements, it is the simple and doing the simple better that make everything work and flow.

  4. Damned good quote, Journeyman: "Advanced techniques are the basics done better." It is the sort of practical advice that means more the longer you continue to practice. "So THAT is what Sensei was saying..."

  5. IndianapolisJiuJitsu,

    I'm glad you liked the quote. I agree we often complicate things unnecessarily. It's the simpler things we can really rely on.


    It does mean more the longer you stay at the arts. Good observation.

  6. Thanks for sharing this great article..Its really nice and useful for us..

    Self Defense