One of the reasons why it can be difficult to learn BJJ is the number of techniques out there.
I don’t know how many techniques there are in BJJ because there are countless variations to each technique, and people keep coming up with new techniques constantly.
It probably depends on how you define a technique as well. Does each armbar variation count as an independent technique, or do we count it as one technique? Armbar may be pretty straightforward, but guillotine choke variations would be trickier because different variations often employ different mechanics.
You are not alone if you’ve ever wondered how many techniques you need to know in BJJ. I bet that’s a common question among beginners.
What might be overlooked but should be asked along with this question is how deep your knowledge of each technique you learn should be. An answer to this question would help you get better ideas about the former question.
As far as your primary techniques are concerned, you could keep them minimal. After all, if you just focused on taking your opponent’s back with arm drag and finishing from the back with rear naked choke… you would do well. When you play the top position, perhaps you can force your opponent into the half-guard position and use just one pass to get the job done. Learn how to take the back from the side control and the mount position, and you are good to go offense-wise. If you can pull them off against reasonably good opponents (i.e., purple belts and above), I’d say you have a pretty solid game plan that you can rely on.
Eventually, you will need to expand your arsenal, but a minimal set of techniques like this would be enough against most people.
You want to keep sharpening these techniques and go as deep as possible when you work on them.
But you don’t need to treat every technique this way.
You should learn most of the major techniques and their variations, but with these, your main goal is to understand them enough to defend yourself from people who use these techniques. Some techniques might require you to have a deeper understanding of them to avoid/escape from them. With other techniques, you might just need to know roughly how they work and be aware of them.
Generally speaking, the more you know, the better regarding this category of techniques. While it will help if you can perform them because that means you have a decent understanding of them, but it’s not absolutely necessary. You don’t need to be a half-guard player to pass the half-guard.
Practically speaking, you can keep your mind open and learn whatever techniques that are presented to you as well as techniques that pique your curiosity. If you like them, you can decide to upgrade them to your primary techniques by deepening your skills regarding these techniques you want to focus on.
A couple of things to keep in mind… when you learn techniques, focus on why they work — the principles behind them. When you understand these principles, it becomes easier to identify what your opponent needs to do to make these techniques work. You take such “ingredients” away from your opponent, and they won’t be able to do what they want to do to you.
Another thing is that you don’t need to try to learn every detail when you learn new techniques. Just focus on grasping the big picture and a few key details. You will come back to the same techniques later in your BJJ journey, notice new details, and add them to your knowledge base.
In short, you don’t need to know everything in depth, but it will be better for you to learn almost every major technique with the aim of defending yourself from these techniques.
When you come across techniques that you feel good about, explore them and use them as your primary techniques. You could use a limited number of such primary techniques and still do well, but don’t get stuck with a few techniques you like — it’s better to keep expanding your options little by little. After all, you will need to chain your moves together when you roll against high-level opponents.